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Man involved in copper wire theft receives 60 days in jail

Although judge said claim of kidnapping may sound far-fetched, it does happen
Barrhead Provincial Court (VM)

BARRHEAD - A man involved in the theft from a Swan Hills area oil well site received a 60-day jail sentence for his part in the crime.

Jason Wayne Burke, 37, pleaded guilty to two charges, shop breaking with intent and mischief over $5,000.

Judge Gregory Arnold Rice handed down the sentence during the Jan. 18 session of Barrhead Provincial Court as part of a joint submission from the Crown and defence counsel after Jason Wayne Burke, 37, pleaded guilty to two charges, shop breaking with intent and mischief over $5,000.

While Burke was in a time-served situation, the man remains bars as he's dealing with charges from other jurisdictions.

Rice sentenced Burke to 90 days on the shop breaking charge and 30 days and for the mischief over $5,000 to run concurrently with the first charge.

Rice also waived the victim surcharge, noting Burke's financial hardship.

Crown prosecutor Anthony Estephan said that on June 12, 2022, Swan Hills RCMP received a complaint from a Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) employee reporting "a suspicious vehicle" they believed was involved in damaging one of its oil well sites outside of Swan Hills.

He noted that when RCMP investigated the site, they found evidence that thieves were taking copper wire by pulling it out of the ground with a vehicle and found a broken towrope tied to the end of a copper wire.

At about 7:40 p.m., on the same day, RCMP Const. Kevin Chopek located the suspicious vehicle with four people inside.

"One of them was Burke," Estephan said.

He added that Chopek also found a lit fire along with burning wire castings and that a broken towrope was attached to the truck's hitch.

Police arrested all the individuals without incident, Estephan said.

He added that at the detachment, the police took statements from the four suspects they determined that the individuals were the ones that had done damage to the CNRL site.

While attempting to get Burke's statement, Estephan said that on multiple occasions he gave police the false name of "Jamie Robinson".

Estephan noted that Burke had a lengthy four-page criminal record going back to October 1998 and October 2021.

“The Crown’s recommendation is informed by several factors beginning with some mitigation. It is an early guilty plea and is a sign of remorse and of him taking responsibility for his actions," he said.

Estephan also said it was noteworthy that Burke was not the only individual involved.

"The Crown would submit that it lowers his moral culpability to an extent," he said.

Rice argued that one could easily take the opposite position.

"Or you can look at it as conspiracy," he said. "Which would increase his moral culpability."

Estephan noted that the aggravating factors he considered when coming up with his recommendation include a lengthy criminal record with several property-related offences.

However, Estephan noted that Burke is looking to resolve several other matters from other jurisdictions.

Burke's lawyer Gary Smith also suggested that while his client's criminal record is substantial, it did not include a lot of property offences, noting most were for "breaches."

He added that the Crown was correct in that his client was attempting to resolve all his outstanding matters, including items in other jurisdictions such as Killam.

"There was an attempt to bring all the matters to one jurisdiction, but that did not happen," he said.

Smith noted part of his lengthy criminal record was influenced by his addiction to cocaine and crystal meth, saying that he has been clean for three years.

Unfortunately, Smith said that despite becoming sober, Burke fell into the wrong crowd and ended up having a $20,000 debt to some unsavoury people, which he was attempting to pay off.

“He told me how he was kidnapped by some characters in the past who he owed money to,” Smith said, adding he confirmed Burke’s claim through an Internet investigation. “He was desperate to pay the debt off, and eventually, he did pay it off. That is not an excuse, but it gives the court some background on how he found himself stealing some copper.”

In his defence, Burke said from the Red Deer Remand Centre via CCTV, “this would be the last time he committed a crime like this, your honour, for damn sure”.

“I have a daughter that was born on Nov. 16 and I want to see her. The only reason I was out there doing that (was to pay my debt). I was stabbed 17 times, had my ear completely clear off and dumped off on a side road practically dead.”

Rice said given Burke’s record and that he has done time for failing to comply a number of times over the years, including 45 days in September 2021, "jail is appropriate here.”

And although Burke’s contention the fact he was kidnapped may sound far-fetched to some, Rice said it does happen.

“The meth and other drug dealers or the leaders in the conspiracy to steal copper wire will go out and take people they have known before, including the homeless, throw them in a truck and take them out to a site and have them steal wire under the threat of being stabbed or shot," he said. "A year ago I would look at this type of story sideways, but now I think it happens a fair bit.”

Barry Kerton,


Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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