Drowning woman rescues drug dealer from long prison term
A drug trafficker who became involved in a national syndicate to help his late father's friend has avoided a lengthy prison term - thanks to the testimony of a drowning woman.
On Wednesday, the District Court jailed Halid Hadziefendic for five years and three months, with a 2 ½-year non-parole period.
In sentencing, Judge Rauf Soulio said Hadziefendic would have received a much harsher prison term if not for several written references demonstrating his good character.
He said those letters praised Hadziefendic's generous, helpful nature - particularly one written by a woman he saved from drowning.
The woman - then a stranger, now a close friend - urged the court to give Hadziefendic "a second chance" because "even the best people make mistakes".
"Risking everything to save a complete stranger says a lot about a person's heart," she wrote.
Judge Soulio said that "dramatic" incident showed Hadziefendic's capacity to put others before himself - somewhat explaining his crimes while pointing toward positive rehabilitation.
"I accept you are a man who is inclined to help others," he said.
Hadziefendic, 48, pleaded guilty to four counts of trafficking in a large commercial quantity of a controlled drug and one count of unlawful possession.
He made "$100 a pound" as part of a 12-person operation that used Australia Post to send packages of cannabis and cash around the country.
In breaking the syndicate, police seized 16kg of cannabis, 46 plants and $170,000 cash - and alleged Hadziefendic was its kingpin.
He insisted that was not the case, saying he worked under the orders of his father's friend and would lose his cladding business - leaving his staff unemployed - if jailed.
On Wednesday, Judge Soulio said it was "difficult to comprehend" why Hadziefendic became involved in the syndicate, given he was a new RAH site supervisor at the time.
"You didn't really want to become involved because you were working and making good money, but you felt obliged to help your father's friend," he said.
"You say you feel like an idiot for letting him involve you in this offending."
He noted Hadziefendic "control, or at least influence" over other members of the syndicate, but said he was clearly no kingpin.
"It's not possible to suggest you held any particular position or rank within the syndicate," he said.
Hadziefendic will be eligible to seek release on parole in September 2023.
Originally published as Drowning woman rescues drug dealer from long prison term