October 23rd, 2020

Crown to call 38 witnesses as drug-smuggling trial begins today


By Shurtz, Delon on November 19, 2019.

Delon Shurtz

Lethbridge Herald

dshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A jury has been selected and the trial for a B.C. man accused of trying to smuggle drugs over the border into Alberta more than three years ago is expected to begin today in a Lethbridge courtroom.

The jury was chosen Monday in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench, where Tejinderpal Singh Sandhu faces criminal charges of drug possession for the purpose of trafficking and unlawfully importing drugs.

The accused was charged in September 2016 after customs officers at the Coutts border crossing searched a commercial truck with a load of novelty items destined for market in Alberta. Authorities reported at the time that concealed within the load were 34 packages of cocaine, weighing about 40 kilograms.

Crown prosecutor Dennis Hrabcak expects to call 38 witnesses, most of them civilians, during the trial, which is scheduled to run until Dec. 6. Witnesses are from areas in and around Lethbridge, Calgary, Okotoks, Edmonton, B.C. and California, and most of them will testify by closed-circuit TV.

The Crown’s first witness will be an RCMP officer.

The accused will be assisted by an interpreter who can interpret English into Punjabi, and one of the Crown’s witnesses may require a German interpreter.

Monday’s jury selection was a new procedure which required potential jurors to, one at a time, move into a different courtroom where they were questioned by the judge and either chosen or rejected by the Crown and defence lawyer. One of the jurors, instead of affirming or swearing on the Bible when he was chosen, was sworn in using an eagle feather, considered an important and sacred symbol by many indigenous people.

The feather was adopted by the court last November during an eagle feather bestowment and smudge ceremony.

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