Two men accused of marijuana production and possession for the purpose of trafficking see charges dropped mid-trial
The charges have been dropped against all the men charged with possession and production of marijuana at a Norwich Township farm in the fall of 2015.
After two days of testimony from OPP officers and one of the accused, the Crown said Thursday morning that it was clear a conviction for either of the co-accused – Yan Chen or Tung Wang – was not in the cards.
“Having heard the evidence to date, that’s come up in the few days of trial, and having reviewed the testimony of the officers who have not yet been called to testify…at this point the Crown is in a position to have to make the difficult decision and conclude that we don’t have a reasonable prospect of conviction,” David Moffat told the court.
All charges were withdrawn.
Key issues that emerged during the trial included the initial search done by OPP officers at the Oxford Road 55 property, when they passed through a number of greenhouses full of marijuana plants in search of Wang.
He was the manager of a medical marijuana operation and in possession of licences from Health Canada enabling him to legally grow up to 684 plants.
Officers had come to the farm only to offer a warning to the property owners about a potential robbery. Police call this a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design effort, where officers might share tips on how to protect a potential victim from crime.
But after they noticed the volume of plants, a search warrant was issued and three men were arrested and charged with production of marijuana and possession for the purpose of trafficking. A fourth was charged later.
Charges had already been withdrawn against two of the original co-accused, Cao Kui from New York state and You Zhang from Toronto, as the case made its way through the court system.
During the two previous days of testimony, one in December and the other mid-January, OPP officers were questioned about their decision to come onto the property, at first without a warrant.
Justice Matthew Graham said that he had “enormous respect for the decision the Crown has made” on Thursday morning.
“It is always an extremely difficult decision, especially mid-trial,” Graham said. “I very much agree with the Crown’s decision and support it wholeheartedly,” he added.
He went on to thank Moffat and Wang’s defence lawyer Kim Schofield – who also acted as agent for Chen’s lawyer on Thursday – saying that it was “a pleasure having both of you here.”
Moffat wouldn’t comment further on what led to the decision to ask for charges to be withdrawn, but noted that there is always the need to review evidence and the shape a case may be taking.
“The prosecutors always have a duty to constantly evaluate the case for two things: reasonable prospect of conviction and public interest,” he said after the charges were withdrawn.
“After (evaluating) last day’s testimony, I was forced to come to the conclusion that we do not have a reasonable prospect of conviction.”