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Judge acquits St. John's man who said he didn't know selling Percocet was illegal

Shane Leonard, 32, in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's Monday, after the drug trafficking case against him was dismissed.
Shane Leonard, 32, in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's Monday, after the drug trafficking case against him was dismissed. - Tara Bradbury

Shane Leonard, 32, cleared of drug trafficking charge

"Is it done?" were Shane Leonard's first words in the courtroom Monday after learning he had been acquitted of drug trafficking.

When asked by a reporter on the way out of the court if he had anything to say, he was equally brief: "Nope."

Leonard, 32, had been facing a charge of trafficking oxycodone, and had admitted during his trial in December he had sold Percocet pills that had been prescribed to him after a series of injuries. He insisted, however, that he didn't know he was doing anything illegal.

In Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's Monday afternoon, Justice David Hurley said he was unable to conclude beyond a doubt that Leonard wasn't telling the truth.

"It was his belief that Percocet was not a controlled substance. His evidence on this point was strong and maintained at trial, and withstood cross-examination," the judge said. "While Mr. Leonard was aware that his involvement with prescriptions and distribution of prescription drugs was improper and wrong, this would be insufficient to obtain a conviction of the charge before the court."

['Health Minister Doug Currie says opiates are already being over-prescribed in P.E.I., which is why he is in no hurry to extend prescribing authority to nurse practitioners.']

Percocet.

Percocet is a prescription painkiller consisting of a combination of aceteminophen and the opiate oxycodone. While Percocet itself is not listed as a scheduled drug in the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, oxycodone is.

Leonard's argument was that he didn't realize Percocet contained oxycodone.

"This is not an issue of ignorance of the law," his lawyer, Jack Lavers, told the judge during his closing submissions at trial. "It's an issue of ignorance of the chemical composition of Percocet."

Leonard testified he had started selling the pills when his workers' compensation income decreased and a friend told him he could make money that way. He said he also sold marijuana to a handful of people.

An agreed statement of facts was presented to the court, signed by Leonard, acknowledging a number of phone conversations intercepted by police in 2015 involving Leonard and other people. There's talk of "percs" and "P," of dropping things off at the pharmacy and of picking up "messages," often a code word for money among drug dealers.

In one instance, Leonard told a man he had something for sale but couldn't talk about it over the phone "unless you wants to go to jail for a couple of years." None of the intercepts included discussions about oxycodone directly.

Crown prosecutor Trevor Bridger argued Leonard was, at the very least, wilfully blind to the contents of Percocet, but the judge disagreed, saying there would have to be evidence Leonard was attempting to cheat the justice system.

"The evidence fails, in this case, to establish that situation here," Hurley said. "Even with some difficulty with Mr. Leonard's testimony, the evidence is sufficient to raise a reasonable doubt (that he knew he was trafficking oxycodone)."

Leonard was one of 10 people arrested and charged with drugs offences in 2016 as part of a police investigation called Operation Bombard.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury


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