A drug-dealing former public servant who was caught with nearly 700 MDMA pills and more than $35,000 in cash has avoided time behind bars.
Zac Gatica, 28, was sentenced in the ACT Supreme Court on Monday to one year and eight months' imprisonment, to be served through an intensive correction order in the community.
The Wright man pleaded guilty in March last year to trafficking in MDMA and dealing with the proceeds of crime.
In her sentencing remarks, Justice Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson says police searched Gatica's home and vehicle on September 27, 2018.
They found 693 MDMA tablets and 1.49 grams of cocaine, along with $35,350 in cash.
Officers also seized Gatica's phone and found "a series of conversations" relating to his drug-dealing.
Gatica's lawyer, Michael Kukulies-Smith, told the court the quantity of drugs and cash seized were consistent with Gatica being "a street-level dealer dealing to support his own drug addictions".
Prosecutors suggested Gatica was "somewhat above a typical street-level dealer", though not at the top of any distribution network.
Justice Loukas-Karlsson said Gatica had, until recently, been a full-time public servant.
He was suspended from his position without pay in August 2019, following his offending. He resigned three days later.
Gatica's mother also lost her job after failing to inform the federal department she worked in of her son's crimes.
Justice Loukas-Karlsson said Gatica started using recreational drugs in 2017. At one stage, he used cocaine daily and also took MDMA on weekends.
Gatica claimed he had introduced his partner to illicit drugs, but they were both now abstinent.
During his time on bail, he tested negative to illicit drugs in five random urine analysis tests.
"The offender stated he is focusing on work and study and is no longer interested in being part of the drug scene," Justice Loukas-Karlsson's sentencing remarks say.
Gatica wrote to the court, expressing "genuine remorse" and detailing the counselling he had sought to address his issues with drugs.
"In hindsight, when everything in my life started falling apart, these were the mental steps and the decisions I needed to make before I started abusing drugs and losing my way," Gatica's letter says, according to extracts published in Justice Loukas-Karlsson's sentencing remarks.
"I know now for the future how to be a better, stronger person for not just myself but for those around me, so that I never end up here again."
Gatica's letter says he suffered a near-fatal cocaine overdose, which he had since used as motivation to seek help for his issues with drugs.
During the overdose he had a seizure, stopped breathing and fell unconscious as his skin "went blue".
"My fiancee at the time witnessed the incident and if it wasn't for her giving me CPR I would have died," Gatica's letter says.
Gatica's partner told the court in a letter that after his arrest, it felt like she had been reunited with the "motivated man" he had been when they first met.
She said Gatica had expressed remorse to her "an unlimited number of times".
"He has expressed to me that he will do whatever it takes to correct his behaviour and return to being a responsible and productive member of society," Gatica's partner said in her letter.
"I believe more than ever, this to be true, as I now see proof of it every single day."
Justice Loukas-Karlsson found rehabilitation to be an important sentencing consideration, given Gatica's remorse and previous good character.
Gatica's intensive correction order, backdated by two days to take into account time spent in custody following his arrest, expires on October 7, 2021.