OTTAWA — A “great father” who brought his three-year-old daughter to a crack deal shouldn’t spend a day in jail, his lawyer argued Friday.
The smiling little girl in the Mickey Mouse T-shirt held father Terry Phillips’s hand on the way to one of five drug deals in March and April 2010. The moment was captured on police surveillance photos taken of the 38-year-old father of two and repeat drug dealer. In total, Phillips sold the officer 15.4 grams of crack cocaine over the five meetings.
Phillips, 38, also brought the child to his sentencing hearing before Ontario Superior Court Justice Lynn Ratushny deemed it inappropriate and asked her mother to remove her from the courtroom.
His lawyer, James Harbic, argued the “caring and thoughtful” family man who previously served six months in jail for dealing crack should be sentenced to two years’ less a day of house arrest and other conditions.
Federal prosecutor Céline Harrington argued that was absurd. She asked for 2˝ to three years in federal prison.
Harrington said nothing could be more aggravating than bringing an innocent child to what could have been “a very volatile, dangerous situation.”
“He brings his three-year-old toddler with him ... despite the violence associated with drug dealing,” Harrington argued.
“An innocent three-year-old girl holding her dad’s hand to do a drug deal,” she said, holding the photo up, so Ratushny could see it. “Are those the actions of a good father?”
Harbic acknowledged Phillips’s decision to bring the child was “stupid” but argued his client had turned his life around. The former addict was committed to his full-time job at a hotel and taking care of his teenaged autistic son and young daughter.
“He has very serious responsibilities as a family man,” said Harbic. “He really understands that important role.”
Society would be better served if Phillips was allowed to serve his time in the community, Harbic argued.
“We can’t hide behind our children but ultimately, the court can’t have a blind eye,” said Harbic. “A period of incarceration will have a negative impact on this man, his family and the community as a whole.”
Phillips himself told Ratushny he denounced drugs, was committed to becoming a “positive person” and wanted to make a better life for his family, even though a probation report said he still smoked marijuana on weekends.
Harrington argued that was the same “song and dance” he presented the last time Phillips admitted to dealing crack.
Nothing has changed, she said.