Reformed drug dealer grateful for a second chance

A man who tried to sell drugs to an undercover Mountie caught a break in a St. John's court.
Ray Kalonga says he hung out with the wrong people, and made some bad decisions. (CBC)

A reformed drug dealer caught a break in court in St. John's on Thursday. 

Ray Kalonga was charged with conspiring to traffic cocaine in 2011, after he and another man tried to sell $24,000 worth to an undercover RCMP officer.

"I didn't have my head straight," Kalonga said.

"I didn't know exactly what it was I wanted to achieve, and unfortunately meeting the wrong people. Thinking it was a good idea is what put me in this situation today," he said.

He pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge, and the Crown wanted prison time.

But because Kalonga — who is now a marketing director of a sales company — turned his life around, judge James Walsh sentenced him to house arrest and 12 months probation.

"This is a case where rehabilitation plays a key role. You don't just have a job, you have a career," Walsh told Kalonga.

"Everybody stepped up to help you. Your family, your fiancée, your employer. More importantly, you stepped up yourself. I'm satisfied [you are] not likely to re-offend."

Kalonga committed his offence in May 2011. In November 2012, Ottawa changed the law so that those charged with crimes like conspiracy to traffic in drugs could no longer get house arrest.

Erin Breen, Kalonga's lawyer, says the Harper government made a mistake.

Lawyer Erin Breen says parliament has now taken away an effective tool judges had to deal with people in Ray Kalonga's circumstances. (CBC)
"I for one don't agree with the new legislation with respect to mandatory jail time for these kinds of offences," said Breen. 

"I understand that this kind of offence is very serious and causes a lot of harm in our community, but the criminal code is very clear. A judge has to look at the individual offender when they come before them for sentencing. So what parliament has done now is taken away one very effective tool that judges had to deal with people in these circumstances," said Breen.

Kalonga said he realizes he caught a break.

"Two years of house arrest is not easy...but I feel it's quite credible because I'm not a danger to society," he said.

"You won't see me back here again."