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Acquittal of man who didn't know selling Percocet was illegal headed to appeal

Shane Leonard stands in the prisoner dock during a break in proceedings Tuesday morning in court in St. John’s.
Shane Leonard. - Telegram file photo
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

The case of a St. John's man who was acquitted of a drug trafficking charge on the grounds that he didn't know what he was doing was illegal is headed to the province's Court of Appeal.

Crown prosecutor Elaine Reid is asking the appeals court to overturn the recent acquittal of Shane Leonard, 32, saying the trial judge had made multiple mistakes when he cleared him of a charge of trafficking oxycodone.

Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice David Hurley "materially misapprehended the evidence" by acquitting Leonard, the prosecutor wrote in appeal documents, saying the acquittal was unreasonable and unsupported by evidence presented at trial.

Hurley also erred in his application of wilful blindness when it came to determining whether or not Leonard had known he was committing a crime, and made mistakes in his assessment and application of the elements of the drug trafficking offence, Reid wrote in the documents, which were filed on Tuesday.

She is asking the Court of Appeal to find Leonard guilty instead.

Leonard had admitted during his one-day trial in December he had sold Percocet pills that had been prescribed to him after a series of injuries. He insisted, however, that he didn't know he was doing anything illegal. Percocet is a prescription painkiller consisting of a combination of aceteminophen and the opiate oxycodone. While Percocet is not listed as a scheduled drug in the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, oxycodone is.

Leonard's argument was that he didn't realize Percocet contained oxycodone.

"This is not an issue of ignorance of the law," his lawyer, Jack Lavers, told the judge during his closing submissions at trial. "It's an issue of ignorance of the chemical composition of Percocet."

In delivering his verdict last month, Hurley said he was unable to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Leonard hadn't been telling the truth.

"It was his belief that Percocet was not a controlled substance. His evidence on this point was strong and maintained at trial, and withstood cross-examination," the judge said. "While Mr. Leonard was aware that his involvement with prescriptions and distribution of prescription drugs was improper and wrong, this would be insufficient to obtain a conviction of the charge before the court."

Leonard was one of 10 people alleged to be connected with the Vikings Motorcycle Club who were arrested and charged with drugs offences in 2016 as part of a police investigation called Operation Bombard.

Related stories:
'I didn't know selling Perocet was illegal,' Shane Leonard tells St. John's court
Judge acquits man who said he didn't know selling Percocet was illegal

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