A B.C. man was convicted Tuesday of possessing cocaine for the purpose of trafficking – despite his lawyer’s position he’d been an unwitting house guest at a major Yellowknife drug dealer’s home.

In April 2015, Hassen Abdul Kerim Mohamed, 50, was arrested after Yellowknife RCMP’s emergency response team conducted a high-risk raid at a Finlayson Drive townhouse. Mounties found Mohamed in an upstairs bathroom. A bag containing powdered cocaine and crack cocaine was located between his legs.

A search of the house turned up a huge haul of drugs, including cocaine, fentanyl and marijuana.

The townhouse leaseholder, William Castro, was arrested outside the residence after jumping through a second storey window in an effort to evade police during the raid. Castro was sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of  possessing cocaine, fentanyl and marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.

Mohamed was charged, too, leading to a Supreme Court trial in August. There, his lawyer Jennifer Cunningham argued Mohamed had only been staying at Castro’s townhouse for a week – not long enough to gain control over the trove of valuable drugs stashed in the residence.

Crown prosecutor Duane Praught, on the other hand, said Mohamed was closely involved in his roommate’s drug network, running drugs and cash to and from Castro’s residence as a trusted player in a dial-a-dope operation.

At the end of the trial, Justice Shannon Smallwood was left to grapple with one underlying question: did Mohamed have knowledge and control – two elements required for a conviction – of the cocaine found in the bathroom and coffee table, the fentanyl in the kitchen, and the marijuana in the kitchen and living room?

In NWT Supreme Court in Yellowknife on Tuesday, Smallwood said she was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt Mohamed had knowledge and control of the cocaine and marijuana found in the common areas of the house. The cocaine found in the bathroom and on the coffee table in shared living spaces, Smallwood said, were in “plain view.”

During the trial, a witness expert testified the bag found between Mohamed’s legs was packaged for the purpose of trafficking – but he couldn’t say the same for the seized marijuana. That resulted in Mohamed’s possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking charge being downgraded to possession.

Smallwood convicted Mohamed on one count of possessing cocaine with the purpose of trafficking. He was found guilty of the lesser included offence of possessing marijuana.

As for the fentanyl found inside the townhouse – which earned Mohamed another possession for the purpose of trafficking charge – Smallwood said the Crown hadn’t proven beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant had knowledge of the deadly opiates. Pointing to where the fentanyl-filled bags were found – inside a jar that “obscured its contents – Smallwood said she wasn’t satisfied Mohamed knew they were there.

He was acquitted of possessing fentanyl for the purpose of trafficking.

Mohamed was found not guilty of his final charge, possessing the proceeds of crime, because Smallwood wasn’t convinced a wad of cash found inside his shoe was, in fact, profit from drug sales.

Mohamed, who listened in on the decision by phone from Burnaby B.C., must attend a Yellowknife court for a sentencing hearing on Nov. 14.

Brendan Burke

As the Yellowknifer’s crime reporter, it’s my job to keep readers up to speed on all-things “cops and courts” related. From house fires and homicides to courtroom clashes, it’s my responsibility...

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