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Gambler arson charge withdrawn

Receives 80 days time-served following guilty pleas to charges of mischief and evading police
20210831 East Hill Fire_HS_01_WEB
Marcel Gambler pleaded guilty to two counts of mischief under $5,000 and one count of evading police in Athabasca Provincial Court May 2. He was sentenced to 80 days time-served. One count of arson related to a fire at an abandoned house on 45th St. was also withdrawn.

ATHABASCA — A local man arrested for arson last summer had the charge withdrawn by the Crown last week after pleading guilty to other charges of mischief and evading police, for which he received 80 days in jail.

Marcel Gambler, 34, of Calling Lake, was in Athabasca Provincial Court May 2 for the last of four recent trials to answer to a variety of charges, including the alleged arson of an abandoned house Aug. 31 at 4814 - 45th St. At the time of the charge Athabasca RCMP told the Advocate Gambler was being considered for three other recent fires – the old Home Hardware building Aug. 11, and two fires Aug. 30 — another abandoned building on 48th Ave. and a structure fire on 47th Ave. behind the old Pleasant Valley Lodge, now the Athabasca Reformed Congregation. Gambler has been in custody at Edmonton Remand Centre since that time.

Judge Jeffrey Champion heard from defense lawyer Andrew Zebak, who appeared on Gambler's behalf for the first time after Gambler represented himself in the three other trials from the prisoner's box. Zebak informed court an agreement had been reached with the Crown to plead guilty to three of the four charges scheduled to go to trial that day.

“This is a trial matter I was able to resolve with my friend (Crown prosecutor Patricia Hankinson),” Zebak said. “He is pleading guilty to resisting a peace officer and two counts of mischief.” 

Hankinson said the Crown was seeking 30 days in custody on both the mischief charges and 20 days for resisting a peace officer, all consecutive for a global sentence of 80 days in jail. 

“He has quite a number of days in custody and that exceeds 80 days, so we are suggesting it is at time-served,” said Hankinson. 

Judge Champion agreed to the submission, asking if Gambler would like the clothing he was wearing when arrested, noting it was contaminated with gasoline, ash and smelled like smoke. 

“They can go ahead and destroy the clothing,” said Gambler, who was brought to Athabasca from the Edmonton Remand Centre (ERC) to appear in person for the trial. 

“And the remaining count?” asked Judge Champion about the arson charge. 

Hankinson requested it be withdrawn.

Court heard the first count of mischief under $5,000 was in relation to an incident at the Scotiabank in Athabasca on Aug. 30, 2021, when Gambler kicked a hole in the wall. 

“Also Aug. 30, 2021, at the Husky gas station in Athabasca, Alberta, the accused punched one of the pillars causing damage which did not exceed $5,000,” said Hankinson. 

The third count stemmed from Aug. 31, 2021, following Gambler trying to flee on foot after Athabasca RCMP informed him he was going to be detained. 

“It was a very short foot pursuit, and he was apprehended by the RCMP,” she said. 

Zebak told court Gambler was a member of the Bigstone Cree Nation and waived the reading of a Gladue report. He noted Gambler has a Grade 10 education and is hopeful to get a job in forestry where he had previously worked doing remediation. 

Gambler was returned to the ERC where he was processed for release. 

Heather Stocking

About the Author: Heather Stocking

Heather Stocking a reporter at the Athabasca Advocate, a weekly paper in Northern Alberta. Heather covers all aspects of the news in and around Athabasca and Boyle as well as other small communities.
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