A Westbank farmer who tried to arrange for a fellow member of a spiritual group to be badly beaten has been jailed for two years.
Brante Farrell, 32, was sentenced Thursday for trying to pay a man $1,500 to break the arms, legs and jaw of Avery Haines.
Judge Ellen Burdett said a sentence of house arrest, requested by Farrell’s lawyer, Cory Armour, would not sufficiently express society’s outrage at Farrell’s conduct or deter others from trying to contract a hit man.
“A conditional sentence would simply not adequately address society’s condemnation of Mr. Farrell’s conduct, and his high moral blameworthiness,” Burdett said.
Crown prosector Martin Nadon had asked for a sentence of two to 2 1/2 years.
Farrell, owner of Westbank Harvest Ltd., had pled guilty to conspiracy to commit an assault. Burdett noted his lack of a criminal record, otherwise good character and his apparently genuine remorse, but said she still “regrettably” concluded a jail sentence was appropriate.
Farrell and Haines were both members of a long-established West Kelowna spiritual and counselling organization called the Equilibrium Philosophy Association, which Nadon said exercised “a fair amount of sway and control over its members.”
Group members met on a Glenrosa property owned by Atlanta Braley, who died last November at age 96.
Before her death, Haines was Braley’s live-in caregiver. Despite a 60-year age difference, Haines called Braley his best friend and mentor, and said he slept at the foot of her bed. The arrangement caused concern among some group members, and police were called several times to the property over allegations of elder abuse. Haines said Braley had told him she no longer wanted to see certain group members.
Farrell was Braley’s godson, and last September he was distraught at being told by Haines that Braley wanted no further contact with him.
Farrell and a woman he was involved with at the time placed an ad on Craigslist looking for someone to seriously injure Haines. The woman had second thoughts and confessed to police, leading to Farrell’s arrest.
The person Farrell had paid to beat up Haines was discovered by police to be a 19-year-old Kelowna man who had no intention of committing the assault.
The man, who disguised his voice to sound older, was just out to scam Farrell, Nadon said. But it was a lucky turn of events because the Craigslist ad might well have drawn a response from someone who would have beaten up Haines, Nadon said.
Farlie Paynter, Farrell’s father, was also a member of the Equilibrium Philosophy Association. After the sentencing, Paynter provided a statement to The Daily Courier which said his son had simply been trying to protect Braley.
For his part, Haines said being the intended victim of an arranged beating that never happened had been deeply upsetting to him. He said he now experiences frequent headaches and sleeplessness, and is often fearful for his safety.
“I was a highly functional person prior to this crime against me,” Haines said in his victim impact statement. “I think Brante needs to spend time in a mental institution.”
The future of the Equilibrium Philosophy Association is unclear as Burdett noted emotions among group members are “still running high” as a result of the affair. In her will, Braley left her estate to the association.
Braley’s former property, at 3012 Glenrosa Rd., was where members of the association met. The lot is nine-tenths of an acre with a 3,500-square-foot home, with a total assessed value of $845,000.