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The Queen v. Lester B. (Scarborough)

Charges: Conspiracy to Traffic in a Controlled Substance; Possession of a Controlled Substance for the Purpose of Trafficking.

The Facts: Our client was a college student. One day in the winter of 2007, a large shipment of cocaine (40 kg), was discovered during a routine inspection at a FedEx warehouse in Windsor. The police were called in and decided to follow the shipment to catch the people who would be taking delivery of it, a technique known as a “controlled delivery”. As part of the operation, the bricks of cocaine were secretly marked for later identification. Surveillance teams followed a rented U-Haul truck containing the shipment to a warehouse in Scarborough, where several people on the scene were arrested, including our client. The police waited until the truck came to a stop inside the warehouse, and then made the arrests almost immediately. Lester B. was found in the passenger seat of a car belonging to his cousin Amar B. Police claimed to have found two bricks of cocaine from the truck, with the identification markings, under the floormats in the back seat of the car. Our client’s cousin Amar was arrested inside the warehouse.

The Defence Strategy: Our client Lester claimed that he had merely accepted a ride to school in his cousin Amar’s car, and that Amar told him they would be making a quick stop on the way (Amar had a lengthy criminal record for drug trafficking charges and robbery). Lester told us that the police had swarmed the car he was in, treated him roughly and handcuffed him face down on the ground while they searched the car. He told us that there had been no drugs in the car, and nothing had been brought from the truck to the car while he was in it. Our defence centered around the lack of opportunity for the drugs to be transferred from the truck to the car, and we conducted a lengthy preliminary hearing during which the members of the police surveillance team were cross-examined at length. Their evidence was inconsistent with Lester’s account of events and led us to believe that this was a rare case of the police planting evidence in the car to implicate our clients. The surveillance team was a tight-knit police unit, and they controlled the scene until backup and forensics units showed up. They had the motive, means and opportunity to plant the drugs in the car, and they claimed that no one had access to the car other than for the arrest of our client, until the backup teams arrived. We requested information about any criminal or disciplinary infractions by members of the police surveillance team and were told they were negative. We later learned that this information was false and that several member of the team had been implicated in a similar evidence-tampering scandal two years earlier. We requested the information relating to that corruption case, and the Crown opposed our request.

The Result: We were successful with all of our motions for production of evidence before the court. The disclosure revealed not only a serious corruption case, but serious problems in the way that the surveillance team operated, and major inconsistencies in the sworn testimony of some of the officers in court. Rather than risk the possibility of an award of costs against the Crown, or findings of misconduct, the Crown withdrew the charges against our client.

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