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Longtime Mountie behind bars
Larry O'Brien sentenced to six months in jail for theft and breach of trust

Katherine Hudson
Northern News Services
Published Friday, May 13, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - A 21-year veteran of the RCMP left the Yellowknife courthouse in handcuffs Wednesday, on his way to serve a six-month sentence in jail.

NNSL photo/graphic

Former RCMP Sgt. Larry O'Brien leaves the Yellowknife courthouse in handcuffs Wednesday after being sentenced to six months in jail for the breach of trust of a police officer and theft under $5,000. - Ian Vaydik/NNSL photo

Larry Edward O'Brien admitted to stealing $2,000 from an RCMP exhibit locker by changing his pleas to guilty Tuesday in territorial court. He was sentenced Wednesday morning for breach of trust by a police officer and theft under $5,000.

O'Brien's family members were outside the courthouse to offer him words of encouragement before he was led into an unmarked SUV.

"We love him and we support him 100 per cent. The community does too," his sister-in-law told Yellowknifer.

In final submissions Tuesday, defence lawyer Caroline Wawzonek said O'Brien, 46, felt he should be shamed for his actions. A conditional sentence to be served at home would therefore be most appropriate, she argued.

"He thinks it is not fair to leave his family in the public eye and he go and hide," said Wawzonek.

In his decision Wednesday, Justice J.R. McIntosh said he was considering a 12-month sentence at first, but decided O'Brien, as a former Mountie, would be facing an especially difficult time behind bars since police officers are usually segregated from other convicts in correctional institutions.

McIntosh said O'Brien's alleged sexual molestation when he was a teen - which O'Brien revealed in submissions to the court, the stress of being an RCMP officer and experiencing the death of a Hay River colleague in 2007, caused O'Brien to fall into "some degree of depression."

In October 2008 he planned to commit suicide on "the road to Rae" by lighting his car on fire and shooting himself with his pistol.

"In the end, the thought of my son growing up without a father was what saved my life," he wrote in a letter submitted to the court.

Also in the letter, O'Brien denies that any one event or experience led to his crime.

"I will not say that the abuse I suffered as a youth caused me to take money and try to cover it up. I will not say that my experiences at work were the sole reason for what I did."

When going through hard times, O'Brien purchased and used marijuana, and he also admitted to using cocaine in 2008.

McIntosh said O'Brien did not start actively looking for help until February 2010, when he started counselling.

McIntosh told the court he gave credit for O'Brien's guilty pleas, even though he only changed his pleas after a police investigation and preliminary court

proceedings went on for several months.

The judge added that O'Brien has been a "valuable member of each community he has been a part of."

The $2,000 that O'Brien stole came from an evidence locker containing close to $240,000 seized during a drug investigation. He later returned $2,000 to the locker but the bills had different markings than the originals. McIntosh told the court that O'Brien attempted to mislead fellow officers and subjected his colleagues to an investigation, including polygraph tests and inquiries into their personal financial statements.

The financial documents that O'Brien provided to police were found to be falsified. Although the former Mountie was also convicted of uttering forged documents, he was not sentenced to any additional jail time for that offence.

McIntosh read out an excerpt from the letter O'Brien submitted to the court, offering his explanation for stealing the money.

"I was neglecting my family and my responsibilities," McIntosh read from O'Brien's letter.

He said in December 2008, O'Brien and his wife had a fight about money issues. He said the letter states that the family was "financially stretched."

A charge of uttering threats, which allegedly occurred through an e-mail to several fellow RCMP officers in June 2009, was waived. McIntosh said O'Brien acknowledged sending the e-mail but denies its intent to threaten others.

- with files from

Nathalie Heiberg-Harrison

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