‘Junior member’ of Yellowknife cocaine ring awaits sentencing

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A “junior member” of a Yellowknife-based drug trafficking network convicted of possessing cash generated through the sale of cocaine delivered an emotional apology Monday during a sentencing hearing in NWT Supreme Court.

“I’m not a bad person. I’ve just made wrong choices,” said Travis King, fighting back tears as he stood to address Justice Louise Charbonneau in a Yellowknife courtroom.

King, 22, pleaded guilty to possessing the proceeds of crime – under $5,000 – following his arrest in 2017.

King was one of six people charged following an RCMP investigation – aided by the territory’s federal investigations unit – into drug trafficking in the capital that yielded large quantities of cocaine and cash.

On May 31, 2017, covert surveillance teams tracked King and another man, who was driving, as they travelled from a Matonabee North Apartments unit to a campsite at Fred Henne Territorial Park.

Once at the campsite, Mounties moved in. King, according to an agreed statement of facts read in court, attempted to flee the vehicle, but quickly surrendered to police. RCMP members forcibly prevented the driver from swallowing several cocaine-filled baggies.

Police found $415 – later admitted as proceeds of crime – on King. Police seized cocaine inside the vehicle and a search of the Matonabee North Apartments unit turned up thousands in cash and cocaine, along with a Winchester shotgun.

King was bound by the conditions of a recognizance at the time of his arrest after being charged in May 2016 with possessing cocaine for the purpose of trafficking. He received a 30-month sentence for the offence – he was caught with over 100 grams of cocaine following a traffic stop in Hay River – in June.

King also faces charges related to cocaine trafficking stemming from a November 2017 arrest in Saskatoon.

King’s June conviction, along with pending trafficking charges, point to his “sustained involvement,” in the drug trade, said Crown prosecutor Brendan Green Monday.

Green called for nine to 12 months in custody, recommending King serve the sentence consecutively to his current term.

Green said King played an “active role” in the illegal outfit, trafficking cocaine for profit, not to feed an addiction. King’s involvement in drug trafficking, said Green, only stopped when he was in custody. Green described King as a “junior member” of the network, noting he was carrying a relatively small amount of cash when arrested. King, he said, should be sentenced as a drug “runner.”

King’s lawyer Peter Harte recommended a sentence of six months in custody, to be served consecutively. Harte asked Charbonneau to consider the “unresolved” childhood trauma of his client, which, he said, has undoubtedly brought King before the courts.

Evoking the words of Justice Karan Shaner, who sentenced King in June, Harte said King is “literally struggling to survive.”

King never had a “reliable or safe home,” and “has had no parental guidance in his relatively short life,” stated Shaner in the summer.

“My life wasn’t very easy, but I don’t blame anyone for my decisions,” said King, whose mother and girlfriend sat in the courtroom.

King is the brother of Denecho King, convicted of killing a Yellowknife man and seriously injuring another during a December 2014 sword attack.

“(There are) negative and biased opinions surrounding me, my brother and my family. I would like to break that chain,” said King, telling the court he wants to seek an education and become a law-abiding citizen.

Charbonneau is expected to give her decision on Wednesday.

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