New evidence halts fentanyl-laced cocaine trial: Saskatoon Crown

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New evidence halts fentanyl-laced cocaine trial: Saskatoon Crown
WATCH ABOVE: The Crown stayed drug and weapons charges to skip a preliminary hearing in Saskatoon – Jul 24, 2019

Citing new evidence, prosecutors have scrapped a Saskatoon provincial court trial in favour of an expedited process for three men accused of trafficking deadly cocaine laced with fentanyl.

On Wednesday, the Crown stayed weapons and drug charges against Shervin Beeharry, 20, and Japmanjot Grewal, 23. Similar charges were previously withdrawn against a third co-accused, 21-year-old Azam Kabani.

READ MORE: Trial begins for 2 men accused in fentanyl-laced cocaine deaths in Saskatoon

Officers arrested the trio in connection with a string of overdoses that police said killed four people in March 2018. Each faces four counts of manslaughter, four counts of criminal negligence causing death, and three counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

Beeharry and Grewal’s drug trafficking trial began in April and was supposed to continue Wednesday in provincial court. Instead, the Crown stayed the charges due to a direct indictment filed at Saskatoon’s Court of Queen’s Bench.

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A direct indictment, which requires authorization from the director of public prosecutions, allows a case to skip the preliminary hearing phase and proceed directly to trial.

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In this case, the direct indictment resulted in Kabani again being charged with drug offences.

All weapons charges were dropped.

Defence lawyers Eleanor Funk and Brian Pfefferle told reporters they were frustrated to see a provincial court process interrupted by a direct indictment. Both said they didn’t know of any other Canadian trial that was cut short by a direct indictment.

“Needless to say, it’s disappointing to us that they’re restarting a process that we thought was running as efficiently as possible,” Pfefferle said.

“I view this as a mulligan, really,” he said.

READ MORE: Man charged with manslaughter in fentanyl overdose death pleads guilty to lesser charge

Reached by phone, Crown prosecutor Wade McBride said a “confluence of events” led to the direct indictment, including a previous direct indictment on the manslaughter and criminal negligence charges.

With matters previously in both courts, McBride said a second direct indictment could streamline the proceedings. The drug and manslaughter charges could be heard in a single trial, he said.

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As for Kabani’s charges being brought back, McBride said new evidence came to light, though the prosecutor declined to say what the evidence is.

“They haven’t shared any of that information with us, and the Crown obviously has broad discretion in terms of how they conduct a prosecution,” Funk said.

A pre-trial conference is scheduled for Sept. 9.

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