Saskatoon

Appeal Court slashes Project Forseti drug dealer's sentence to 11 years

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has cut down a lengthy sentence for a drug trafficker snared in the Project Forseti biker gang investigation.

Justin Smith was originally given 18-year sentence

Justin Smith was a member of the Fallen Saints when he was arrested during the Project Forseti investigation. (CBC)

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has cut down a lengthy sentence for a drug trafficker snared in the Project Forseti biker gang investigation.

In 2017, Justin Smith pleaded guilty to nine offences, including trafficking cocaine, heroin and fentanyl, as well as charges related to his time in the Fallen Saints Motorcycle Club.

Judge Shawn Smith gave the man an 18-year prison sentence with no chance of parole for nine years.

In his decision, the judge called Smith "an amoral business person," and called the drugs and firearms he sold and distributed "poison and the instruments of death."

However, in a decision released Wednesday, the Appeals Court found the judge was too harsh in his sentencing. The court reduced Smith's total sentence to 11 years, and eliminated the parole requirement completely.

In one example, Smith was given a seven-year sentence for conspiracy to traffic in cocaine by the provincial court judge, but the court ruled a sentence of four years would have been more in line with previous decisions.

"In addressing the sentence, the only case law that the judge mentioned, concerning cocaine, was Bear, where a global sentence of three-and-a-half years was imposed for five offences," the decision read.

"In my respectful view, nothing in the circumstances of the offence or the offender, or the sentencing judge's reasons, justifies doubling that sentence."

The Appeal Court found that while the accused was an admitted member of the Fallen Saints — the Crown called Smith a "mid-level trafficker" — there was no evidence he was a high-ranking officer inside the gang.

The decision also noted Smith did not violate his parole conditions despite waiting for more than 2½ years for the trial to begin.

In its written decision, the the Appeal Court said it was important to come to a combined sentence "that is not unduly harsh or long."

Smith also received a credit for 78 days for time served on remand.

Twenty people were eventually convicted in the Project Forseti investigation, which focused on the Fallen Saints Motorcycle Club. In 2014, police seized $8 million worth of methamphetamine, cocaine and fentanyl, as well as hundreds of guns during raids at 19 locations.