Westbank farmer awaits sentencing

Westbank farmer Brante Farrell made a video post to Facebook early Wednesday, a few hours before he returned to court for a sentencing hearing on conspiracy to commit an assault.

The intended victim of an arranged beating says he’s been left shattered and fearful for his life.

Avery Haines was supposed to have been assaulted by a man who Brante Farrell contacted through Craigslist.

“This was a nasty and distasteful business,” Haines said in Kelowna provincial court Wednesday during his victim impact statement. “It was a most heinous and violent crime that has shattered my life completely. I sleep very little and have nightmares.”

Farrell, a Westbank farmer who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit assault, said he was deeply remorseful and ashamed of trying to arrange for Haines’ knees, arms and jaw to be broken.

“I can’t justify what I did, ever,” said Farrell, 35. “I deeply regret my actions.”

Judge Ellen Burdett is expected to sentence Farrell Thursday. The Crown wants a jail sentence of two to 2 1/2 years while the defence is asking for Farrell’s sentence to be served in the community without jail time.

The case stems from a dispute among members of a West Kelowna spiritual group called the Equilibrium Philosophy Association. It was headed by Atlanta Braley, who was 96 when she died last November.

The group, which met for spiritual and counselling sessions in Braley’s home in Glenrosa, is said by Crown prosecutor Martin Nadon to have exercised “a fair amount of sway and control” over its members. Some members changed their names, apparently at Braley’s suggestion.

Haines became Braley’s live-in caretaker last year, a situation that caused friction in the group, and police were called to her residence several times.

Some group members said Haines was guilty of elder abuse, a suggestion that was investigated and rejected by both West Kelowna RCMP and Interior Health. For his part, Haines said some members of the group were pestering Braley, and she no longer wanted contact with them.

Braley was a wealthy woman, court heard. Haines described her as his “best friend and mentor,” and Farrell said he considered her to be a “second mother figure,” court heard.

Farrell was Braley’s godson, and he says he was irrationally upset last fall after hearing she didn’t want to see him anymore. He and a woman placed an ad on Craigslist to try to find someone to beat up Haines.

The person who responded to the ad identified himself as a 40-year-old Kelowna man with ties to the Hells Angels. In fact, he was a 19-year-old who made his voice sound deeper and who never had any intention of beating up Haines, court heard.

Farrell agreed to pay the man $1,500, with $800 in advance. Farrell, the owner of Westbank Harvest Ltd., left a bag with the money, and some apples, at the fake hit man’s house.

“He took the money, threw away the bag and ate the apples,” Nadon said of the young man’s actions. “He found the entire situation amusing.”

The woman who had helped put the ad on Craigslist soon had second thoughts and went to the police to confess. Police then arrested Farrell, who also confessed.

Farrell was described by his lawyer, Cory Armour, as a caring, cheerful and thoughtful man, never in trouble with the police before, who made a bad mistake by trying to have Haines assaulted. The judicial principle of denunciation would be served by Farrell serving his time in the community, Armour said.

But Nadon, in asking for a custodial sentence, noted Farrell believed he was actually arranging for Haines to be assaulted and it was only luck the person who responded to the Craigslist ad was a young man out to scam Farrell, rather than a real hit man.

Burdett said she wanted more information about the current state of the membership of the Equilibrium Philosophy Association before passing sentence. In her will, Braley left her estate to the association.

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