Resourceful smuggler gets 10 months for courtroom drugs

A Whitehorse woman received 10 months in jail for drug trafficking after she attempted to smuggle marijuana and an impressive collection of paraphernalia into a courtroom and the Whitehorse jail. Jessica Johnson was sentenced on Friday.

A Whitehorse woman received 10 months in jail for drug trafficking after she attempted to smuggle marijuana and an impressive collection of paraphernalia into a courtroom and the Whitehorse jail.

Jessica Johnson was sentenced on Friday after pleading guilty to a brazen attempt to provide drugs to Christopher Cornell during a preliminary inquiry into the 2011 crime spree the two are both accused of committing.

Johnson, 22, was not in custody at the time of the November 16, 2012 hearing.

In the courtroom that day, an RCMP officer saw Johnson reach into her purse and pull out a small black baggie.

She held it until she made eye contact with Cornell. When their eyes met, she threw the bag across the courtroom and under the defence table at his feet. Cornell tried to hide the bag under his left foot.

When the officer retrieved and opened the bag, he found two cigarettes, a small bag of marijuana and some matches. He arrested Johnson in the courtroom and read her her rights.

A second officer was called in to escort Johnson to the arrest processing unit at Whitehorse Correctional. The officer gave Johnson a pat down, handcuffed her behind her back and put her in the back of a police cruiser after searching the back seat and finding it clear.

Part way to the jail, the officer noticed Johnson fumbling around in the back seat. He pulled over, and discovered that she had managed to work her shackled hands around to her front. The officer took Johnson out of the car, and found two empty syringe packs on the floor of the cruiser. When they reached the jail, Johnson was strip searched by a female corrections officer.

“Ms. Johnson pulled a syringe from the crack of her buttocks. A more extensive search of Ms. Johnson was conducted in private, and that person found a marijuana pipe, a crack pipe, a syringe, rolling papers and loose tobacco, all located wrapped in plastic in Ms. Johnson’s vagina,” said Crown prosecutor Terri Nguyen as she read from the agreed statements of fact.

The Crown was asking for between 10 and 12 months for the crime. Defence lawyer Gordon Coffin suggested a lesser penalty, describing Johnson as a very young and inexperienced woman who fell in with the wrong group of friends.

“I appreciate that this is quite a serious matter. On the one hand, it’s almost as flagrant a breach of court protocol as one could imagine. On the other, it is also as foolish behavior as one could imagine. How one could imagine you could get away with something like this in the face of the court is really hard to understand,” Coffin said.

“I’m not sure that Ms. Johnson understands it,” he said.

In reading her verdict, Judge Karen Ruddy said special consideration had to be made for such obviously disrespectful behaviour.

“I must say that to not only bring drugs into the courthouse but into the actual courtroom, and then to attempt to pass them while court was in session demonstrates in my view an underlying disrespect for the court and a flagrant contempt for the law,” Judge Ruddy said.

Judge Ruddy also said that in light of the other charges Ms. Johnson is facing, her drug smuggling attempts are all the more serious.

Johnson and Cornell are both accused of a Bonnie-and-Clyde style crime spree. In September 2011, the couple was accused of attempted murder after they allegedly shot at RCMP Cpl. Kim MacKellar. They are also accused of armed robbery of Madley’s General Store in Haines Junction.

For the separate crime of throwing drugs across an open courtroom, Johnson will serve four more months behind bars, having been given credit for the six she has already served.

Contact Jesse Winter at jessew@yukon-news.com

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