Pubdate: Tue, 20 Mar 2007
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Times Colonist
Author: Richard Watts, Times Colonist
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


A Saanich man who staged a home-invasion style robbery with a 
sawed-off shotgun in a vigilante attempt to close down a cocaine 
dealer, was handed a community sentence yesterday.

Rick Joseph Zarelli, a big, bald man bulging the seams of a black 
suit and wearing earrings in both ears, was handed a sentence of two 
years less one day to be served at home with a curfew. He pleaded 
guilty last week to break and enter to commit robbery and wearing a 
mask while committing an offence.

Court heard Zarelli, 47, and an accomplice donned balaclavas, and 
with Zarelli carrying a sawed-off shotgun -- which court heard was 
unloaded -- and his partner carrying a roll of duct tape, entered the 
home of an admitted cocaine dealer on Oct. 23, 2004.

Inside the apartment at 804 Esquimalt Rd., Zarelli demanded money and 
drugs. He was handed about $200 and an oil can with a false bottom 
containing about 40 grams of cocaine worth about $3,200 to the dealer.

Nobody was tied up or struck. But as Zarelli and his partner left one 
of them said, "Don't tell police or your families will be killed."

Police were called, however, and the two men were arrested a short 
time later with the money, the oil can, the cocaine, the ski masks and the gun.

At the sentence hearing last week, defence counsel Bradley Hickford 
said the crime was a special case since Zarelli really wanted only to 
scare the cocaine dealer into shutting down.

Hickford said Zarelli had seen him selling to young people and twice 
asked the drug dealer to stop.

Hickford said unlike most home invasions, Zarelli's crime was 
motivated neither by greed nor vengeance.

The only reason police found the cocaine in the vehicle was because 
Zarelli was unwilling to dump it in the street where a young person 
might find it.

Crown counsel Jeni Gillings said motives aside, it's well established 
in Canadian courts that home invasions get tough punishment. 
Zarelli's crime warranted a sentence in the range of three to six 
years, Gillings said.

Judge J. Michael Hubbard agreed with the Crown, saying there was no 
justification for Zarelli and his partner to resort to "vigilante justice."

Hubbard noted in most cases he would find the defence submissions 
hard to swallow. "I would normally be somewhat cynical about such a 
positive claim on a crime such as this."

But the judge also noted Zarelli's letters of character reference, 
including one from a senior police officer.

Hubbard said he was especially moved by a letter from one of 
Zarelli's three grown daughters describing her father's support when 
she was pregnant after the child's father had committed suicide. This 
support came even after Zarelli was coming off cancer treatment himself.

Hubbard also said it was clear Zarelli was remorseful and was not a 
threat to the community.

Meanwhile, Randall David Fox, 36, has been scheduled to appear on 
April 19. Fox also pleaded guilty to the same charges as Zarelli last 
week but his sentencing was adjourned.
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