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  1. Alfa
    CASE UP IN SMOKE

    Grow-Op Charges Dismissed After Errors By 'Keystone Cops'

    TORONTO -- All charges have been dismissed against four men arrested
    in what was the largest-ever marijuana grow-op seizure in Ontario --
    because police could not link evidence from the raid to any specific
    defendant.

    Justice Ford Clements dismissed a series of trafficking charges
    against four Vietnamese men arrested in November 2002 when more than
    9,500 marijuana plants were discovered in an industrial building in
    Mississauga.

    It is rare for a judge to discharge defendants after a preliminary
    hearing. The prosecution must only show there is "any evidence upon
    which a reasonable jury properly instructed could return a verdict of
    guilty," for a proceeding to continue to trial.

    Judge Clements ruled, however, that there was no evidence that would
    show a "rational inference" any of the four men had control of the
    building, in a decision released Friday.

    The marijuana plants, with a street value of $11 million, filled about
    2,800 square metres on two floors of the warehouse. The seizure by
    Peel Regional Police was the largest in the province until earlier
    this year, when more than 25,000 plants were discovered in a former
    Molson brewery building in Barrie.

    The four defendants in the Mississauga seizure were arrested as they
    were leaving the front office section of the warehouse. Police also
    seized seven sets of keys from the four men.

    During the preliminary hearing this summer, the court heard that at
    least one of the keys opened the office of the building, but there was
    no evidence the keys opened the back area where the marijuana was
    located. The exhibits officer in the investigation admitted that some
    of the sets of keys were mixed together by Peel police.

    "They couldn't keep straight which keys belonged to each accused,"
    said criminal lawyer Peter Zaduk, who represented one of the defendants.

    "They utterly failed to prove that any particular accused had a key to
    the warehouse," Zaduk said.

    He added that the Crown did not enter any evidence that would link the
    defendants to any rental or leasing agreement for the warehouse.

    One officer testified at the hearing that the keys were thrown

    together on the passenger side of a police car when the four men were
    arrested. Some of the keys were kept for several months in an unsealed
    envelope in a desk at the police station, the court heard. One officer
    admitted he could not explain why he added some keys to one of the key
    chains.

    "Pardon the pun, but they were the keystone cops," said lawyer Heather
    McArthur, who also represented one of the defendants.

    The Crown has 30 days to appeal the ruling. But it must show the judge
    made a "jurisdictional error."

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