A Toronto police officer who stole and ate a pot-laced chocolate bar seized during a raid on an illegal dispensary will have to spend six months under house arrest as part of a sentence to be served in the community, a judge ruled Monday, saying his actions could not go unpunished.
Vittorio Dominelli, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to attempting to obstruct justice, will spend the rest of his nine-month conditional sentence under supervision and will also have to serve 60 hours of community service.
Justice Mary Misener, who presided over the case, said the 36-year-old acted recklessly in order to satisfy his curiosity about marijuana, putting others at risk.
“His decision to take the cannabis was both impetuous and immature,” she said. “He was wandering outside in a haze. That is the state he put himself in while armed with a handgun … the danger to the public is obvious.”
Misener noted, however, that Dominelli was not a corrupt officer and “did not act for nefarious purposes.”
Dominelli, who served as a police officer for 13 years before resigning from the force this month, was part of a team that raided the pot shop on Jan. 27. He pocketed several cannabis-oil-infused chocolate bars on his way out of the store.
Court heard that Dominelli and another officer shared some of the chocolate hours later while conducting surveillance outside an after-hours bar and got extremely high.
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Dominelli thought he was going to die, and radioed for help, court heard.
When other officers hurried to the scene, one of them slipped on ice and suffered a severe head injury, court heard. That officer still has “significant difficulties with speech and vision,” and has not been able to return to work.
Seven people were charged in the pot-shop raids, but court heard those charges were dropped due to Dominelli’s actions.
While the Crown pushed for a conditional sentence, Dominelli’s lawyer had argued that his client should be discharged given that he had already given up his career and been subject to considerable scrutiny.
Misener acknowledged that the officer had suffered as a result of his actions. She further noted that Dominelli had no prior record and had previously received accolades from his supervisors and members of the public alike.
“Mr. Dominelli has lost his career and been humiliated,” Misener said. “The unforgiving nature of the internet means he will bear the shame of his actions for the rest of his life.”
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But still, his actions endangered others and degraded trust in the justice system, she said.
“The ramifications of his evidence tampering go well beyond the immediate case,”she said. “Evidence tampering even of a minor nature strikes at the heart of the justice system.”
Dominelli did not respond to questions as he was leaving the court, but his lawyer Peter Brauti said he was disappointed with the judge’s decision.
“He’s pretty distraught but I think the most important thing for him is to get some closure, because it’s been hanging over his head,” Brauti said outside court. “He knew he made a terrible mistake and he was prepared to take responsibility for it.”