Suspended sentence for hockey player Jere Karalahti in drug trial
Hard time for main defendants
District Prosecutor Erkki Huhtala and professional ice hockey player Jere Karalahti both plan to appeal a decision handed down by Espoo District Court on Thursday last week.
The court sentenced Karalahti to a suspended prison term of one year and eight months for complicity in an aggravated drug crime.
The three main defendants in the extensive amphetamine smuggling case got sentences of more than ten years.
As the matter will go before the Court of Appeals, it will probably take a minimum of several months before a final decision is reached.
The prosecutor said that he plans to appeal the sentence received by Karalahti at least. In addition to calling for a more severe sentence, he is considering appealing the fact that he was convicted as an accomplice, and not an actual perpetrator.
The prosecutor is primarily calling for a prison sentence of at least six years.
Karalahti's lawyer Jarkko Jaatela also plans to appeal.
"Complicity in a serious drug crime is punishable, if it is deliberate. Karalahti has constantly denied any deliberate criminal action", Jaatela said.
The court found that Karalahti had helped in the criminal enterprise by supplying members of the Bandidos motorcycle gang with EUR 10,000, at the request of his friend. The money went into a drug deal last July. A quantity of about 15 kilos of amphetamine was confiscated in connection with the case.
Karalahti's friend, 34-year-old Lasse Nikolas Martinez, was sentenced to ten and a half years in prison on three counts of aggravated drug crime. According to the decision, he had acquired drug money, hidden the drugs, and arranged the purchase.
The court also found that Martinez had paid money to Esa Jaakko Juhani Kolehmainen, 28, and Jari Tapani Penttinen, age 41. The two were given prison sentences of slightly over ten years.
Kolehmainen is a member of Bandidos, and Penttinen is a member of its support club. According to the court's decision, the two worked closely together, and were in a clear position of authority over Martinez.
The court also found that the centre of activities for the group was the Bandidos club house in Helsinki, where Karalahti had also spent time.
In court Karalahti said that he visited the club because it was a place where a public figure could drink in peace.
Seven other defendants in the case also got non-suspended prison sentences.
Four others were given suspended sentences, three were ordered to pay fines, and three others were acquitted.
It remains to be seen if Karalahti will be allowed to play professional hockey in Finland again.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Jere Karalahti owed money to friend and drank heavily in May and June (1.2.2008)
Prosecutor calls for jail term of at least six years for hockey player Jere Karalahti (30.1.2008)
Ice hockey player Jere Karalahti fired from Kärpät of Oulu (13.12.2007)
Hockey player Jere Karalahti released pending trial on drugs charges (10.12.2007)
Hockey player Karalahti indicted in massive drugs case (16.1.2008)