In a surprise move on Friday, a Yellowknife man facing serious prison time for drug-related charges abandoned his request to be released until sentencing and parted ways with his lawyer.
The previous week, through his lawyer, Darcy Oake had argued that he faces a higher risk of getting COVID-19 while being held at the North Slave Correctional Complex. Oake’s lawyer, Peter Harte, said his client has asthma, which makes the respiratory disease more dangerous for him.
But on Friday — the day the judge was to announce whether she was releasing Oake — the 25-year-old abandoned his request to be released. Later the same day, Harte applied to be removed as Oake’s lawyer.
At his trial in March, it came out that Oake ordered furanyl fentanyl from a Hong Kong company on the dark web. He overdosed twice on the drug and a friend he traded some to also overdosed. Oake was convicted of trafficking the drug, possessing it for the purpose of trafficking, importing an illegal drug, and negligence causing bodily harm.
Now looking for third lawyer
Harte was Oake’s second legal aid lawyer. He fired his first lawyer, Charles Davison, just as his trial was set to start at the beginning of January 2019. Harte and Davison are among the most experienced legal aid lawyers in the N.W.T.
In N.W.T. Supreme Court on Friday, Harte gave no reason for his request to be removed as Oake’s lawyer, saying only, “I’m not in a position to act for him and discharge my duties as counsel of record.”
The judge turned to Oake, who was appearing by video from NSCC, and asked him if he was agreeable to Harte stepping away from the case.
“Yeah, I am,” responded Oake. He said he was also content to remain in jail until being sentenced. Harte said he had already contacted legal aid and believed they would be providing Oake with another lawyer.
The removal of Harte is the latest twist in a case that’s been before the courts for almost three-and-a-half years.
Oake was arrested and charged in November 2016. Six months later he was released on bail to enter the Edgewood residential addictions treatment program in B.C. According to court documents, Oake completed the initial program, but was kicked out of an extended aftercare program after getting into a relationship with another participant, which was prohibited.
In January 2018, he was arrested on new charges including possessing cocaine. Oake has been in jail ever since. He applied to be released on bail twice prior to this most recent bail hearing and was refused both times.
Oake is due back in court on May 12 to set a date for his sentencing hearing.
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