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Drug raid jumper jailed 30 days

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A B.C. man who suffered a cracked vertebrae after jumping out a third-storey window to flee from police has been sentenced to 30 days in jail for possessing cocaine.

Michael Robert Hopkins, 29, of Langley, B.C., had earlier been acquitted of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking. He was sentenced for the possession-only charge by NWT Supreme Court Justice Andrew Mahar a week ago today after the judge ruled there was only enough evidence to link Hopkins to a small amount of crack cocaine found in the apartment and not the 40 grams of crack found near where the man was believed to have fallen.

At his trial in February, court heard Hopkins jumped to the ground at Fort Gary Apartments on Gitzel Street as several RCMP officers crashed through the unit's front door in an early morning drug raid. Mahar ruled the crack cocaine found outside could not be absolutely linked to Hopkins but said there was no doubt he was connected to the 1.9 grams of crack found inside the apartment. Even though this amount was packaged into four separate wrappers, Mahar ruled it could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt those drugs were not for personal use.

Both Mahar's lawyer, Kate Oja and Crown prosecutor Duane Praught had recommended a 30-day sentence. Mahar's rejected Praught's recommendation for 12 months of probation.

"You can make a better choice," Mahar told Hopkins, noting he is the father of a 10-month old baby and has custody of a nine-year-old son.

Hopkins, who has no prior criminal record, declined to address the court prior to sentencing. Mahar ordered $910 in cash seized by RCMP from Hopkins' jacket and wallet be returned to Hopkins following a one-month appeal period by the Crown.

Praught told Yellowknifer he does not intend to appeal the acquittal on the trafficking charge at this time.

Mahar ordered four weapons recovered from the apartment, a handgun, rifle, crossbow and a knife, as well as ammunition, along with scales, several cellphones, computers and gold jewelry be forfeited to the Crown. The judge credited Hopkins four days for three days spent in pre-trial custody, leaving him with another 26 days left to serve.

Theft charges stayed after witnesses fail to attend court

A charge of theft under $5,000 was stayed in territorial court last week after neither of the two prosecution witnesses were in court for what was supposed to be the first day of trial.

Lloyd Thrasher, 29, who remains before the court of other charges, was released from custody after having been held

at the North Slave Correctional Centre since late February.

Crown prosecutor Jay Potter had applied for an adjournment of the trial because the two witnesses were unable to be in court but the application, which had been opposed by Thrasher's lawyer Kate Oja, was rejected by judge Christine Gagnon.

She pointed out the trial date was set on March 7 and the Crown should have known then whether their witnesses would be available.

Potter stayed the charge after Gagnon's ruling. The charge related to a stolen cellphone.

Thrasher remains before the court on other theft-related charges.

Lawyer frustrated by fan noise in courtroom

A criminal defence lawyer says he is frustrated by the noise made by a fan inside one of the courtrooms at the Yellowknife courthouse.

Jay Bran said the hum from the fan in Courtroom 5 on the first floor makes it difficult to hear what is being said during court proceedings. On Thursday, a court employee - the reporter who records the proceedings - had to ask a defendant to speak up because she could not hear him over the fan. Other lawyers and a judge have also pointed out how the fan makes it difficult to hear in the courtroom where high-profile cases are often held.

There are no amplifiers or speakers in any of the courtrooms.

"I think every lawyer who appears in that courtroom has either complained or commented about the problem," said Bran. "It's something that is being dealt with, I think, by court services and the building's owners."

Bran said he is confident the noise has not led to any miscarriage of justice before but said lawyers are often having to ask for proceedings to be read back to them to be sure they heard what was said.

Yellowknifer asked a justice department official whether the problem was being addressed.

"The air handling system in Courtroom 5 serves several floors in the building," stated department spokesperson Sue Glowach. "It presents challenges in spring and fall when temperatures inside and outside of the building are fluctuating."

The building is owned by Northview Apartment REIT.

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