COURT BRIEFS: Accused fentanyl dealer denied bail as trial nears

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A Yellowknife man accused of importing and trafficking a form of fentanyl has lost a bid to spend Christmas out of jail ahead of his trial in the new year.

Investigators in hazmat suits were seen at 166 Borden Drive in November 2016, where RCMP Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement and Response (CLEAR) teams from Alberta and B.C. were helping the NWT Federal Investigations Unit and Yellowknife Fire Division carry out a search warrant at the home. Resident Darcey Oake was subsequently arrested and charged with drug-related offences. photo courtesy of RCMP
Investigators in hazmat suits were seen at 166 Borden Drive in November 2016, where RCMP Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement and Response (CLEAR) teams from Alberta and B.C. were helping the NWT Federal Investigations Unit and Yellowknife Fire Division carry out a search warrant at the home. Resident Darcy Oake was subsequently arrested and charged with drug-related offences.
photo courtesy of RCMP

Darcy Oake, 24, was denied bail by Justice Louise Charbonneau in NWT Supreme Court on Wednesday. Oake’s lawyer, Charles Davison, sought to have his client released on house arrest — with his parents as sureties — for three weeks. Oake is set to be tried by judge-alone on Jan. 8.

A court-ordered ban that usually prevents the publication of evidence at bail hearings was lifted at the beginning of the review.

In November 2016, Oake was arrested and charged after Yellowknife Mounties executed a search warrant at the accused’s Borden Drive residence.

RCMP seized a drug, which, as stated in a news release issued by Mounties the next month, was identified as Furanylfentanyl, a less potent form of fentanyl.

In the same December 2016 news release, RCMP stated the Canadian Border Services in Vancouver had intercepted a Yellowknife-destined package sent from China. Police said the contents of the package also tested positive for Furanylfentanyl. They linked the package to the investigation involving Oake.

The allegations outlined in the investigation haven’t yet been tested in court.

As a result of the 2016 probe, which came around the same time as a rash of opioid overdoses in the city, Oake was charged with unlawfully importing a Schedule 1 substance, trafficking a Schedule 1 substance and possessing for the purpose of trafficking a Schedule 1 substance. Oake is also charged with causing bodily harm by criminal negligence in allegedly providing the drug.

Around the time of the drug seizure, eight people were admitted to Stanton Territorial Hospital for opioid overdoses in a 48-hour span, prompting an alert from the territorial government’s Department of Health and Social Services.

It hasn’t yet come out in court whether prosecutors allege a link between Oake and any of the non-fatal overdoses.

Charbonneau granted Oake release following his arrest in November 2016, but the accused was arrested again two months later for unrelated offences.

In July, Oake sought bail again but the application was dismissed by Charbonneau. In denying Oake’s release a second time on Wednesday, Charbonneau said the release plan proposed by the defence was “different, but not stronger,” and that it failed to address the concerns that led her to deny bail in the summer. She said if released, Oake would be going back to an environment that raised the risk of a relapse. Oake’s lawyer has said his client was addicted to drugs at the time of his arrest in 2016.

When Oake was released on bail in May 2017, Charbonneau said she did so with a “clear warning” he was “walking a very thin line.” She said he was already given a chance when released on bail then.

Noting Oake’s attempts to be released on bail in time for the holidays, Charbonneau said there is room for empathy and compassion in the courtroom but that the court “must remain dispassionate in its decisions.”

“The law is applied the same throughout the year,” she said.

Charbonneau added the release of Oake, who faces “very serious charges,”  would cause the public to lose confidence in the administration of justice.

Oake, who showed little emotion following the decision, barely shared a glance with his parents — in attendance in the Yellowknife courtroom — as he made his way back into custody.

Guilty plea in brass knuckles beating

A Yellowknife man will be sentenced in the new year after pleading guilty to beating two men with brass knuckles during an assault in the city more than two years ago.

Brandon Peterson, 24, pleaded guilty to carrying a weapon for a purpose dangerous to public peace and assault with a weapon in NWT territorial court on Dec. 14.

By pleading guilty to the charges, Peterson accepted the facts of the case agreed upon by prosecutors and his lawyer.

On Nov. 1, 2016, the court heard, Yellowknife RCMP received complaints about Peterson waving and brandishing brass knuckles at passersby near the library entrance of the Centre Square Mall downtown.

Brass knuckles are a weapon worn over a person’s knuckles. The hard, metal exterior is designed to deliver more powerful blows during fights.

The court heard Peterson then assaulted two men with the brass knuckles outside of the A&W restaurant on Franklin Avenue.

Peterson also faces an unrelated motor vehicle theft charge, to which he pleaded not guilty.

He will be back in a Yellowknife courtroom on Jan. 8 to be tried on that charge. On the same day, Peterson will be sentenced for the brass knuckles assault.

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As the Yellowknifer’s crime reporter, it’s my job to keep readers up to speed on all-things “cops and courts” related. From house fires and homicides to courtroom clashes, it’s my responsibility to be there - day or night, rain or shine. When I’m not at court gathering stories, I’m in the office, making calls to lawyers, emailing RCMP and tracking down sources. After hours, I rely on the public to let me know what’s happening and where. Entering my second winter in Yellowknife since leaving my hometown of Peterborough, Ont., in October 2017, everyday on this beat continues to be challenging, rewarding and fulfilling. Got a story? Call me at (867) 766-8288 or shoot me an email at editorial@nnsl.com.

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