A South Surrey woman who was to go to trial next month on dozens of dog-theft related charges will instead go straight to sentencing, after entering guilty pleas to a handful of charges last week in Surrey Provincial Court.
Janet Olson, 60, appeared before Judge James Sutherland on Oct. 8.
“She entered some pleas and the matter was adjourned… till Jan. 2,” prosecutor Michelle Wray confirmed.
Olson had been scheduled to be tried on the charges in B.C. Supreme Court starting next month. Twenty days had been set aside for the proceedings.
Just one day has been reserved for sentencing submissions.
Defence counsel Craig Sicotte said Thursday the change of direction was rooted in a lack of hard evidence.
“The bottom line is the Crown realized that they couldn’t prove all the rest of them,” Sicotte told Peace Arch News. “They were relying on what’s called similar-fact evidence… to prove it was her that did a bunch of the other ones.”
Olson – who is a founder of A Better Life Dog Rescue – was one of two women arrested in November 2011 in connection with the theft of a bulldog from a Coquitlam backyard.
Olson told Black Press after her arrest that she had “a moral right” to take the dogs. She repeatedly told media that she took the bulldog, Samson, “because a bulldog expert advised me he was going to freeze to death.”
In the months following the arrests, a plethora of additional charges – to a total of 38 – were sworn against Olson, in connection with incidents between Nov. 14, 2009 and Dec. 21, 2011 in White Rock, Surrey, Richmond and Abbotsford.
Sicotte said Olson pleaded guilty to breaking into a Chilliwack yard to try to steal a dog in March 2009; to theft, in connection with a July 2010 incident in Richmond; and to charges of break-and-enter and theft in connection with the bulldog stolen from Coquitlam in November 2011.
Sicotte – who once described the volume of material in Olson’s file as similar to that accumulated in murder cases – said he is not surprised by the turn of events.
“All of us are relieved,” he said.
Sicotte expects the remaining 34 charges – which include fraud, theft, break and enter and “possess break-in instrument” – will be stayed.
Wray deferred further Crown comment to Neil MacKenzie, spokesman for the Criminal Justice Branch.
MacKenzie told PAN Thursday that the guilty pleas were deemed appropriate “based on the currently available evidence and the circumstances of the case.”
He said Crown’s position with respect to an appropriate sentence will be put before the court in January. Sicotte would also not comment on what sentence he planned to argue for.
In September 2012, Louise Reid – the Surrey woman who had been arrested with Olson in Coquitlam – received a conditional discharge, a year’s probation and an order to pay $2,500 restitution to the owner of one of the two dogs that she had pleaded guilty to stealing.
Four other women arrested over the course of the investigation were diverted to an alternate-measures program.
Online court records indicate charges against them were later dismissed.