A Yellowknife man has been found guilty of planning to sell a form of fentanyl he ordered over the dark web in 2016.
Justice Shannon Smallwood convicted Darcy Oake, 25, of importing and possessing furanylfentanyl for the purpose of trafficking on Wednesday.
Oake was also found guilty of criminal negligence causing bodily harm after supplying a city woman with the mail-ordered furanylfentanyl, a designer derivative of the powerful opioid.
The woman was hospitalized after snorting a line of furanylfentanyl at Oake’s Borden Drive residence on Nov. 23, 2016 — less than 12 hours after Oake himself overdosed from the same batch of drugs.
Oake went to trial in August, pleading guillty to one count of trafficking furanylfentanyl.
Half-an-hour after picking up the imported package from a community mailbox on Nov. 23, 2016, Oake testified he consumed the drug before collapsing on the street while walking his dog. He was revived by paramedics who administered Narcan, a drug designed to reverse the effects of opioids.
Oake admitted to ordering the drug online using Bitcoin and encrypted computer software, but denied knowing the synthesized fentanyl analog was coming from outside of the country. The trial heard the shipment was sent from Hong Kong in late October 2016 before arriving in the capital.
Oake testified he purchased 10 grams of furanylfentanyl — at a surprisingly cheap price — from a clandestine online market that advertised the sale of a variety of illicit drugs.
In the throes of addiction at the time, Oake claimed he ordered the drug, estimated to about five times less potent fentanyl, for personal use — not for profit.
Smallwood said evidence proved otherwise.
Citing a series of text messages presented at trial, she said it was clear Oake — in debt — plotted to sell the potent opioid once it arrived in the capital.
“Please don’t tell a soul when it comes in. I will buy everything,” an unidentified person told Oake via text in October 2016.
“Yes … my plan exactly,” replied Oake.
Smallwood said Oake was “evasive” on the stand when questioned about the text messages.
“(Oake’s) own evidence contradicted him,” the NWT Supreme Court judge said.
While Oake admitted to providing furanylfentanyl to the woman who overdosed, his lawyer Peter Harte suggested she mixed a prescribed anti-anxiety medication with the furanylfentanyl, ultimately leading to her hospitalization and the injuries she suffered.
After snorting a line of furanylfentanyl laid out by Oake, the woman testified she awoke in hospital after being unconscious for nearly 24 hours.
Ultimately, Smallwood found the woman’s consumption of furanylfentanyl significantly contributed to the bodily harm she suffered, even if she had taken other drugs that day.
In finding Oake guilty of criminal negligence causing bodily harm — a charge seldomly seen in drug cases — Smallwood ruled he recklessly provided furanylfentanyl to the woman, despite knowing how dangerous the drug was.
Oake was arrested and charged after an investigation into a rash of opioid overdoses in Yellowknife led police to his home on Nov. 25, 2016. Mounties located a substance that later tested positive as furanylfentanyl.
The drug seizure triggered a large-scale response from police, who called in the RCMP’s Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement and Response (CLEAR) unit. CLEAR members, donning hazmat suits, secured and searched the Borden Drive property.
Charges should be stayed over trial delay: Oake’s lawyer
After being found guilty of all four counts, Harte brought forth an application on behalf of his client. Oake wants the charges — now convictions — stayed because of a 32-month gap between when the charges were laid and when the trial ended.
In R v. Jordan 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada established strict time limits on trial proceedings to avoid unconstitutional delays.
Oake will be back in court on March 30, when a date for a sentencing hearing is expected to be set.