Lost evidence in case of soldier accused of giving cannabis cupcakes to gunners, lawyer says – .

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Lost evidence in case of soldier accused of giving cannabis cupcakes to gunners, lawyer says – .


Military police have lost evidence of a bizarre case of a Canadian soldier accused of drugging comrades with marijuana cupcakes, said the soldier’s lawyer – who accuses the Department of National Defense of having conducted a botched and incompetent investigation.
The military trial of Bombardier Chelsea Cogswell is scheduled to begin next month. It is believed to be the first of its kind.

She faces 18 charges, including administering a harmful substance to eight soldiers without their consent in July 2018 at CFB Gagetown. At the time, the soldiers were participating in a live fire exercise involving explosives and weapons drills.

CBC News has obtained a copy of a lawsuit filed by Cogswell’s attorney, Ian Kasper. In it, Kasper argues that the military should discard trace evidence of THC – the main psychoactive compound in cannabis – collected from one cupcake wrapper because the other cupcake wrappers were lost and never have. been tested.

“The chain of command and military police did not keep all of the packaging for further investigation,” Kasper wrote in the app. “The loss of such important evidence was the result of incompetence.

“The chain of command’s loss of the cupcake wrappers was so shockingly negligent as to constitute an abuse of process. “

The army is in the midst of an institutional crisis concerning its management of professional misconduct in the ranks. Critics have said that the military police are ill-equipped to investigate offenses.

“There is a lack of expertise. A lack of competence ‘

Military law expert Michel Drapeau has argued for years that military police lack the depth, supervision and training to conduct criminal investigations.

A sniper competing in a peer competition at CFB Gagetown in Oromocto, NB. (Kevin Bissett / Canadian Press)

Drapeau reviewed court documents obtained by CBC News. He pointed out that it took about 17 months for the military police to realize that they had not secured all the packaging and to investigate their destination.

“Seventeen months were needed to find out, it’s worrying to say the least,” he said. “Something is missing there. It could be a lack of expertise. It could also be incompetence, of course. “

Cogswell’s unusual case made headlines around the world. The Department of National Defense said it would be the first case of a soldier accused of giving marijuana to colleagues without their consent.

Cogswell’s mother told CBC News that strangers bombarded her with hateful messages online and that she found her vehicle locked in her driveway on one occasion.

“The military community was entitled to a proper and full investigation, not a half-hearted and incomplete investigation that lost crucial evidence,” Kasper’s claim read. “The career and the freedom of the candidate are at stake.”

Regional military prosecutors responded, saying the evidence was never lost since it had never been in the possession of government authorities.

“All cupcake wrappers that were not collected were disposed of by witnesses or plaintiffs prior to the start or review of an investigation,” reads military response to court request . “There was no abuse of process. “

“Loop, anxious and paranoid”

At the time of the incident on July 21, 2018, Cogswell was working in a mobile canteen at the Army Combat Training Center in New Brunswick, according to court martial documents.

Cogswell offered some troops in the Gun Detachment free cupcakes that she had baked that she said contained coconut oil and avocados, according to the document. At least nine soldiers ate the cupcakes; within an hour, some reported feeling “elevated,” according to court martial documents.

The charges relate to an incident at this range at CFB Gagetown in Oromocto, New Brunswick. (David Smith / Canadian Press)

“They have variously described feeling tired, exhausted, mad, anxious and paranoid,” Kasper’s court document said. “Others, however, thought they were dehydrated or suffered from heat exhaustion. “

Citing security concerns, the military canceled the live-fire training exercise on a hot summer day and loaded those affected into an air-conditioned truck for assessment. An on-site medical technician ruled out heat injuries, the documents said.

The commander called the military police to investigate the possibility that “members of the artillery school were suffering from psychotropic drugs during a live fire exercise,” the Kasper court document reads.

Soldier gathered five wrappers

One of the soldiers who ate a cupcake and was feeling good picked up about five wrappers and gave them to the chain of command – a Mangrove Warrant Officer, according to the court document.

The military police officer who attended the scene, Cpl. Whitehall, got one of the wrappers from a soldier who got it from Mangrove and tested it for drugs. The test came back negative but then tested positive for traces of THC, according to Kasper’s court document and the response from military prosecutors.

Military police did not discover other packaging existed nearly a year and a half later, in January 2020, after a request by the accused’s lawyer.

“No explanation was provided,” Kasper wrote. “The only reasonable conclusion is that they were lost through incompetence. The packaging is at the heart of the matter … and they could afford forensic evidence tending to refute the alleged offenses. “

The military wrote in its defense that it did not know where the other packaging had “gone”. At the time of the incident, the focus was on possible health and safety risks, not the “possibility of a future criminal investigation,” military prosecutors said.

“There is no evidence of attempted cover-up or destruction of evidence in this case, nor any evidence of bad faith on the part of the Crown,” prosecutors wrote. “In fact, it is more likely than not that obtaining the missing packaging would have strengthened the Crown’s evidence. “

The Military Police Complaints Commission will not confirm that it has received a complaint related to Cogswell’s case. In a statement, the commission said it was not disclosing information or the identity of complainants or subjects in “cases not of public interest”.

Cogswell’s court martial will begin August 3 in Oromocto, New Brunswick.

In addition to the charges of administering a noxious substance, Cogswell also faces nine counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline and one count of scandalous behavior.

Cogswell faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison, the Defense Department said.

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