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Pot Growers Abscond: Judge Sentences Pair 'in Absentia' To 18 Months

LdyLunatic

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Ontario
02 Sep 2006



by Don Lajoie,
Wherever they are, a Superior Court judge wants two purported Chinese exchange students convicted of running a $1-million marijuana grow operation to know they owe the Canadian judicial system 18 months in jail.

For the second time in as many scheduled court appearances the names Fan Jiang and Jing Li were paged without response in a Windsor courthouse Friday before Justice Anthony Cusinato sentenced them "in absentia" for their role, along with two co-accused, in growing and trafficking marijuana from four rented houses in Windsor.

In sentencing Li, 28, and Jiang, 25, on counts of cultivating and possessing marijuana for the purposes of trafficking and for mischief in connection with damage to the rental properties, Cusinato commented that the operation was large and sophisticated, obviously intended as a large-scale, commercial enterprise.

"These were not minor players in this scheme ... an operation for greed," said Cusinato. "Canada and southwestern Ontario have become preferable locations for these offences. To curb this and stamp it out, an incentive ( in terms of sentencing ) is necessary."

Nevertheless, Cusinato did not accept Crown prosecutor Richard Pollock's suggestion that the fact the two have since disappeared, despite a Canada-wide warrant, means they should be given two-year prison sentences, even though both are first-time offenders.

"A two-year term is fair and just," said Pollock. "They have been afforded every courtesy and right our judicial system offers and have thumbed their noses at the court. They ought to get no consideration."

Warrant Issued

He further argued that a prison sentence may make it easier for Canadian authorities to pursue extradition if it's ever determined where the two have fled.

A third member of the conspiracy, Shiguang Zheng, 26, is also missing and is believed to have stayed in China after being released, while awaiting trial, to seek medical treatment. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Only the fourth member of the group, Wwei Kee Chen, 34, has shown up for his court dates and is now serving 18 months in jail after being sentenced July 11.

It had never been shown that Li, a woman, or Jiang had attended regular classes at the University of Windsor or St. Clair College. It is not known whether the two have left the country, although they had to surrender their passports.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, there was some sarcastic humour in the courtroom when it became apparent that only Pollock and Cusinato, along with court staff, would attend the hearing.

Defence lawyers for the conspirators had been released earlier.

"Call the accused," Cusinato began. "If there's any chance they can hear you without calling long distance."

"I'll just wait for them to be paged," said Pollock
 

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