Nabbed by undercover cops at Hay River slo-pitch tournament, woman gets 5 months for trafficking

Mounties wore uniforms, competed as part of clandestine drug enforcement operation

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They looked and played the part, running bases and rubbing shoulders with unsuspecting teammates and opponents at the 2017 Coors Mixed Slo-Pitch Tournament in Hay River.

But the group of players, actually a lineup of undercover RCMP officers, were looking for more than a home run.

Assembled as part of Project Grand Slam, an elaborate joint drug enforcement operation between members of the RCMP’s federal investigations unit (FIU) and Hay River RCMP, the undercover officers infiltrated the baseball tournament to probe suspected cocaine trafficking in town.

Starr Martel, a 26-year-old Hay River woman, was arrested and charged as a result of the clandestine operation.

She sentenced to five months in jail on Monday.

Martel pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking in November, admitting to connecting an undercover Mountie with cocaine during the summer baseball tournament. Martel has no prior criminal convictions.

On Aug. 5, 2017, the court heard, Martel was socializing at the Hay River Legion following a baseball game, when she ended up sitting at a table with an undercover RCMP officer.

The officer asked Martel if she could get him some cocaine. She told the Mountie she could, later asking him for $80. Martel, according to an admitted statement of facts, returned to the Legion, handing the undercover Mountie 0.5 grams of cocaine in exchange for the cash.

Martel’s vehicle was stopped by RCMP two days later.

Police seized three cell phones and marijuana paraphernalia. Not long after, RCMP raided her home, seizing 46 grams of marijuana.

Martel was initially going to argue she had been entrapped by RCMP officers during the undercover drug operation, but later changed her plea to guilty.

Her lawyer, Charles Davison, reminded the court his client pleaded guilty in the face of what was, at least, an arguable case of entrapment.

Davison said Martel admitted to exchanging cocaine for cash with the undercover officer, but said she assured him she received nothing from the transaction. 

He said Martel was not financially motivated to traffic the drug, adding she told the officer she wanted to party with him after, as admitted in the agreement statement of facts.

At the end of the day, none of the $80 was left in Martel’s hand, said Davison. She shouldn’t be sentenced as someone who was motivated to traffic drugs for financial gain, he argued. 

Davison asked Justice Andrew Mahar to consider a four to five-month jail sentence. Crown prosecutor Duane Praught recommended an eight-month sentence, arguing the transaction was commercial in nature, regardless of what Martel did with the $80 she received.

“It’s a very sad situation,” said Justice Mahar before sentencing Martel on Monday.

Mahar, drawing from Martel’s pre-sentence report (information about the circumstances and background of an offender), credited the young mother on remaining crime-free throughout her life until now, despite enduring abuse and “chaos” growing up. 

Martel, the court heard, bounced from foster homes to her the care of her mother, who struggled with addiction.

Mahar gave Martel full credit for her guilty plea, which came in the face of an “arguable case of entrapment.”

Martel, who is now barred from possessing firearms for 10 years after her release, will be recommended for early release by Mahar for work or counselling purposes.

“I fully expect this is the last time I’ll ever see you here,” Mahar told Martel.