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Drug trafficking trial to resume later this month as lawyers wrangle over confidential informants

The August 2017 bust netted narcotics with a street value of about $250,000
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The Sault Ste. Marie Courthouse is pictured in this file photo. Michael Purvis/SooToday
The first three days of what is expected to be a lengthy trial involving four people accused of drug offences stemming from an eight-month city police probe wrapped up Wednesday.

The trial began Monday with the defendants - one woman and three men - pleading not guilty to numerous charges from Project Oak, which targetted high-level drug trafficking in Sault Ste. Marie.

Described by the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service as the "most significant drug seizure" in the department's history, the investigation resulted in officers seizing narcotics with an estimated street value of about $250,000.

The August 2017 bust netted a large quantity of crystal meth, cocaine, heroin, fentanyl (powder) and marijuana, as well as two hand guns, rounds of ammunition and more than $20,000 in cash, police said at the time.

On the first day of the trial, Ontario Court Justice Andrew Buttazzoni entered into a voir dire (a trial within a trial to determine the admissabilty of evidence) to hear two defence applications.

The first application deals with the Crown's disclosure of material to the defence, and redacted information in the volumes of disclosure.

The blacked-out details relate to police confidential informants.

Buttazzoni has been meeting with federal prosecutors in an ex-parte, in-camera hearing to review the censored material.

The Sudbury judge told the defence he will provide them with a summary of what is discussed and a redacted transcript of the proceedings.

The trial is tentatively scheduled to resume Dec. 18 and 19.

Rebecca Gignac has pleaded not guilty to 17 charges, including six counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking, 10 counts of firearm and ammunition offences and a single charge of possession of the proceeds of crime over $5,000.

Slawomir Bielawski faces the same 17 charges, plus a count of possession of 3.5 grams of heroin and fentanyl, which was found on his person when he was arrested.

Brett Warnock pleaded not guilty to two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking.

A fourth accused, Nathan Albidone, who is in a residential treatment program, was not present in court.

His lawyer Lindsay Marshall entered a not guilty plea on his behalf on a charge of possession of cocaine, fentanyl and heroin for the purpose of trafficking.

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About the Author: Linda Richardson

Linda Richardson is a freelance journalist who has been covering Sault Ste. Marie's courts and other local news for more than 35 years.
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