The lawyer for Darcy Oake, found guilty this week of crimes in 2016 involving furanyl-fentanyl, has called for all charges to be stayed as Oake’s trial was unreasonably delayed.
Supreme Court Justice Shannon Smallwood found Oake guilty of importing and possessing the synthesized designer drug – considered 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine – and criminal negligence causing bodily harm after a friend of his severely overdosed on the substance.
At the start of his trial, in August last year, Oake pleaded guilty to a separate charge of trafficking furanyl-fentanyl.
Defence lawyer Peter Harte surprised the court on Monday when he filed an application to have the charges stayed following a 32-month delay in proceedings.
Section 11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states: “Any person charged with an offence has the right to be tried within a reasonable time.”
The Supreme Court has set a framework for assessing whether a delay is unreasonable, with 30 months for cases going to trial in a superior court being the ceiling.
The Crown will now have to establish the presence of exceptional circumstances.
Smallwood said she will set the date for Harte’s application on March 30. A sentencing date will also be determined at that time.
It’s not known what caused the delay on the Crown’s side. Oake changed lawyers in January 2019 at what was supposed to be the start of his trial, which ultimately took place later in 2019.
The Crown called 18 witnesses while the defence had Oake take the stand.
On Monday, Smallwood found the Crown had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Oake had imported furanyl-fentanyl.
Hong Kong delivery
In the fall of 2016, Oake, 22 at the time, used about $500 in bitcoin and searched the “dark web” for vendors of illicit drugs. Finding Xanax, a brand of anti-anxiety medication, to be cheaper than he thought on an English-language website, he also ordered furanyl-fentanyl and cigarettes.
Smallwood ruled that if Oake didn’t know he was ordering from outside Canada, he must have when he later checked a tracking number and discovered the products were coming from a service in Hong Kong.
“It was apparent he wanted the furanyl-fentanyl and was not concerned if it came from another country,” said Smallwood.
Oake was also found guilty of possession for the purpose of trafficking.
Smallwood pointed to text messages found on Oake’s cellphone discussing drug deals. One text discussion was between Oake and Courtney Janes, a woman who later overdosed on furanyl-fentanyl and was in hospital for several days.
James had testified Oake planned to sell the drug as he was in debt.
“He was a drug addict in need of money,” said Smallwood. “He intended to sell furanyl-fentanyl to make money.”
James said she was a friend of Oake’s who often would do drugs with him. He testified she was eager to try furanyl-fentanyl. Oake testified James “was always asking for some … nagging, begging. I gave in and gave her some.”
After James ingested the drug in Oake’s garage – and left with some more, which she had traded for clonazepam – she went home and passed out, slumped over on her couch. She remained there until the following evening, when she was taken to hospital by her roommate and found to have rhabdomyolysis, a serious syndrome resulting from the death of muscle fibres and release of contents into the bloodstream.
Smallwood found that even if James had ingested another drug, she would not have been harmed to the extent she was without having furanyl-fentanyl in her body.
The judge said Oake clearly knew the dangers of furanyl-fentanyl, as he was cautioned about fentanyl abuse by an emergency room doctor when in hospital on November 23 after overdosing. This, said the judge, left him guilty of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
Search of Borden Drive house
An investigation into a number of fentanyl overdoses brought RCMP to Oake’s Borden Drive residence on November, 25, 2016.
He was found unresponsive after overdosing in his bedroom that morning – his second overdose in three days, the court heard.
Oake’s father gave police permission to search the house.
Officers seized a bag containing a white substance suspected to be fentanyl in Oake’s dresser. What followed shocked the residential neighbourhood, as hazmat suit-clad members of the RCMP Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement and Response unit searched the property and set up outside the house.
In December 2018, Oake had asked to be granted bail. His lawyer at the time suggested Oake be bailed to live with his parents under strict house arrest. (His parents were in the gallery throughout proceedings and were in court on Monday for Smallwood’s decision.)
However, the court ruled Oake had already been given a chance in 2017 to be free until trial, but did not attend a mandated treatment program in BC. Instead, he came back to Yellowknife and was subsequently arrested on new charges allegedly involving cocaine and a replica firearm.