Accused in drug trial take deal, plead guilty

A drug trial that opened on Monday came to an abrupt end on Thursday when one of the two accused took a deal and pleaded guilty.

A drug trial that opened on Monday came to an abrupt end on Thursday when one of the two accused took a deal and pleaded guilty.

Christopher Vanoverbeke, 31, pleaded guilty before Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Kirk Sisson to possessing marijuana for trafficking, possessing MDMA (ecstasy) for trafficking and possessing cash gained by crime.

Crown prosecutor Dave Inglis then asked that all charges be withdrawn against co-accused Nigel Eatmon, 28.

Both men were arrested in June 2011 by Red Deer City RCMP conducting a drug investigation. Police witnesses testified that cash, drugs and other items were seized from a home, a garage and a storage locker in the course of the investigation.

Among the goods seized were just under two kg of marijuana, just over two kg of MDMA, more than 2,700 ecstasy pills and about 28 grams of cocaine, some psilocybin (magic) mushrooms and about $4,800 in cash.

“It was a veritable drug store that was going on in this situation,” Inglis said in classifying the operation as a wholesale drug business as opposed to a street-level enterprise.

Estimated values of the drugs to which Vanoverbeke has admitted possessing would be determined by the level at which they were being sold, said Inglis. The MDMA would be worth anywhere from $38,000 to $175,000 while the marijuana would range in value from $10,000 to $20,000, he said.

Inglis said MDMA was still considered to be a lower level drug under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act at the time Vanoverbeke and Eatmon were arrested, but has since been elevated to Schedule 1, on par with harder drugs like cocaine.

He therefore advised that the factors to be considered in sentencing should place the MDMA as a lower-level drug, on par with marijuana.

Accepting a joint sentencing submission prepared by Inglis and defence counsel Lorne Goddard, Sisson ordered that Vanoverbeke serve a global sentence of three and a half years, with credit at par for the six months he has served in pre-trial custody. Released on bail three months after his initial arrest, Vanoverbeke was put back in remand earlier this year after breaching release conditions.

Scheduled to take five days, the trial got off to a slow start on Monday when Eatmon’s lawyer, Kevin Sproule, discovered that investigators had not taken fingerprints from the bags of drugs that were to be admitted as evidence.

Testimony from police witnesses was postponed pending forensic investigations of the baggies.

Proceedings took another turn the next day, when Sproule found a bag inside a knapsack that police had apparently not opened.

Sproule offered no objection when Sisson asked for his consent to withdraw the charges against his client.