Cocaine-possession charges are dropped against three Lambton County men in unusually tricky case

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Lots of suspicion did not equal conviction for three Lambton County men charged with cocaine possession.

The trio, all in their early 20s, was acquitted in Sarnia court following a short trial.

On Jan. 6, 2016 the men were in a speeding vehicle stopped by OPP officers near Petrolia, just after midnight. Here’s what police found:

  • A passenger, already wanted by Sarnia police on an outstanding warrant, was holding a 1.2-gram bag of marijuana.
  • Under the front seat, police found a bag containing a 1.43-gram mix of cocaine and the stimulant ecstasy.
  • In the pocket of a jacket lying on the vehicle’s back seat, police found a bag holding 6.5 grams of cocaine.

Except for the marijuana, none of the three admitted ownership of the drugs.

Crucially, police did no fingerprint or DNA analysis on the bags holding cocaine and cocaine/ecstasy. Also, two OPP officers testified they couldn’t remember if any of the men was wearing – or not wearing – a winter coat.

One of the three men testified they made a quick round-trip drive to London to visit a home. One man went in and came out. Nothing was said during the trip about drugs or the purpose of the trip, the testifying man said.

Under cross-examination by Ken Marley, a defence lawyer representing a different member of the trio, the witness agreed that the most likely explanation for the trip was so the man who entered the home could get drugs.

Marley also suggested that that man stuffed the bags in the jacket and under the seat when the police stopped the vehicle.

Brian Higgins, an assistant federal prosecutor, said the unexplained trip to London indicated a joint effort by the trio to get cocaine. All three men were in joint possession of the cocaine found in the vehicle, Higgins argued.

But suspicion created by the witness’s testimony does not negate the Crown’s obligation to prove the men had knowledge and control of the drugs, Marley, the defence attorney, said.

While there was a lot of suspicion, it does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the three had knowledge and control of the cocaine, Justice Anne McFadyen said.

She acquitted the trio of cocaine possession.

The man who testified had pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana and was granted a discharge with the condition he does 16 hours of community service during six months of probation.

He had no criminal record.

It is editorial policy generally not to identify people who have been granted discharges.

nbowen@postmedia.com


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