Michael Jacob Werner has been sentenced to six years in prison for robbing a Fort Street jewelry store last April.
Werner, 27, pleaded guilty to robbing Paul Mara Jewellers on the morning of April 26, 2012, and to using an imitation firearm while committing the robbery.
On Friday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Malcolm Macaulay sentenced Werner to five years for the robbery and imposed a one-year consecutive sentence for the use of what turned out to be a pellet gun. Macaulay credited Werner with the 324 days he has already spent in custody.
Werner’s co-accused, Dominic Oyango Wandolo, was sentenced Thursday to four years in prison. Wandolo played a lesser role and did not have a prior conviction for robbery, Macaulay noted.
“Small-business owners involved in the sale of items like watches and rings are particularly vulnerable to robbery,” Macaulay said. “Jewelry stores are attractive robbery targets because of the value of the merchandise they carry. For that reason, harsh sentences may be warranted.”
Crown prosecutor Carmen Rogers told the court that Werner was buzzed into the store, located at Fort and Broad streets, about 10:30 a.m. He propped the door open for Wandolo.
Werner brandished a pistol and threatened owners Douglas and Marsha Mara. He ordered them and an employee to the ground. Then, using a baton, Werner smashed display cases. Wandolo followed behind him, grabbing more than $300,000 worth of jewelry and watches and placing them in a bag.
Douglas Mara, who was in the Canadian Armed Forces for 17 years, got to his feet and bodychecked Werner into one of the display cases. Mara was hanging onto Werner when Wandolo pepper-sprayed him.
Werner and Wandolo ran from the store. Within an hour, police knocked on their door at the Bedford Regency Hotel on Government Street. The pair escaped through a window.
Werner was found hiding on the roof. He was arrested and lowered to the street in the bucket of a fire truck.
The robbery was frightening and psychologically devastating for the Maras, Macaulay said. Both have lost their trust in people and fear another violent robbery.
Macaulay found the vulnerability of the people in the store, the threats, the planning, the violence and the high value of the jewelry and watches to be aggravating circumstances in the case.
A significant aggravating feature was Werner’s four prior convictions for robbery, the judge said. In April 2010, Werner received the equivalent of a five-year sentence for break and enter and four robberies.
Werner also robbed a sporting goods store, entering the store with what appeared to be an AK-47 and stealing 12 handguns.
Also aggravating was the fact that Werner was on probation for these robberies when he committed the robbery in Victoria.
Rogers asked the judge to consider Werner’s upbringing and his aboriginal heritage.
As a child, Werner witnessed crime, substance abuse and domestic violence.
He was placed in foster care, where he was physically, emotionally and sexually abused from the age of 12. His father introduced him to crack cocaine when he was 14.
“Clearly, he didn’t have much of a chance,” Rogers said.
Macaulay found the mitigating factors to be Werner’s relative youth, his guilty plea and his disadvantaged background.
Macaulay ordered Werner to provide a sample of his DNA and imposed a lifetime’s weapons prohibition.
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