A grainy Facebook photo of Trevor Charles Porter appeared under the headline: Colwood man charged in murder-for-hire plot.
The date was Jan. 30, 2014.
Sooke RCMP sent out a media release saying they had arrested Porter and charged him with hiring someone to kill a Langford man.
Police laid the charge during a telebail hearing before a judicial justice of the peace. But when the Crown prosecutor reviewed the file on March 5, 2014, he found the murder-for-hire charge did not meet the standard for charge approval. Instead, Porter was charged with four firearms offences.
Almost five years later, on Oct. 18, 2018, the case finally came to an end in Western Communities Provincial Court.
The 48-year-old former logger, who had been on bail in the community all that time, was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to a single offence: possession of a loaded firearm.
Victoria criminal defence lawyer Peter Firestone represented Porter and believes his client has been treated unjustly by the RCMP and the Crown.
“My client is a good old boy,” Firestone said. “He’s a welder by trade. A developer by avocation. He’s not in the gang business. He’s not in the organized crime business. He’s in the baby-making business — he has eight children.”
When the RCMP announced Porter had been charged with conspiracy to murder, his life was shattered. People believed he was dangerous. His developments in the West Shore went under, Firestone said.
“Five of his properties were foreclosed upon because no one would do business with him after the arrest. He refused to go into bankruptcy and he’s gone to prison with this large debt hanging over his head because he’s trying to honour his obligations.”
So what actually happened?
According to court transcripts, Porter did some bodywork on a truck at Michael and Sean Jackson’s house in Sooke in mid-January, 2014. They hung out, played pool and drank a lot.
At some point, Porter decided to show the Jacksons the heirloom handgun he had inherited years earlier when his father died. He went out to his pickup, brought the loaded gun into the house and passed it around.
Sean Jackson, who has a brain injury, pointed the gun at his own face and looked down the barrel of the loaded gun.
“At this point, my client realized this was stupid. He grabbed the gun and put it back in his truck,” Firestone said.
Although he had been drinking, Porter drove off. He stopped at a sandpit and fired three rounds into the sand from his truck. Then he went back to his parents’ home where he was staying while they were out of town. He put the loaded handgun in the drawer of a bureau near the front door.
After Porter left, the Jacksons realized their fingerprints were all over the gun. The next day, Michael Jackson gave a statement to police saying Porter had talked about killing somebody. He told the RCMP about the loaded handgun.
The RCMP got a search warrant and found Porter’s loaded handgun in the drawer at his parents’ house and 30 rounds of ammunition in the pickup.
Jackson’s story was never corroborated, Firestone said. He did not testify at the preliminary inquiry.
Steve Wright, now retired, issued the RCMP’s murder-for-hire press release. In a recent interview, he said he vaguely remembered the case.
“I’m in an awkward spot because I can’t speak for the RCMP anymore,” Wright said. “I have an opinion, but it’s such a long time. … I think the issue may have something to do with credibility of the witness.”
In 2017, Porter pleaded guilty to possession of a loaded firearm but his sentencing was delayed until January 2018 because he was in poor health. Porter had lower back problems, heart problems and a series of mini-strokes that kept him in and out of hospital.
At the sentencing hearing, the Crown asked for a three-year sentence, even though the mandatory minimum for illegal gun possession had been struck down in 2015.
Firestone asked provincial court Judge Roger Cutler for a sentence of two years less a day to allow Porter to serve his time in the community and help care for his one-year-old daughter.
Calling the case “extremely disturbing,” Cutler imposed the three-year sentence. He said Porter’s actions were extremely dangerous and placed a number of people in immediate danger. And the risk was increased by his consumption of alcohol and his cavalier approach to firearms.
“It is extremely fortunate that no one was seriously injured or killed. … The authorities are clear that a person who possesses a firearm in a manner that poses an immediate danger to other persons commits a serious offence, deserving of a significant penalty,” Cutler said in his decision.
But as he watched Porter being handcuffed and walked out of court to begin his sentence, Firestone says he was left with a bad feeling that justice had not been served.
“This was a ferocious sentence that wasn’t justified in the circumstances. This was a three-year sentence for a man in poor health who was ruined financially by a charge which was never approved. As Mr. Porter’s counsel, I thought it was very unfair — and I still think it’s unfair.”