Averill Baker — File photo
It was supposed to be a brief court appearance to set a date for sentencing.
Instead, the lawyer for a local convicted drug trafficker told the court she wants the case terminated.
In a surprising move at Newfoundland Supreme Court Wednesday, Averill Baker filed an application for a stay of proceedings on behalf of her client.
If successful, the criminal case against Michael Samson would end.
It’s the equivalent to an acquital and could only be
overturned by way of a Crown appeal.
The 29-year-old St. John’s man was found guilty last week of trafficking and conspiring to traffic in cocaine and marijuana.
Claims ‘abuse of process’
However, according to the application, Baker says there was an “abuse of process,” since Samson never formally entered pleas and was never arraigned.
“The formal taking of a plea is mandatory,” Baker stated, citing recent case law, in the application.
“The Court of Appeal ruled that without a formal taking of a plea in court, neither an arraignment nor a preferring of an indictment can take place.”
She said because the arraignment and plea were not formally before the court, “the case had not moved into the jurisdiction of the superior court (Newfoundland Supreme Court).”
Baker went on to state in the application that if the court decides not to rule in favour of a stay of proceedings on these grounds, she requests the court revisit the Askov decision “based on the actual commencement of the hearing of evidence 10 months after the Askov decision.”
Baker had filed an Askov application last year, requesting the case be dismissed on the grounds that her client was not tried within a reasonable time frame.
The judge dismissed it and the case went to trial.
Following two weeks of evidence, Justice Carl Thompson convicted Samson on four charges — two counts each of conspiring to traffic illegal drugs (cocaine and marijuana) and trafficking in the same drugs.
But Baker stated in the application, “Not only does the trial judge … have the discretion to reopen the verdict at the present stage of the trial, but (Samson) is also not deprived of procedural rights at this stage of the trial.”
When contacted by The Telegram, Crown prosecutor John Brook opted not to comment about the application.
Samson was arrested in October 2007 as a result of an intensive police investigation dubbed Operation Roadrunner. The 18-month-long investigation resulted in dozens of arrests and the seizure of 51 pounds of marijuana, 19 pounds of cocaine, $300,000 in cash, six vehicles, weapons and laptop computers in St. John’s.
The sting began in early 2006 as an investigation into drunken thuggery on George Street and climaxed in the bust of the drug ring. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary investigation also involved officers from across the country and uncovered an extensive drug operation, leading to raids on 11 homes in the St. John’s area, as well as arrests in Quebec.
Using surveillance and wiretaps, police discovered Samson was responsible for the preparation and distribution of the drugs once they arrived in St. John’s.
Samson was one of more than 20 people arrested in the bust, 13 from this province. All those arrested in this province were convicted.
Samson has been out on bail since shortly after initial court appearance in 2007. After the verdict, the Crown agreed to allow him to continue adhering to the conditions of his recognizance.
Samson’s case will be back in court Oct. 26, at which time lawyers will discuss the application.