A Yellowknife woman who sold crack cocaine to undercover Mounties in 2017 was sentenced to four months in jail Monday by a NWT Supreme Court judge who sympathized with the offender’s “exceptional” life circumstances — and the “extraordinary” steps she has taken to turn her life around.
Forty-six-year-old Tracey Beatrice Woods, who hung her head and wept following Justice Andrew Mahar’s decision, was arrested and charged two years ago following a RCMP investigation into drug trafficking in Yellowknife.
Woods, the court heard, sold undercover officers crack cocaine on three separate occasions between March 9 and March 16, 2017. Project Glacier, the drug probe that resulted in her arrest, was carried out by members of the RCMP’s federal investigations unit and targeted suspected dial-a-dope operations — phone numbers that connect drug users to drugs — in the city.
Woods obtained crack cocaine for uncover Mounties three times after officers made numerous calls to a suspected dial-a-dope phone number.
In total, Woods sold undercover officers just over one gram of crack cocaine — collecting $100 each transaction.
Justice Mahar, asked to weigh the Crown’s recommendation of six to eight months against the defence’s call for a suspended sentence, ultimately settled on four-months custody, the “lowest” sentence he said he could impose.
“This case is exceptional in terms of the history you bring with you and the steps you’ve taken to overcome your past,” said Justice Mahar.
'Low hanging fruit for RCMP'
Woods’ lawyer, Tracy Bock, described his client as a “vulnerable participant” in the city’s drug trade, pushed by poverty to engage in trafficking. The dial-a-dope number Mounties called, Bock said, actually belonged to Woods’ former boyfriend, who was in jail at the time she committed the offences.
Crown prosecutor Duane Praught stressed Woods made a “conscious” decision to pick up the phone and profit from the calls.
But Bock called Woods, “low hanging fruit for the RCMP.”
Woods initially challenged her charges, with her lawyer arguing her arrest may have amounted to entrapment by RCMP.
The matter was set for a hearing but Woods changed her plea to guilty the day it was due to begin.
“This is a case where there’s lots of hope,” said Bock.
Bock, who detailed in depth the “stunning” attempts undertaken by Woods to overturn a life ridden with abuse, addiction and poverty, said he’s never encountered a client who has made the same effort Woods has since her arrest.
The court heard Woods has been on her own since the age of 14. She lived on the streets and slept in stairwells. Woods endured “physical, emotional and mental abuse” as a child, almost daily, and grew up in a violent home marked by substance abuse, said Bock. Her mother attended residential school. Since her 20s, through abusive and unhealthy relationships, Woods has battled addictions, namely to opioids.
Woods, the court heard, was selling cocaine in order to purchase everyday household items.
Bock said his client has been active in the community following her arrest, volunteering at a shelter while pursuing an education. Woods was backed by several community members in court, who offered letters of support.
“It’s an amazing story of survival and resilience,” said Bock.
Mahar, who said Woods was “poor enough” to fall into the temptation of the drug trade, agreed, but emphasized the need to uphold precedents set by the courts for drug trafficking.
He said the courts must send a “consistent message” the damage caused by the drug trade won’t be tolerated.
Mahar issued a judicial recommendation for Wood’s early release for educational and addiction treatment purposes, and called on Corrections Service to do everything it can to maintain Wood’s progress, as to not “undo” the hard work she’s done since her arrest.
Woods must submit a sample of her DNA and his prohibited from possessing firearms. She’ll be on probation for two years after he release.
“All I can do is wish you the best,” said Mahar.