Convicted furanyl fentanyl dealer Darcy Oake should be imprisoned for nine years as a punishment and to warn others who might traffic in dangerous drugs, says a Crown attorney.
Prosecutor Duane Praught said Canada’s opiate problem “may not be in the front pages as it once was, prior to Covid-19 and other events, but it certainly is an ongoing crisis.”
At a sentencing hearing for Oake, held in the NWT Supreme Court on Wednesday, Praught continued: “The importation and trafficking of this drug has to be strongly denounced. The public needs to be protected … people are dying from this drug in great numbers.”
Praught said 523 people in Alberta died from accidental poisoning involving fentanyl in 2019 alone – more than 80 percent of the province’s opioid-related deaths that year. Oake, 25, watched the prosecutor without reaction via video link from the North Slave Correctional Complex.
In January, Justice Shannon Smallwood found Oake guilty of importing and possessing furanyl fentanyl – a 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, Oake had pleaded guilty to a separate charge of trafficking furanyl fentanyl.
The court previously heard Oake had taken some furanyl fentanyl shortly after receiving his order of 20 grams on November 23, 2016. He then collapsed while walking his dog.
Two days later, Oake overdosed again, this time at his father’s home. When paramedics and the RCMP responded, police were given permission by his father to search his son’s bedroom and the garage.
Police found a bag of furanyl fentanyl in Oake’s dresser. In the garage, the police found an envelope addressed to Darcy Oake with a Hong Kong shipping label.
Once he was released from hospital later that day, Oake continued to take the furanyl fentanyl and gave some to his friend Courtney Janes.
She snorted the drug in Oake’s garage before going home. Once she got home, she slumped over and was unconscious until the next evening.
When Janes regained consciousness, she could not walk without assistance. She was taken to hospital and diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown of muscles resulting from a long period of immobility. Janes suffered the effects for several months afterward.
Rehab in BC
On Wednesday, Praught noted that nine months before Oake ordered the drugs – using cryptocurrency on the dark web – the NWT’s chief public health officer had issued a warning about the dangers of fentanyl, which was emerging as a problem in the territory and had resulted in some overdoses.
Oake should actually serve 11 years in total for his crimes, submitted Praught. However, under the principle of totality – which asks judges to sentence based on the aggregate nature of the crimes, not just each individual offence – the prosecutor said two years should be subtracted, to leave nine years.
Oake has amassed 1,555 days of remand credit, which equals about four years and three months. A May 2018 sentence of 40 days for an unrelated cocaine possession charge must also be subtracted.
While in jail, Oake has already managed to finish high school and take some other courses, including one on computer network engineering. He had been attending meetings related to drug and alcohol abuse, but those have been suspended under Covid-19 restrictions in the jail.
However, the court heard Oake has also been in trouble over the theft of some Narcan – a medication used to block the effects of opioids – and had been overheard perhaps planning to leave the jurisdiction and maybe even change his identity or appearance if allowed out on bail.
Praught noted a pre-sentence report stated Oake started using marijuana and alcohol at the age of 12, and by age 19 was a habitual user of fentanyl. He dropped out of high school and would lose jobs as a result of his drug use.
He did attend a residential rehabilitation program in BC, but was kicked out for using a cellphone and becoming romantically involved with another program participant.
Arguments over nature of addiction
Praught described Oake as a “functional addict” who still has support from his parents, especially his mother.
Oake’s lawyer, Katherine Oja – his third counsel since the start of his trial, having parted ways with his first two – disagreed with Praught’s characterization of her client, calling him a “dysfunctional addict.”
“The pre-sentence report reflects the view of his mother at the time … [who] begged him to be formed [involuntarily admitted] under the mental health act because of his addiction,” said Oja.
“[She was] afraid of the lifestyle he was falling in and this does not paint a picture of a functional addict.”
Oja submitted her client – who had a clean criminal record when charged with these crimes – should should serve a total of between five and six years, minus his accumulated pre-trial credit.
She asked Smallwood to consider a penalty that could keep Oake at the North Slave jail, close to his family. That would mean a sentence of two years, once all of his pre-trial credit is taken into consideration.
The judge reserved her decision until June 30 at 2pm.