30-year-old Darren Brent Snell has been sentenced to three and a half years in jail for robbing a Westville bank and assaulting a police officer.
PICTOU - A 30-year-old Westville man was sentenced to three and half years in federal prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to an armed robbery at a local bank this past summer.
Darren Brent Snell was expected to stand trial today on the robbery charge, but changed his plea to guilty in Pictou provincial court at the last minute. The charge was laid in connection with a robbery at the Bank of Nova Scotia in Westville in August. An additional charge of breach of probation and wearing a mask with intent were stayed by the Crown in light of the guilty pleas while Snell had already pleaded guilty to charge of assaulting a peace officer.
The trial was expected to begin at 9:30 a.m. and the lobby of the Pictou Justice Centre was busy with witnesses and police officers milling about waiting to testify. However, when provincial court did get underway about an hour later, defence lawyer Rob Sutherland announced that joint recommendation had been reached and a trial would not be taking place.
Crown Attorney Jody McNeill and Sutherland agreed that a pre-sentence report was not required and the sentencing could take place immediately.
In a summary of facts read out to the court, McNeill said Snell entered the Bank of Nova Scotia in Westville at 11 a.m. on August 7 wearing a mask, black clothing and rubber boots. He had a backpack in his hands which he placed in front of teller and showed her a butcher style knife he had in his hand.
He told the teller not to press the panic button or give him any money that could be traced by police.
"Don't give me any dye money or I will kill you," he said to the teller.
He was in the bank for about two minutes and during this time, turned to a patron at another teller while holding the knife, telling him to back off. Bank staff determined he left the bank with close to $10,000 which was not recovered by police.
Westville Police received a 911 call about the robbery shortly afterwards and when an officer turned into the parking lot behind the bank, he spoke with a man who reported seeing another man, matching Snell's description, run out of the bank and get into a white car. The man was able to get a license plate number of the vehicle and police determined the car belonged to Snell's parents.
Police immediately put a description of the vehicle and the man across Nova Scotia and at 12:30 p.m. on the same day, Bible Hill RCMP spotted Snell's vehicle heading towards Truro and conducted a traffic stop during which time Snell was arrested.
Upon his arrest, Snell shouted profanity to police and spit in the face of a Westville police officer.
In a follow up investigation, police learned that Snell had been at a house the night before the robbery and spoke of his plans to rob the Bank of Nova Scotia in Westville. He tried to get another man to join him in the robbery and when the man declined to be a part of the robbery, Snell beat him up.
Snell's mother told police she picked him up at this home in the early morning hours of August 7 and went back to bed for a nap. When she woke, there were police officers in her driveway and her son and her vehicle were gone.
A gas station attendant in the Town of Westville, familiar with Snell's appearance confirmed for police that he put gas in the white car up with gas before 11 a.m. that day and returned to the gas station again a while later for more fuel.
McNeill said Snell has a previous record for robbery for which he served federal time in addition to an assault charge for which he received 15 months in jail.
He added the joint recommendation was based on the strength and weaknesses of the Crown's case and that it was asking for four years in federal prison, but six months would be given for the time that Snell already served while waiting his trial.
Judge Del Atwood agreed to the joint recommendation, but acknowledged "at first blush it appears to be at the low end of the range" considering Snell's previous record and the fact that the court of appeal has stated many times that substantial sentences needed to be imposed with robbery convictions.
However, Atwood said he was not privy to the strengths or weaknesses of the Crown's case because the case did not to go to trial, so the joint recommendation would stand. Snell was sentenced to three and half years for the robbery charge and the assault on the peace officer netted a sentence of six months that will run concurrent to the robbery conviction.
He has also been order to take part in a DNA collection in addition to having a lifetime firearm ban.
As Snell rose from the court bench, escorted by sherifs to the cell area, he raised his middle finger in the direction of a police officer in the courtroom who he plead guilty to assaulting.
Court was recessed for the morning following Snell's sentencing.