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Update: Brandon Phillips sentenced to year in prison on drug charge conviction

Brandon Phillips sits in a provincial courtroom in St. John's Tuesday morning, where he pleaded guilty to two charges related to the possession of a mix of heroin and fentanyl. Behind him is Linda McBay, wife of Larry Wellman, whose murder Phillips was convicted of last fall.
Brandon Phillips sits in a provincial courtroom in St. John's Tuesday morning, where he pleaded guilty to two charges related to the possession of a mix of heroin and fentanyl. Behind him is Linda McBay, wife of Larry Wellman, whose murder Phillips was convicted of last fall. - Tara Bradbury

Convicted murderer already serving a life sentence

Convicted murderer Brandon Phillips, already serving a life sentence for a second-degree murder, has  been given a one-year sentence on a drug charge, but he won't serve extra time.

The 30-year-old pleaded guilty to drug charges he incurred inside Her Majesty's Penitentiary last year while he was awaiting his murder trial to begin.

The sentence given him Wednesday is cocurrent to his sentence on the murder charge.

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Earlier story

As Brandon Phillips sat quietly in the dock in a provincial courtroom in St. John's Tuesday, the gallery behind him was empty, apart from a small group of reporters and two women, each of them compelled to attend his court proceedings for their own reasons.

On one side was Phillips' mother, Debbie, supporting him as she has done since his legal proceedings began. On the other side was Linda McBay, the wife of the man Phillips was convicted last fall of murdering in the second degree in the fall of 2015.

Phillips' court appearance Tuesday wasn't directly related to the attempted armed robbery at a downtown St. John's hotel in which Larry Wellman, 63, was fatally shot after he had attempted to intervene. McBay was in the room to fulfil a vow she had made directly to Phillips when she spoke at his sentencing hearing for her husband's death, telling him that she would attend every one of his court appearances or parole board hearings.

Phillips, 30, was in the courtroom to plead guilty to two counts of possessing illegal drugs, having been caught with a package containing marijuana and a mix of heroin and fentanyl while inside Her Majesty's Penitentiary awaiting his murder trial last year.

Phillips had received a visitor on May 26, 2017, spending time with them in the visitors' room. When the person left the building, a correctional officer saw Phillips picking up a package near a fence in the area of the prison's sally port. The package was seized and the visitor was located and held until police arrived.

The package was found to contain tobacco, rolling papers, matches, marijuana, and a greyish-pink powder. Health Canada testing on the powder revealed it was heroin mixed with fentantyl at a rate of 6.8 per cent.

Phillips originally pleaded not guilty to the charges last July, asking the court for a quick trial date so he could be sent to a federal prison on the mainland to serve his murder sentence and receive better programming.

"There's nothing here for me," he told the judge.

After a short delay so Crown and defence lawyers could meet privately, Phillips changed his plea to guilty for possession charges related to the heroin and fentanyl, and the charge related to the marijuana was withdrawn.

Prosecutor Brenda Boyd indicated she and defence lawyer John Hartery would present a joint submission on sentencing for Phillips, which will happen at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Phillips is serving a life sentence for Wellman's death, but will be eligible for parole in 2027. He is appealing his conviction on a number of grounds, including that the verdict was "unreasonable and cannot be supported by evidence."

McBay and Wellman's two adult children each gave emotional victim impact statements at Phillips' sentencing hearing last February, describing Wellman as kind, gentle, loving, adventurous and a hero.

tara.bradbury@thetelegram.com
Twitter: @tara_bradbury


Related story:
Families of Larry Wellman and Brandon Phillips give emotional testimony as lawyers argue parole eligibility

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