A single mother received 10 months in jail after selling baggies of baking soda while claiming they contained cocaine worth $4,500.
Julie-Anne Rebecca Carter, a 34-year-old first offender, was characterized by Territorial Court Judge Donovan Molloy as “a small fish” caught in a big net known as Project Gloomiest.
The project was a year-long RCMP investigation into Yellowknife’s cocaine trade. It has resulted in charges against 15 people, netting more than 1.4 kg of cocaine and two firearms.
Also seized was 116.1 grams of sodium bicarbonate – baking soda – which Carter pretended was cocaine in an April 2018 deal with an undercover RCMP officer.
The judge said Carter may have been lucky that she tried to pass off the baking soda as cocaine to an undercover officer. “In the real world, such dealings can occasion retribution in the form of grievous bodily harm or death,” Molloy said.
The officer had initially been placed in contact with Carter through a taxi driver. Two cocaine deals had already taken place a month earlier before the April meet-up.
The officer paid $4,500 to Carter, who produced two plastic bags “that each appeared to contain an ounce of powdered cocaine,” said Molloy. The judge said later analysis had proved the substance to be baking soda.
Carter later pleaded guilty to trafficking a substance claimed to be cocaine.
“Little fish are commonly enmeshed in the nets cast by law enforcement to stem the tide of illegal drugs into the Northwest Territories,” stated Molloy, prolonging the fish analogy, in his decision.
“While motives vary, these little fish often join the front-lines of the drug trade to feed their own addictions. When criminal organizations are ‘busted,’ the little fish often receive scant public attention.
“The justice system, however, does not forget the little fish.”
Molloy said novice dealers “are often surprised to learn” they could face a sentence for trafficking in cocaine of three to four-and-a-half years.
‘She can overcome her addictions’
Carter grew up in Ontario, moving to Yellowknife in 2011 to be closer to her family. A pre-sentence report stated substance abuse became a part of Carter’s life as a teenager and eventually led to her dropping out of school. While living in Ontario, she entered into a long-term abusive relationship. Her son was born during this time.
“Birth complications led to significant and lifelong challenges for her son,” stated the report. “Despite those challenges, he has fortunately exceeded early medical prognoses and appears to enjoy and participate in most of the activities of adolescents living in Yellowknife.”
Carter has had gainful employment since moving to Yellowknife, but a workplace injury and other issues led to her becoming unemployed in early 2018. Carter also became involved in other abusive relationships after moving to Yellowknife, stated the report.
“Carter candidly acknowledges her issues with substance addiction,” said Molloy. “She admits to continuing using drugs since her arrest for these offences. She maintains that she is pursuing treatment and says that she has shielded her son from the negative repercussions of her addictions.
“Unfortunately, as identified in the pre-sentence report, her son has endured significant negative consequences due to his mother’s addictions, and her commitment to and attendance for treatment/counselling has been far less than diligent.”
The Crown sought an 18-month sentence, while Carter’s lawyer argued for a period of between eight and 10 months.
“I must remember that, ultimately, Ms Carter is being sentenced for trafficking in baking soda, and not cocaine,” the judge said.
“Ms Carter is still a relatively young person, has a supportive family, is devoted to her son, and has held gainful employment in the past. She can, with considerable effort and treatment, overcome her addictions and move on to a healthier, more productive chapter of her life.
“While she has to be imprisoned, I view a sentence of 10 months’ imprisonment as appropriate in all of the circumstances of this case.”
Carter also received a 10-year firearms ban and will be in the national DNA databank.
Once released, Carter will be on probation for 18 months and must complete a minimum of 100 hours’ community service.