July 19th, 2024

City man faces prison term for weapons offences

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on December 19, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

Getting caught with firearms and ammunition he was prohibited from possessing, could send Craig Cassidy Sweetgrass to prison for two years.

That’s the sentence the Crown recommended recently in Lethbridge court of justice, but Sweetgrass won’t know until next year whether the judge agrees with the recommendation or a recommendation Calgary lawyer Kirsten Lancee is expected to suggest at a subsequent sentencing hearing.

Court was told that on April 1, 2020 Sweetgrass was prohibited by a judge from possessing specific firearms, weapons, ammunition and explosive substances for 10 years, and various prohibited and restricted weapons for life.

In 2022, however, police began investigating Sweetgrass for weapons violations, and on the night of Feb. 17 they arrested him and searched his residence on Jerry Potts Boulevard West. A woman who was also at the residence was detained, as well, but later released without charges.

During the search, police found a loaded 12-gauge shotgun under a mattress in a basement bedroom, and an SKS KwikRail rifle with a loaded ammunition magazine hidden in the ceiling of the basement. There was also an empty rifle magazine and various ammunition found in a closet.

In his statement to police, “Sweetgrass said he did not know the guns were loaded,” Crown Prosecutor Marshall Gourlay told court.

Sweetgrass also told police he uses the guns for hunting, and he did not intend to harm anyone. He also knew he was prohibited from possessing the guns, but he had them because he is a hunter.

“He said the guns were hidden until he goes hunting, (and) has them under the stairs or on the reserve.”

Sweetgrass pleaded guilty to charges of possession of a prohibited weapon, possession of a firearm knowing possession is unauthorized, careless use/storage of a firearm, and breach of a weapons prohibition.

Although Sweetgrass was scheduled to have a bail hearing for additional charges, including unauthorized possession of a prohibited or restricted weapon, and drug possession for the purpose of trafficking, he was released from custody so he can receive addictions treatment.

“I can tell the court that Mr. Sweetgrass has made extensive efforts to get himself into residential treatment, and, in fact, lost a bed date due to some complications being in custody,” Lancee said.

She said she is confident Sweetgrass will be admitted into treatment sometime in January, which has persuaded the Crown to consent to his release.

Sweetgrass was released on $300 cash bail and several conditions. He must reside with his father in Stand Off until a treatment bed becomes available, abide by a 24-hour curfew every day, report weekly to Stand Off police and avoid contact with several individuals. He must also cooperate with the preparation of a Gladue Report, which applies certain principles used by judges at the time of sentencing to help them understand the unique circumstances and experiences of Indigenous people.

The matter is scheduled to be back in court today to set a date in the new year for sentencing. The additional criminal charges Sweetgrass faces return on Jan. 11 to allow the Crown and defence more time to finalize resolution discussions.

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