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Former jail guard faces trial for drug smuggling

A former jail guard accused of trying to smuggle drugs into the Whitehorse Correctional Centre told the RCMP he was overwhelmed with bills at the time of his arrest.

A former jail guard accused of trying to smuggle drugs into the Whitehorse Correctional Centre told the RCMP he was overwhelmed with bills at the time of his arrest.

The 100-minute-long video of Michael Gaber’s interrogation was played in Yukon Supreme Court this week.

Gaber was arrested on Boxing Day 2013 after his superiors at the jail found pills in his pockets. He is charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking.

This week’s trial has focused on the 59 white pills. An expert with a Health Canada lab in British Columbia spent all day Thursday testifying that the pills were methylphenidate, the generic name for Ritalin.

Meanwhile, Gaber’s lawyer, David Tarnow, has tried to punch holes in the science that identified the drug. The defence only plans to call one witness, also an expert, who is expected to spend all day today on the stand.

Back on the day of his arrest, Gaber was questioned in an interrogation room.

From the very beginning, the officer said, his main concern is “why” Gaber chose to do this.

Gaber said it was just about the money. He doesn’t lead an extravagant life, he told the officer, but bills were piling up.

“It was just one of those things, financial stuff,” he said.

At some points in the interview, which is often garbled on the recording, Gaber volunteered information. He said he was feeling pressure from the inmates inside to bring in contraband and eventually caved.

He said he started out with tobacco and then other packages. He insisted he didn’t know what the pills were.

Gaber was originally also charged with trying to bring marijuana in the jail. The judge threw out the marijuana staff allegedly found in his car, lambasting the facility for violating Gaber’s rights during the investigation.

The interrogating officer asked him about the possibility weapons were smuggled without his knowledge, but Gaber said he didn’t think so.

Who paid Gaber to bring in the contraband is still unknown. The officer repeatedly pressed him for names but he refused.

Gaber told the officer being questioned by jail staff was scary enough to make him want to stop even if he hadn’t been arrested.

It was almost a relief, he said, to have been caught.

After watching the video Wednesday, Thursday’s testimony had little to do with Gaber himself and was instead focused on science.

For the entire day, expert Sarita Jaswal testified about how the Health Canada lab where she works tests and identifies unknown drugs.

She said the lab is nationally certified and follows strict protocols when it comes to testing the substances and managing its equipment.

It’s about more than what something physically looks like, she said. A pill is crushed and then, through various tests, the lab is able to look at the construction of its molecules, she said.

Through multiple tests, she was able to certify that the pill was methylphenidate, she testified.

Tarnow asked detailed questions about Jaswal’s work and repeatedly questioned why she chose to use certain methods over others.

During cross examination, she acknowledged that she only tested one pill and could not say anything about the other 58 that were found on Gaber.

The defence’s expert has been allowed to watch the entire proceeding before getting on the stand today.

Contact Ashley Joannou at