A convicted drug dealer with an extensive criminal history has been spared a jail sentence – thanks largely to a lengthy legal delay which a judge says allowed him to turn his troubled life around.
Richard Marchioni, 31, appeared in court Thursday to learn his fate on a charge of possession of meth and ecstasy for the purpose of trafficking. He brought his common-law wife and their five-year-old daughter with him to witness the proceedings.
The Crown was seeking a three-year prison term, citing Marchioni’s past which includes 10 prior drug-related convictions between 1999 and 2006. Marchioni was arrested on this latest offence in early 2007, and has been on bail ever since without incident as his case has dragged through the courts.
Over the past five and-a-half years, Marchioni has kicked his own addiction, obtained full-time employment and become a caring, responsible father, court was told.
All of that prompted Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar to give Marchioni what he called a major break in the form of a two-year conditional sentence, and three years of supervised probation, which allows him to remain free in the community.
"You’re stuck with Daddy now forever," a crying Marchioni told his wide-eyed daughter as court ended without her having to witness him being led away in handcuffs. The child had sat quietly throughout the 40-mintue hearing, watching as her parents were both in tears while the judge recapped the entire case.
The lengthy legal delay was not attributed to Marchioni, but rather to issues with Legal Aid funding which saw his original lawyer forced to withdraw on the eve of his trial more than two years ago, court was told.
Marchioni had been arrested by police in possession of more than $1,000 worth of meth and ecstasy. Police received a tip he had brought the drugs with him to the Patal Vocational School on Portage Avenue, where he was attending adult educational classes.
Marchioni told police he was holding the drugs for a local criminal organization because he was in debt to them over his own addiction.
Dewar said Thursday this case is not be used as a precedent for others, citing the "exceptional" circumstances. He said Marchioni would have definitely gone to prison had this case been resolved within a proper timeframe, but credited the man with using the "fortuitous" delay to his advantage and proving he can be a law-abiding citizen.
"Rarely ought the hard line be broken. But I’m convinced, in all the circumstances, this is the right case," said Dewar.
He urged Marchioni not to screw up this opportunity, saying any breaches of the conditional sentence would be treated harshly by the courts.
"This is an opportunity you can’t squander. The stakes are too high," said Dewar.