Former Air Canada baggage handler who smuggled $1.2 million in cocaine could get conditional sentence
A lawyer for a former Air Canada baggage handler convicted of trying to smuggle 50 kilograms of cocaine through the Vancouver Airport has argued his client could receive a conditional sentence. In November, a British Columbia Supreme Court jury found Steven Robert Von Holtum, 47, guilty of importing $1.2 million worth of cocaine in December 2007. Von Holtum, who was fired from his job following his arrest, was caught trying to remove four unclaimed suitcases that had arrived on an Air Canada charter from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Arguing this was a serious breach of trust, a prosecutor called for an 18-year jail term. But defence lawyer Ian Donaldson told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Miriam Gropper that it was “legally open” to the court to impose a conditional sentence of two years less a day. “And though that submission borders on laughable, I make it with a straight face. And I make it with a straight face because of the nature of the evidence which we’ve heard and the family relationships that exist.” Donaldson was referring in part to the statements made in court by the accused’s brother and mother in support of Von Holtum. Her voice breaking, his 82-year-old mother told the judge that she relied upon her son to help her deal with her failing health. She, the brother and Von Holtum himself pleaded with the court for leniency. Von Holtum apologized for his crime and said the thought of going to prison terrified him. Prosecutor Charles Hough said there was nothing really exceptional about the family circumstances of the accused and added that the apology from Von Holtum, who denied the allegations at trial, was “a day late, a dollar short.” Judgment was reserved until June 22.