A 25-year-old Yellowknife man has been found guilty of four charges related to his use and sale of furanyl fentanyl.
At the start of his judge-only trial in August, Darcy Oake pleaded guilty to trafficking furanyl fentanyl, a synthetic drug designed to have similar effects to the deadly opiate fentanyl. On Wednesday morning, Northwest Territories Supreme Court Justice Shannon Smallwood also found Oake guilty of possessing the drug for the purpose of trafficking, illegally importing the drug into Canada, and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
The last charge was related to an overdose a friend of Oake’s suffered after he gave her some of the drug in exchange for some prescription tranquillizers she had. Texts entered as evidence during the trial showed the woman, who knew Oake had ordered 10 grams of the drug on the dark web, had been pressuring Oake to let her try it.
The woman, who admitted she had been addicted to fentanyl, said she passed out soon after she got home after snorting a line of the drug in the garage of Oake’s family home. She remained unconscious for more than 24 hours before being taken to hospital.
He knew there was a very real risk she could overdose.– Justice Shannon Smallwood
The woman’s eagerness to try the drug was not a significant factor in the analysis that led Justice Smallwood to find Oake guilty of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
“He knew there was a very real risk she could overdose,” said Smallwood. “He knew this because he had overdosed 12 hours earlier.”
During the trial it came out that, minutes after receiving the parcel he had ordered, Oake snorted two lines of the drug. He then took his pet pitbull for a walk. He passed out during the walk and was taken to hospital.
Overdose just before treatment
Oake’s parents sat through the whole trial and were in the courtroom for the verdict Wednesday. His mother dabbed away tears as Smallwood delivered her decision.
Earlier in the trial, his father testified that after the first overdose, Oake agreed to get treatment for his drug addiction. He was to take the first step, a counselling appointment at the Tree of Peace, later that week. But the morning of the appointment he overdosed again.
Oake admitted ordering the furanyl fentanyl on the dark web using a browser that hid his digital identity. But he said he thought it was coming from a supplier within Canada because the web site was in English and prices were in Canadian dollars.
Smallwood said Oake may not have known the drug was coming from Asia when he placed the order, but he did know later. He was given tracking numbers but found they were not on Canada Post’s parcel tracking website. Smallwood noted that he then Google searched the numbers and found they were connected to a tracking site in Hong Kong or China.
Oake testified he then contacted the web site to ask where his order was. The vendors said to give it a few more days, but then agreed to send another order.
“It was apparent he wanted the furanyl fentanyl and was not concerned whether it was coming from outside Canada,” said Smallwood.
Smallwood also dismissed Oake’s testimony that he ordered the drug for personal use. Texts police recovered from his phone showed he was in need of money and was arranging to sell it to pay off debt.
Application to stay convictions
Oake is facing penitentiary time for just the two drug charges he was convicted of. Though only a few people in the N.W.T. have been convicted of trafficking fentanyl, they have received stiffer sentences than those trafficking in cocaine.
In 2016, for example, a street-level dealer selling fentanyl to support his own drug addiction was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison.
After Smallwood delivered her 90-minute decision, Oake’s lawyer said Oake had instructed him that morning to apply to have any guilty verdicts stayed because of the amount of time it has taken to conclude the case.
Oake was charged almost three-and-a-half years ago. Part of the reason for the delay is that Oake switched lawyers a year ago, just before his trial was originally scheduled to be held.
No date has been set for hearing Oake’s application to stay the charges due to the delay.