Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Former cafe owner faces 10 yrs
POT ADVOCATE CONVICTED ON TRAFFICKING CHARGES -
CO-ACCUSED FOUND NOT GUILTY
VANCOUVER - The former owner of a well-known east Vancouver cafe that openly sold marijuana until a police raid in September, 2004, was convicted of two marijuana-trafficking charges yesterday.
A British Columbia Supreme Court jury found Carol Gwilt guilty of possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking as well as possession of the proceeds of crime.
News Article online access: Marijuana Cafe Case
Her co-defendant, Michael Boudreau, was acquitted on the single charge that he faced, possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.
The two defendants were arrested on Sept. 16, 2004, after police found just over 400 grams of marijuana and $11,000 in cash in the car that Ms. Gwilt was driving.
Police said the street value of the marijuana was just over $4,000. The arrests came one week after more than 40 Vancouver police officers raided Ms. Gwilt’s business, the Da Kine cafe.
She is facing separate trafficking charges in connection with that widely publicized raid, which included officers clad in balaclavas, in a trial that is expected to take place later this year.
The jury heard evidence during this trial that Vancouver police continued surveillance of the cafe and Ms. Gwilt after the raid. Her car was stopped when she was observed entering the vehicle with Mr. Boudreau, who was carrying a sports bag.
Ms. Gwilt has been an outspoken advocate of legalization of marijuana. She testified last week that some of the marijuana found in the car was for sale at the Da Kine cafe. She insisted that the money was from donations people made at the cafe to her legal defence fund.
“It was definitely donation money,” Ms. Gwilt said outside court after the verdict.
She also questioned the amount of public money spent to prosecute her on these charges and in her upcoming trial.
“It’s a huge amount of money. It’s money that should be spent on health care,” she said.
Mr. Boudreau was charged because the officers conducting surveillance saw him carrying a sports bag to Ms. Gwilt’s car. The jury accepted Mr. Boudreau’s defence that he did not know the bag contained marijuana.
“He was just being a gentleman,” Ms. Gwilt said outside the court, as she explained why Mr. Boudreau was carrying the sports bag.
Mr. Boudreau was unavailable for comment. His lawyer Michael Mines said his client was relieved. “This was a nearly two-year-long ordeal for someone with no criminal history,” Mr. Mines said.
Jason Gratl, the lawyer for Ms. Gwilt, said his client effectively confessed to the trafficking charges in her testimony so she could explain that Mr. Boudreau was not part of the sale of marijuana at the Da Kine cafe.
“Her priority has been to make sure innocent people do not get caught in the web,” Mr. Gratl said.
The proceeds of crime offence is the more serious of the two charges for which Ms. Gwilt was convicted and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Mr. Gratl said his client “understands the consequence of civil disobedience,” but he is hopeful the Crown will not seek a jail sentence against Ms. Gwilt.
She remains free on bail until her sentencing hearing on July 6.