The lawyer for Darcy Oake, a Yellowknife man charged with importing a form of fentanyl into the city in 2016, says his client was an addict who ordered the drug online for his own personal use — not a dealer who planned to profit off the powerful opioid once it arrived in the capital.
In closing arguments made Monday, defence lawyer Peter Harte urged a NWT Supreme Court judge not to mistake addiction with an intent to sell drugs.
Oake, 25, is charged with importing and possessing for the purpose of trafficking furanylfentanyl, a synthesized “designer drug” estimated to be around five times less potent than fentanyl.
He previously pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking the drug.
Oake is also accused of criminal negligence causing bodily harm after prosecutors allege a woman — a long-time friend and ex-addict — overdosed as a result of the furanylfentanyl he gave her.
Oake was arrested and charged after an investigation into a rash of opioid overdoses in the city led Yellowknife RCMP to the accused’s Borden Drive home on Nov. 25, 2016. Mounties located a substance that later tested positive as furanylfentanyl.
The seizure triggered a large-scale response from police, who called in the RCMP’s Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement and Response (CLEAR) unit to secure and search the property.
Oake went on trial in August. Taking the stand in his own defence, Oake admitted to using Bitcoin, encryption and identity-masking software to buy 10 grams of furanylfentanyl over the “dark web” in late October 2016. On Nov. 23, 2016, almost a month later, the shipment arrived at Oake’s Borden Drive mailbox, he said. The accused told the court he overdosed within 30 minutes of its arrival, after snorting a line of the potent mail-ordered drug.
A full-blown addict at the time, Oake said he ordered the surprisingly cheap form of fentanyl for himself and no one else.
The Crown says otherwise.
At trial, prosecutor Duane Praught presented a host of text messages he said illustrated Oake’s involvement in the drug trade — and his intent to sell and profit from the furanylfentanyl he ordered online.
Harte argued the text message exchanges show Oake, in the throws of active addiction, buying and trading drugs for personal use as opportunities presented themselves.
Turning to the importation charge, Harte, echoing Oake’s testimony at trial, said his client didn’t know the drugs he ordered were coming from outside of the country.
The Crown, relying on computer data extraction technology and the testimony of Oake’s alleged victim – she testified she was with the 25-year-old when he ordered the furanylfentanyl from China – alleges the accused knew full well the shipment was coming from outside of the country.
The woman, who regularly used drugs with Oake, said the accused gave her a line of furanylfentanyl on Nov. 23, 2016 — the day the drug arrived in Yellowknife — at his Borden Drive garage. She awoke almost a day-and-a-half later in hospital after suffering an apparent drug overdose.
Oake gave her the drug despite being well aware of its risks — he had overdosed just hours earlier — Praught argued at trial.
Citing the testimony of two medical experts at trial, Harte said there isn’t enough evidence to conclude the furanylfentanyl Oake provided to the woman caused the woman to fall into an extended “comatose state.” The woman, he said, could have also ingested anti-anxiety medication she was prescribed at the time.
Justice Shannon Smallwood is expected to hand down a decision on Feb. 17.