Drug trial verdict awaited
Two men on trial for crimes connected to a Kelowna-based cocaine trafficking ring are coming to the end of a lengthy and highly publicized legal process.
Closing arguments in the trial for Brent Derrick Nagy and Mark Robert Zagar, were delivered Tuesday, and Justice Alison Beames is scheduled deliver a verdict Aug. 15.
Nagy, who was arrested Aug. 22, 2006, in Hope at the tail end of a four-month drug sting dubbed E-Pistachio, is charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking and a charge of trafficking a controlled substance. Zagar is charged with two counts of trafficking a controlled substance.
The Crown appears to have pinned a large chunk of its case on a series of phone records and wiretaps they say prove that Zagar and Nagy were knowingly moving large amounts of cocaine through B.C., as one of the lower rungs of a larger criminal organization.
Defence, however, says the case has been built with the presumption of guilt, and if wiretaps were to be removed from the chain of evidence—as they’re arguing they should be— the case against their clients would collapse.
Nagy, for example, had several phones connected to his business, but whether he was the person whose calls were intercepted remains to be seen.
Defence also pointed out that the picture of Nagy working as part of a larger criminal organization isn’t accurate.
He may have been in contact with Zagar, but he was never seen communicating with the higher echelons of the drug ring which they say rules out the element of conspiracy.
Furthermore, Nagy was arrested with a brick of cocaine in the vehicle he was driving from Surrey to Kelowna, but that doesn’t mean he knew it was there.
“It was his brother’s vehicle that was being driven, and cocaine was in a compartment… there were no fingerprints or DNA tying the accused to (it),” Nagy’s defence attorney said.
In the case against Zagar, defence says wiretaps and phone records Crown has used to suss out the movement of a large quantity of drugs are of little use as anyone could have been using his phone.
Drugs that were seized from Zagar are also suspect, they say.
“Police had a lot of equipment, including video, yet none was taken that day,” said Zagar’s defence attorney, adding “I ask you to be disturbed that there were no photos of it.”
As his defence finished up, she said: “Crown is attempting to bootstrap a conviction against my client and there’ nothing there to do that with.”
When charges were laid in 2007, RCMP alleged the Kelowna men were part of a group that trafficked multiple kilos of cocaine that came from multiple sources, with the drugs typically being distributed within the Central Okanagan.
Also caught in the E-Pistachio sting were Thomas Fraser and his associate Jason Herrick, who were found guilty of breaking the law for the benefit of their criminal organization, plus trafficking in cocaine.
The former conviction was a precedent setting legal decision.