Former Vancouver Police officer Peter Hodson has been sentenced to three years in a federal prison for selling marijuana while on duty.
The White Rock resident, 33, pleaded guilty to trafficking marijuana and two counts of breach of trust late last year, eight months after he was arrested at VPD’s Cambie Street headquarters.
Judge Gregory Rideout delivered the sentence – which includes three years of jail time, minus 21 days for time already served – in Vancouver Provincial Court Thursday morning.
“Your remarkable fall from grace is a burden you will carry for the rest of your life,” Rideout told Hodson, noting the former officer’s actions “left many victims,” including his family, friends, residents of the Downtown Eastside, Vancouver taxpayers and the VPD.
“The burden (the VPD) must now bear is that one of their own transgressed in such a shocking manner.”
Hodson, a father of four, was arrested April 21, 2010, following a two-month investigation into allegations by a Downtown Eastside drug addict that a constable was selling street-level amounts of marijuana both on- and off-duty.
The investigation included an undercover operation in which 10 “scenarios” documented the drug addict buying marijuana from Hodson or a co-accused, Oscar Lapitan.
In giving his reasons for sentence, Rideout cited aggravating factors, including that Hodson’s criminal activity occurred while he was on duty, in uniform and sometimes while he was using a police vehicle, and that “vulnerable Downtown Eastside residents” were involved.
It was not a case of poor judgment, Rideout said. The activities were “significantly planned and premeditated.”
“He had full knowledge of the activity in which he had engaged,” he said.
Another aggravating factor Rideout considered was that, in order to investigate Hodson, extensive police resources were diverted from units created to tackle issues of homelessness, mental illness and chronic drug trafficking in the Downtown Eastside.
While Rideout acknowledged thrill-seeking was a factor in Hodson’s activities, he dismissed defence counsel submissions it was a driving force. Scenarios played out during the VPD investigation “clearly established (that) money was a constant theme,” Rideout said.
Rideout gave little weight to expert testimony provided by a psychologist hired by the defence to evaluate Hodson’s mental state, noting he relied only on discussions with Hodson to reach his conclusions, Rideout said.
Rideout accepted “without question”, however, Dr. Michael Elterman’s opinion that Hodson is a paradox, largely based on a statement Hodson made during his evaluation: “I got away with cheating, lying and stealing all my life, so I thought I always would.”
Regarding mitigating factors, Rideout cited Hodson’s early guilty plea, noting it established that he accepted responsibility for his actions and “that his future for rehabilitation is likely.”
Rideout also considered: Hodson’s in-court apology in determining sentence; his past and present willingness to volunteer; the continued support of his family; and that he has managed to salvage his marriage.
At Hodson’s sentencing hearing this summer, Crown counsel asked for a jail term of 3½ years, while Hodson’s defence recommended a conditional sentence – something Rideout dismissed Thursday as “highly inappropriate.”
“I conclude that where a police officer commits serious planned and premeditated criminal offences while in the line of duty, it would only be in rare and exceptional circumstances that a conditional sentence would be seen as a fit and just sentence,” the judge said.
“In this case, the accused became completely disengaged from his moral and ethical duty to protect and serve.
“(He) knowingly embarked upon his predatory criminal activities with his eyes wide open. He must have clearly appreciated the potential for serious consequences for his conduct.”
Hodson’s sentence includes two two-year prison terms – one for drug trafficking, the other for breach of trust – to be served concurrently, and one year for breach of trust in connection with accessing police data bases to advance his criminal activities.
Hodson must also provide a DNA sample and is prohibited from possessing weapons for 10 years.
Outside court, prosecutor Joe Bellows noted that Rideout “was particularly concerned that Mr. Hodson committed his offences on the Downtown Eastside.”
“The community struggles daily. I believe the trial judge found that was a very aggravating factor.”
Defence counsel Vincent Michaels said Hodson was prepared for the day’s outcome, and has acknowledged he is the only one to blame.
He is confident Hodson will “reunite with his family and come back to offer more to society.”
Michaels acknowledged a federal sentence “will be hard time” for Hodson. Asked if he had any concerns Hodson’s police background could make him a target behind bars, he said, “I’ll do everything that I can to make sure that he’s housed safely.”
Michaels said he did not know if Hodson will appeal.