A Kelowna man was recently acquitted on several drug trafficking charges, despite police finding large quantities of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin/fentanyl in the SUV he was driving.
In a recent decision, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Steven Wilson noted that while he did not necessarily believe Robin Saumier's claim that he was unaware the drugs were in the vehicle he was driving, Justice Wilson said Saumier's explanation raised enough of a reasonable doubt to find him not guilty.
Saumier was arrested in the downtown Kelowna Safeway's flower department on the evening of March 15, 2018. He claimed to be purchasing a rose for his girlfriend, after they had been in an argument earlier in the day.
Police had been tailing the black GMC Jimmy Saumier had been driving that day, but Saumier did not own the vehicle. Police first began following the Jimmy earlier in the day in Rutland, but the officer did not get a good look at the driver, only observing he had a shaved head and sunglasses.
Just before 7 p.m. that day, police saw the Jimmy pull into the underground parking at the Waterscapes complex in downtown Kelowna, where it stayed for about five minutes, while an interaction occurred between the driver and a man in the passenger seat. The Jimmy then made a brief stop outside Cecil's Perogies on Richter Street, where another man entered the vehicle for a brief period.
Police then followed the SUV to the Safeway, where police moved in and arrested the driver – Saumier. Upon his arrest, police found $2,850 in cash on him, along with more than 100 packages of drugs in the vehicle, containing a total of 27.83 grams of heroin/fentanyl, 27.25 grams of cocaine and 26.67 grams of methamphetamine.
While the Crown argued the circumstantial evidence in the case showed Saumier knew the drugs were in the vehicle and had control of them, Saumier offered a different story.
He claimed he hadn't started driving the Jimmy until he met his friend in the underground parking lot of the Waterscapes. Saumier, a residential carpenter, said he had met a man at the Waterscapes about a job, and he was taking his friend's vehicle from the apartment building to Rona to buy supplies.
Saumier claimed the cash police found on him had been given to him by his client, to buy supplies at the hardware store.
But before stopping at Safeway, Saumier said he stopped outside Cecil's Perogies to meet with his drug dealer, where he bought a gram of heroin. He said he was addicted to opioids at the time, and that he had stopped on Richter to buy drugs, not sell them like police had assumed.
In his recent decision, Justice Wilson noted that Saumier could have proven his claim by presenting phone evidence of him contacting his drug dealer, which he did not do.
But ultimately, the judge ruled that while there were issues with Saumier's story, it left him with a reasonable doubt about the Crown's claims.
“It is certainly possible that [Saumier] was able to cleverly weave an exculpatory tale through the fabric of the unassailable facts he heard during the trial, motivated by the very likely possibility of a long period of incarceration. However, it is also possible that his evidence dovetails nicely and conveniently with the Crown’s case because it is true,” Justice Wilson said.
“I do not accept the evidence of the accused as true because there are aspects of it that cause me some concern ... However, when considering the whole of the evidence, I conclude that the evidence of the accused is plausible in the context of all of the surrounding facts and circumstances, and is consistent with inferences other than guilt.”
While Saumier was acquitted on the possession for the purpose of trafficking charges, he is still facing unrelated charges of possession of stolen property under $5,000 from last summer, along with a charge of breaching his release order in June 2020. He has a lengthy criminal record dating back to 2014.