Canada: Manslaughter trial hears final arguments in 2014 overdose death of Toronto model - PressFrom - Canada

CanadaManslaughter trial hears final arguments in 2014 overdose death of Toronto model

07:55  11 july  2019
07:55  11 july  2019 Source:

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Manslaughter trial hears final arguments in 2014 overdose death of Toronto model© Provided by Toronto Star Newspapers Limited Alyshia Comtois-Arbour overdosed in a downtown Toronto condo and died later in hospital in 2014.

A judge is deciding whether a man on trial for manslaughter supplied lethal heroin to a part-time model — which he denies — or accept his defence that she overdosed in his downtown Toronto condo after a night of “Russian roulette” with booze and drugs.

The Crown’s theory is that Alyshia Comtois-Arbour and Tatyana Singh, both in their early 20s, went to Maxwell Johnson’s condo at 210 Victoria St. early on Jan. 30, 2014, because they expected to get cocaine based on what they’d been told by either him or his friend. The women were strangers.

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Prosecutor John Cisorio told Superior Court Justice Kelly Byrne on Wednesday that the Crown is not alleging Johnson planned to surreptitiously drug the women in order to take advantage of them sexually.

“There is a difference between a purposeful plan to lure women and drug them to sexually assault them versus an opportunity to entertain attractive women with the hopes that it may materialize into something more,” he said.

Singh testified during the trial that once she and Comtois-Arbour got to the Pantages condo, they snorted some cocaine given to them by a man they had just met. Singh told court she did not feel how she does normally when taking cocaine and that within 10 minutes, Comtois-Arbour appeared to be passed out while sitting upright.

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The next morning, both women were rushed to St. Michael’s Hospital located across the street from the condo. Comtois-Arbour, 23, was removed from life support on Feb. 2, 2014. An autopsy found she died of heroin and ethanol toxicity. Singh, then 21, was treated for respiratory distress and released.

Johnson, now 32, was captured on surveillance video removing $54,000 from the condo just before paramedics arrived after he called 911. He testified he sold pot, but not cocaine or heroin. However, he admitted providing a small amount of cocaine for the women to snort.

Defence lawyer Leora Shemesh concedes her client’s actions constitute cocaine trafficking — but says the Crown has failed to prove he gave the women heroin. Nor is there evidence that an “unlawful act” by Johnson caused Comtois-Arbour’s death, which is necessary to prove the crime of manslaughter.

“The Crown’s case ... against Mr. Johnson is based on nothing more than theory, speculation, conjecture,” and fails to appreciate the women were “making their own decisions with their own substances and their consequences,” Shemesh wrote in her written submissions filed in court.

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The evidence showed both women were “experienced and frequent drug users,” who likely consumed large amounts of drugs throughout the evening, Shemesh wrote.

“Their typical risk-taking activities or ‘Russian roulette’ — was a standard element to their entertainment and it clouded their judgment and had devastating effects.”

Shemesh suggested the women may have brought their own heroin to the condo, and consumed it in the washroom. Some heroin — 2.58 grams — was recovered in Johnson’s condo, but it was rock solid and not in powdered form.

The defence lawyer noted there was evidence during the trial that the deceased and Singh — who both worked as restaurant hostesses in downtown Toronto — were accustomed to consuming free drugs, sometimes with strangers.

The case shines a light on the “dangerous” activities “that appear to plague the entertainment community — wherein young women are far too readily accepting and ingesting drugs that are inherently dangerous without any consideration and or thought as to the risks involved,” Shemesh told the judge Wednesday.

The judge said she will work “very hard” to release her decision July 19 otherwise it will wait until September.

Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy

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