A now ex-Toronto police officer who committed an “egregious breach of public trust” by stealing and eating cannabis-infused chocolate bars has received a nine-month conditional sentence, six months of it to be served under house arrest.
Former constable Vittorio Dominelli, 36, committed a reckless, impetuous and immature decision to ingest evidence stolen from a just-raided Toronto pot dispensary, committing multiple breaches of trust in doing so, Ontario Court of Justice Mary Misener said in a Newmarket courtroom Monday.
She rejected a defence recommendation that Dominelli receive a conditional discharge, saying his conduct needed to be “sternly denounced.”
Misener also ordered Dominelli to perform 60 hours of community service, on top of the 40 hours he has already served.
She noted that Dominelli has suffered tremendously, losing a lucrative career and the humiliation of the episode living on in infamy on the internet.
Young faces one count of criminal breach of trust and attempting to obstruct justice. The charges against her have not been proven.
“Send an ambulance,” Dominelli could be heard telling an emergency dispatcher in a radio call played in court earlier this month.
“What’s going on?” the dispatcher asks.
“I think I’m going to pass out … I’m just light-headed,” he responds.
In an agreed statement of facts presented earlier this month, the court heard Dominelli had put three full cannabis chocolate bars in his pocket after helping seize evidence from a dispensary raid.
Later, while still on duty, Dominelli and Young discussed how neither had used cannabis before and decided to try the chocolate, according to the agreed statement of facts.
The chocolate’s packaging — which had warnings instructing consumers to take a small portion and wait 40 minutes — was later found empty.
“I realized instantly what a stupid thing I had done,” Dominelli said in a summary of his evidence submitted as an exhibit. “I just wanted medical help.”
Dominelli, Young and another officer who slipped on the ice after responding to the call for help were all taken to hospital that night.
Dominelli pleaded guilty to attempting to obstruct justice earlier this month. The Crown withdrew a breach of trust charge.
Appearing weak — lawyer Peter Brauti earlier told the court his already thin client had lost 12 pounds — Dominelli briefly addressed the court earlier this month, after pleading guilty to attempting to obstruct justice.
He told Misener that above all, he was “truly remorseful” about the incident, knowing that it has had dire consequences for his family, Toronto police and more. The former officer said he understood the impact of what he did and “that’s why I have been attempting to co-operate in any way that I can,” he said.
“This is something that I know will change my life, for the rest of my life,” he told the court.
Becoming emotional, he said he wanted to serve as a role model to his three daughters, despite actions he acknowledged turned his family’s life “upside down.”
“I just want my kids to see me as a good person,” he said, his voice breaking. “If I can set an example for them it could be that I tried to do what was right after what I did was wrong.”
Earlier, Misener had stressed that her primary concern was that a police officer had tampered with evidence — something she said should properly be a “fanciful” accusation, but one that is nonetheless regularly made in drug cases.
“This case here before me is about evidence tampering. And from the point of view of the public interest, the impact is profound,” she said.
Misener, Crown Philip Perlmutter and Brauti each called Dominelli’s actions “stupid,” with Misener at once point calling Dominelli’s actions that of a “complete idiot.”
Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing. Reach her by email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis
Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy