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Defence calling for no jail time for drug trafficker; prosecutor seeks 3 years

There's a big difference between what the Crown is calling for and what the defence is saying is an appropriate sentence for another person convicted in the N.W.T. RCMP's Green Manalishi drug investigation.

Lacey Dawn Forrest arrested as part of Green Manalishi drug investigation in Yellowknife

Lacey Dawn Forrest pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic cocaine. (CBC)

There's a big difference between what the Crown is calling for and what the defence is saying is an appropriate sentence for another person convicted in the RCMP's Green Manalishi drug investigation.

The prosecutor said a woman who supplied cocaine to street dealers in the Northwest Territories' South Slave region should spend three years in prison. But the woman's lawyer is calling for a suspended sentence, saying she got sucked into a drug trafficking operation she wanted no part of.

The starkly different versions of Lacey Dawn Forrest's involvement in cocaine trafficking emerged during her sentencing hearing in Yellowknife on Tuesday.

Forrest, 35, pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic cocaine.

Not just 'trying to get by,' says prosecutor

Defence lawyer Stephen Fix said when Forrest agreed to pick up a load of cash for drug dealer Norman Hache — a friend of hers and her then-husband — on March 3, 2016, she was facing mounting debt and a failing marriage in which both she and her partner were abusing drugs and alcohol.

Fix said that was the beginning of Forrest's involvement in Hache's drug dealing.

Fix said before the time for the cash pick-up came, Hache called back to ask Forrest to pick up cocaine as well.

Unknown to Forrest or Hache at the time, members of the RCMP were recording their phone calls as part of the Green Manalishi drug investigation. Forrest is the 25th person to be convicted and sentenced as a result of that investigation, according to the office of the prosecutor.

In recordings of some of those conversations, played at the sentencing hearing, Hache and Forrest talk about drugs he was delivering to her, the cash she was shipping back to him, and the street dealers she was supplying in Fort Smith, Fort Resolution and Hay River.

In one call, Hache and Forrest talk about her keeping $1,500 for her role.

"This wasn't a case of just trying to get by," said prosecutor Duane Praught.

According to the facts Forrest has admitted, police found just over $8,000 in her Fort Resolution home, along with lists of how much drug dealers owe her, when police intercepted a delivery of 362 grams to her house in mid-March 2016.

Earlier, Forrest had picked up four ounces of cocaine from Hache and given him $13,200 in earnings from a previous delivery.

This really is a complete minimization of Ms. Forrest's involvement in this drug trafficking operation.- Duane Praught

In a background report prepared for the sentencing, Forrest talked about not wanting to go back to Fort Resolution, where she's from, because it is "rife with addiction."

Praught said Forrest profited from and contributed to that addiction by supplying "ounces and ounces and ounces" of cocaine to that community, as well as Hay River and Fort Smith.

In the background report, Forrest summarized her involvement in drug trafficking by saying she agreed to pick up money from Hache on two occasions.

"This really is a complete minimization of Ms. Forrest's involvement in this drug trafficking operation," said Praught. He said it raises concerns about other things she said in the background report.

In the report, Forrest said when she was growing up, her father physically abused both her and her mother. Both parents denied there was any physical abuse in the home at the time Forrest was there.

Fix said Forrest hasn't done drugs in two years and hasn't consumed alcohol for the last year. He said his client got a job and paid off all her debts. She gave birth to her third child since she was charged and is in a healthy relationship.

In a statement Fix read out in court, Forrest said, "After this happened I felt so ashamed…. I felt completely devastated…. I was bullied in social media and in public and called a drug dealer."

Justice Virginia Schuler is scheduled to give her decision on Friday.

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