April 16, 2013 - 4:05 PM
Two men alleged to be members of Vernon's Triple Six Boys drug circle pleaded not guilty on charges of possession for the purposes of trafficking today in Vernon Supreme Court.
Jason Parent and Andrew Pinette are accused of street level cocaine drug dealing in 2010. Crown prosecutor Kylie Walman said the men were part of a dial-a-dope operation run by a group police have called the "Triple Six Boys." But while the trial has already started, the evidence is already in some doubt thanks to a surprise move by a defence lawyer.
"The two accused were receiving orders on cell phones," Walman said, adding they would then drive around town handing out drugs to their clients.
RCMP drug investigator Matthew Rattee was one of two officers involved in arresting Parent and Pinette, who he said were both around 25 years of age. He said they began investigating the group after a tip from a general duty officer about a phone number: 306-6663. The officer told Rattee the number was being used by the Triple Six Boys to traffic drugs. Rattee said he already knew of the number and the Triple Six Boys.
"Then, just a few weeks later, a man was arrested for simple possession of cocaine, and the last number on his phone was 306-6663," Rattee said.
Along with Const. Tory Romailler, Rattee initiated an under cover investigation. Rattee called the number, posing as a client, and asked for a $20 rock of cocaine. He was told to wait outside Surplus Herbies downtown Vernon.
"My intention was never to actually meet, but to make observations I would then blend together to show (illegal activity)," Rattee said.
From his car, Rattee watched a green Plymouth vehicle containing three passengers pull up. There was a male driver wearing a headset, a male passenger in the front seat, and a woman in the back. Rattee said a man walked up to the vehicle, remained there for a few moments, then left.
"It was consistent with other drug meets I've seen," Rattee said.
The vehicle then drove away, and Rattee tailed it. During a half hour drive around Vernon, Rattee witnessed the vehicle stop outside Lincoln Lanes Bowling where another brief meeting took place. Rattee admitted he lost sight of the Plymouth several times during the surveillance. Later that day, he phoned the number again, identifying himself as the Surplus Herbies guy. Again, he waited outside the store, and again, the green Plymouth pulled up. Rattee said it was the same driver and passenger he'd been following, but the woman was gone. It wasn't long before they drove off again.
Rattee called a third time and was told to wait by the sewage plant in Vernon. By that time, Rattee was confident he'd seen enough to arrest the men. Another officer conducted a traffic stop, during which Rattee and Romailler arrested Parent and Pinette.
Rattee said he noticed bags of suspected cocaine on the seat where Pinette had been sitting and discovered a backpack containing Tylenol Threes. Over $400 cash was found in Pinette's wallet, and three cell phones were located in the car.
Parent's defense lawyer, Brian Loewen, objected to Rattee's evidence, stating he didn't have sufficient grounds to stop, detain, arrest and search the men. He asked Supreme Court Justice Frank Cole to grant a retrospective voir-dire on the whole of Rattee's testimony. While Cole had never heard of such a thing, he granted Loewen's request. Whether the evidence will be admitted remains undecided.
Loewen suggested that while drugs were found in the vehicle, there was no evidence of trafficking. He said the so-called transactions Rattee witnessed outside Surplus Herbies and Lincoln Lanes were merely 30-second exchanges.
"That's not significant for drug trafficking," he said. "That could be anyone... Someone comes up, says hi for a bit, that in itself is not significant."
Rattee said it was more than a coincidence he had seen the men engaging in multiple suspicious activities in the span of an hour.
Pinette's defense, Claire Abbott, suggested her client may not have been in the vehicle the entire time. She said he could have hopped into the car when Rattee lost sight of it, in which case he wouldn't be connected to any of the earlier evidence.
The trial is expected to run the next three days.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)309-5230.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013