Former Norman Wells mayor fined for cocaine possession

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Nathan Watson was several minutes late for his date with a judge on Tuesday afternoon – to face charges including his failure to attend an earlier court appearance.

“I fell asleep in my car,” an out-of-breath Watson told Territorial Court Judge Garth Malakoe, explaining Tuesday's delay.

The former mayor of Norman Wells was preparing to be sentenced for possession of cocaine, having been found guilty at a January trial and subsequently skipped a May court date.

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“I’d like to apologize … there’s really no excuse,” Watson said of missing that appearance.

Watson was arrested on July 20 in Norman Wells after RCMP received an anonymous tip that he was in the Sahtu community.

He spent three days in custody before being released on bail to appear in a Yellowknife courtroom on Tuesday.

At his cocaine possession trial, Watson had argued the two baggies of cocaine police found in his jacket pocket in October 2017 weren’t his.

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Watson, now 50, testified that his jacket – emblazoned with his name and the words Town of Norman Wells – was on the back of a chair with other coats while he was drinking at a house party.

Watson referenced the fact he was the mayor of Norman Wells at the time and that he had “disagreements” with certain people.

“Mr Watson claimed he had no idea how the cocaine got into his pocket,” Malakoe said in March, reading his decision that found Watson guilty.

“I do not find Mr Watson to be a credible witness with respect to his denial of knowledge there was cocaine in his pocket.

“It makes no sense that someone inadvertently or mistakenly put this amount of cocaine [3.2 grams] in someone else’s distinctive-looking jacket … either to store it there, or to get Mr Watson in trouble.”

The RCMP pulled Watson over after he ran a stop sign on leaving the party. Alcohol was smelled on him, and he later blew .120 on two breathalyzer tests. The legal limit is .08.

The impaired driving charges were stayed by the Crown.

As Watson had to be placed in a cell for some period of time that night, police went through his pockets to take an inventory of his personal belongings. That’s when they found the two bags of drugs and a marijuana pipe.

'A substantial fine'

Watson had been mayor of Norman Wells for two years. Prior to that he had been deputy mayor for several years.

A couple of weeks after his 2017 arrest, Watson and the entire town council were thrown from office by the territorial government due to “operational difficulties.”

An administrator was installed to run the town after the NWT government investigated allegations of conflicts of interest and failure to follow proper procedures.

The day Watson skipped court in May, lawyers representing the Town of Norman Wells were in the building looking to serve him with notice of a lawsuit.

As previously reported, both Catherine Mallon – the former senior administrative officer – and Watson had been served civil suits from the Town of Norman Wells regarding alleged fraudulent activities. The suit claims Mallon defrauded the community of more than $1.25 million.

Watson is alleged to have allowed her to claim thousands of hours of overtime pay. (The Town does not allow such pay to be claimed.)

Watson, a father of three children aged 30, 15, and 13, is a former territorial government employee who has now started his own trucking company.

His criminal record includes 1990 entries in Hay River for possession of a narcotic and also a failure to appear in court.

“Two thousand dollars is a substantial fine which should serve the purpose of specific deterrence for Mr Watson and general deterrence [for the public] as well,” said Crown Attorney Levi Karpa.

Watson was given nine months to pay the fine.

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