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A Marystown man has been convicted — for the second time — of possessing a brick of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.
Dennis Brake, 40, attended his sentencing hearing in St. John’s via video from a courtroom in Grand Bank Thursday morning. The hearing was quick, with the Crown and defence lawyers each skimming over the facts of the case — which are well known to the court at this point — and making their suggestions on an appropriate sentence.
Prosecutor John Brooks argued for a two-year jail term: the same sentence Brake was given after he was originally convicted of the crime in 2017. Brake served about a week of that sentence before he was released pending an appeal of his conviction.
Brake later won that appeal and a new trial was ordered, with the province’s Court of Appeal determining the original trial judge had erred in finding evidence that Brake had known about the cocaine and had possession of it.
Brake’s new trial was held this past summer and his lawyer, Steve Orr, argued for an acquittal on a similar basis, saying no evidence had been presented to suggest Brake had known about the cocaine.
Provincial court Judge Mike Madden rejected Orr’s argument and found Brake guilty.
Brake was first charged after a police investigation into another man as a suspected drug dealer. Police officers had been watching the man and had seen him in Paradise, putting the cocaine in the trunk of his car before heading onto the highway and stopping at the Irving Big Stop in Goobies. They watched as the vehicle parked at the side of the gas station and Brake, who was reportedly legally employed by the man, got in.
The driver got out of the car and went to the trunk before getting back into the car empty-handed, police officers testified. He then moved the vehicle behind a nearby tractor-trailer. Officers said they saw the driver's legs as he got out of the car again and went to the trunk, then returned to the driver's seat and drove the car back to its original position in the parking lot. That's when police descended on the vehicle, finding the brick of cocaine they alleged they had seen earlier in the day in a plastic bag at Brake's feet.
Brooks argued the only reasonable inference is that Brake was caught by police in the middle of a drug transaction, and Madden agreed.
Orr argued Brake had been in the presence of the opaque, tied bag for one minute, and there was no evidence that he had known what it was or that his employer was a drug dealer. The value of the cocaine was estimated to be at least $45,000.
Brake told the court at his original trial he had not seen any bag in the car and if he had, he would have assumed it was a trash bag. When the driver had exited the car behind the trailer, Brake said, he believed he had gone to pee.
On Thursday, Orr didn’t dispute the Crown’s sentencing submission, but asked Madden to consider giving Brake a federal sentence of two years plus a day instead, making him eligible for an earlier release from prison on parole.
Madden will return with his sentencing decision Jan. 6.