A Leeds County OPP officer, who stole drugs and money from suspects, including $10,000 he stashed in the rafters of his Maitland home, will be sentenced Sept. 27.
George Duke, who pleaded guilty to six theft, drug and firearms charges last January, was contrite and apologetic when he appeared at his sentencing hearing on Monday.
“I am very, very sorry — I cannot express my sorrow enough,” the 55-year-old Duke told the Ontario Court of Justice, adding that his “embarrassment is beyond what you could understand.”
He said he can’t explain his actions because “no explanation is possible,” and he apologized to his police colleagues.
His lawyer, Mark Wallace, asked that Duke be given a 12-month sentence to be served at the St. Lawrence Valley Correctional and Treatment Centre in Brockville, where he could be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Wallace pointed to a psychiatric evaluation of Duke that suggested his mental health problems “may” have contributed to his criminal behaviour.
The lawyer referred to Duke’s last two annual OPP job evaluations in 2014 and 2015, which showed the constable was a driven and hard-working officer who outperformed most other police officers. Wallace suggested that Duke’s work ethic and drive were his way of coping with his “unwell feelings” by throwing himself into his work.
Although a 2015 police raid found Duke to be in possession of methamphetamine and oxycodone, there was no indication that he used the drugs himself, nor was there evidence that he intended to sell the drugs, hence the simple possession change, Wallace said.
But Crown prosecutor Paul McDermott argued that Duke’s crimes were motivated by greed and that he acted like a “common thief.” McDermott urged that Duke be sentenced to two years plus a day.
McDermott said the money stolen by Duke included $1,500 that was stashed in an envelope behind the visor of a car and $10,000 in the trunk.
When Duke was arrested a few days later, he was carrying $840 cash from the envelope — the rest he had apparently spent — and the $10,000 was hidden in the rafters of his basement so that Duke could use the money “as his personal bank,” McDermott said.
“Mr. Duke used his uniform, his badge and his authority as a disguise to steal money to become a thief — a common thief,” McDermott said.
Duke’s action “compromises every other police officer and it causes disillusionment if not distrust in the public,” he said.
McDermott acknowledged that Duke had mental health issues, including PTSD and some depression, but he suggested that Duke began exaggerating his problems after he was arrested in October 2015.
The $10,000 stolen by Duke was fake, part of a sting operation by the OPP’s organized crime enforcement and professional standards bureaus, with assistance from the RCMP and Montreal police. Called Project Arrowhead, the investigation was launched in May 2014 and resulted in the execution of seven search warrants, including the one at Duke’s Maitland home.
Along with the drugs and stolen money, the raid found a carelessly stored .22-calibre rifle and improperly stored ammunition.
McDermott argued that had the money been part of a real drug case, and not a police sting, Duke’s actions could have affected a trial by either letting a guilty person get off or by convicting an innocent one.
Duke, who joined the Canadian military at the age of 16 and served 17 years before joining the OPP and serving another 20 years, said he had approached his police superiors about his mental health problems on two occasions before the thefts. He said he felt that the OPP brass treated him differently afterward.
Justice Kim Moore set over the sentencing until Sept. 27 to accommodate vacation scheduling.
Duke has continued to collect his OPP salary while on suspension. Last year he was paid $102,945, according to the government’s “Sunshine List.” In 2016, he was paid $107,857 while on suspension.http://www.thewhig.com/2018/06/04/opp-o ... oney-drugs