Yellowknife

Covid-19 claim delays sentencing for drug dealer


A convicted Alberta drug dealer’s sentencing by a Yellowknife judge was delayed when he stated he must self-quarantine after developing Covid-19 symptoms.

Liban Mohamood Mohammed, a 28-year-old from Edmonton, was one of seven people charged in September 2017 after an RCMP drug sweep turned up cocaine, firearms, and cash.

The operation focused on a Yellowknife apartment that had become a stash house for a drug distribution network.

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After a trial, Mohammed was convicted in February of possessing property obtained by crime and possessing cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.

Monday should have seen him receive his sentence. However, Mohammed told the court he and his wife had taken an online Covid-19 self-evaluation on June 1 and he had been told by the University of Alberta Hospital to self-isolate for 14 days.

As a result, he said, he could not be in his lawyer’s office for Monday’s hearing with police standing by to take him into custody. He asked for an adjournment to a later date and said he would get a Covid-19 test at the hospital once the 14-day quarantine period was over.

“Reluctantly, I am going to grant an adjournment,” said Justice Shannon Smallwood.

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“The issue … as to whether or not he has Covid-19 seems fairly uncertain. He has symptoms, but no plans for testing for 14 days.

“I am going to amend the conditions of Mr Mohammed’s release. Since he has to self-isolate anyway, things won’t change for him very much.”

Prosecutor ‘skeptical’

Smallwood changed Mohammed’s release conditions from an overnight curfew to 24-hour house arrest, except for medical visits. He is allowed to leave his house once a week for three hours to run errands.

Mohammed started to ask the judge for a further exemption to allow him to return to work after his Covid-19 self-isolation period.

However, Crown prosecutor Brendan Green said he was “extremely skeptical” over Mohammed’s claim to have symptoms of Covid-19 – Mohammed had provided no medical documentation – and said: “Once his quarantine period is over, Mr Mohammed will be going to jail.”

Green characterized Mohammed as a flight risk, noting he faces “a very significant sentence” and has in the past travelled using false identification. Green said Mohammed had originally obtained bail after “making false representations to the court.”

Green had been prepared to make his sentencing submissions on Monday and was under the impression Mohammed would be in his lawyer’s office with an RCMP officer present to take him into custody.

Apartment under surveillance

On August 31, 2017, RCMP set up surveillance at downtown Yellowknife’s Executive Apartments where Gary James Gattie, 52, was living. Police then watched the comings and goings of suspected drug dealers at the apartment block, across from a playground and above a fitness club.

In an effort to see who was in the apartment, RCMP on September 5 even staged a traffic stop – complete with lights and sirens – right below Gattie’s apartment to determine who was inside. Gattie came to the window, as did another man who could not be identified.

On September 8, police used a battering ram on the apartment door, finding Mohammed inside. He initially gave a false name.

In the apartment, police found drug paraphernalia, white powder residue, two safes, 293 grams of crack cocaine with an estimated street value of $46,000, and $52,325 in cash, plus small baggies, digital scales, and several cell phones – one with text messages about drug deals.

While Mohammed was convicted by Smallwood in February, co-accused Gattie was acquitted. Five other people were arrested in connection with the same police sweep. Two pleaded guilty in earlier proceedings. Charges were stayed in the three other cases.

Mohammed’s self-isolation location until June 17 will be his mother-in-law’s Edmonton home.

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