Appeal dismissed for Kelowna dealer caught selling cocaine, heroin and fentanyl | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Appeal dismissed for Kelowna dealer caught selling cocaine, heroin and fentanyl

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
October 24, 2019 - 3:00 PM

A Kelowna drug dealer tried unsuccessfully to appeal a trafficking conviction that stemmed from a 2016 dial-a-dope operation and in the process offered some insight into what RCMP see in the local underworld.

Samuel David Glendinning was just 22 in 2016 when he was arrested in Kelowna running a dial-a-dope operation, distributing primarily cocaine but also a mixture of heroin and fentanyl.

Appealing his conviction, he asked the courts to reconsider whether he had been arrested without reasonable grounds, given that there was no transaction specifically witnessed.

“While it is true that police must not take a cynical or highly suspicious approach to what they see, neither should they be naïve or overly cautious in enforcing the laws of the land,” reads the decision from Justice Mary-Victoria Newbury, dismissing the appeal.

“Their belief must be reached based on the totality of the circumstances, again including their particular expertise and experience in drug investigations.”

The totality of circumstances gave RCMP ample cause to pursue Glendinning as a suspect.

Glendinning gained the attention of RCMP Aug. 11, 2016, when Const. Celli was in plainclothes and on duty participating in undercover surveillance in the city’s “red zone” because of its high levels of street-level drug use.

“Just before 8:40 p.m., Const. Celli noticed a female drug user, walking south on Richter Street,” the decision reads. “He had conducted surveillance of her in the past and had seen her purchasing drugs in the same area two years earlier, resulting in a trafficking investigation.”

Based on his knowledge of the woman, the officer decided to watch as she walked down a few blocks to a place in front of a dog park. This area was still in the red zone. She stood waiting on the north side of Rowcliffe Avenue and Const. Celli summed up she was waiting for another vehicle to pull up.

After about five minutes of waiting, a black Dodge pickup truck drove down Rowcliffe Avenue, stopping where she was waiting and Const. Celli observed two occupants in the truck.

It stopped a few feet away from the woman and she “ran up” to the passenger side, remaining there for a brief period of approximately ten seconds, and then walked away.

Const. Celli testified that he believed the occupants of the truck had just sold her drugs so he followed it to see if other apparent transactions would be made. 

Eventually, other RCMP officers witnessed similar activity at DeMontreuil court and officers boxed the truck in with their cars.

Const. Celli observed the driver of the truck, later identified as Glendinning, appeared “panicky and fidgeting with his arms.”

Glendinning was arrested. So was his passenger. He was searched and was found to be in possession of 14 pieces of individually packaged crack cocaine weighing 10.59 grams in total and 22 pieces of individually packaged heroin/fentanyl weighing 7.51 grams in total.

In the trial, the dial-a-dope drug dealing scheme Glendinning was part of was described as a mobile type of trafficking under which a purchaser arranges to purchase drugs by phone or text, and then waits at a predetermined location for the drugs to be delivered by car.

"The purchaser is usually the first person at the meet location and when the seller arrives, a meeting of less than a minute usually takes place between the purchaser and the occupants of the vehicle," the decision reads.

"The meeting may involve the purchasers getting into the vehicle for a short period or meeting at the door or window of the vehicle for a short period. Sometimes the vehicle drives the purchaser a short distance and once the transaction occurs, the parties go separate ways."

Const. Celli testified that drug trafficking was common in the red zone, but usually at the edges so police attention could be avoided.

In cross-examination, the officers acknowledged some of the measures they usually use to decide whether a drug deal has gone down is that a truck is a rental, Glendinning and his passenger were not known to police, and Glendinning did not engage in any typical behaviours of a dial-a-dope seller to detect police surveillance, referred to as a “heat check.”

There was also no hand-to-hand exchange observed nor any related activity such as reaching in a pocket or putting things away in a pocket or purse.

The trial judge agreed that if the evidence were simply that Glendinning had stopped twice over the course of about 30 minutes to speak or interact with someone standing on the sidewalk, it would not have been objectively reasonable for the officers to have arrested him.

However, she said, the facts of this case went so “significantly beyond” such interaction that it was both subjectively and objectively reasonable for the officers to consider that the two interactions they had observed independently were when viewed in their totality, dial-a-dope drug transactions.

The court of appeal agreed with this view, meaning Glendinning's conviction will stick.

Sentencing for Glendinning was more significant than the average dealer.

Despite the fact that he was young and had no previous record, he was sentenced to two years in prison.

In an Aug. 2018 sentencing decision, the judge said the greater sentence was warranted given the opioid crisis.

“The dangers and costs in terms of human life associated with fentanyl are enormous," reads the decision. "The toll on our communities... (has) been too high.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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