Justice Richard Danyliuk didn't mince words with convicted drug dealer Shervin Beeharry.
"What you were was a merchant of death — that's what you were selling," Danyliuk told the 22-year-old during his Monday morning sentencing in Saskatoon Court of Queen's Bench.
"Street drugs laced with fentanyl amounted to playing a game of Russian roulette. Someone's going to die."
Four people did die in the spring of 2018 after ingesting what they thought was just cocaine purchased from the Lakewood-area drug enterprise operated by Beeharry and two other men, Japmanjot Grewal and Azam Kabani, according to an agreed statement of facts.
The cocaine had been mixed with fentanyl. Three other people overdosed but survived.
"It is frankly a disgusting crime," Danyliuk said. "Particularly the aspect where users were contacting the selling group, saying something was wrong. And you, young man, just kept selling more death."
Beeharry, like Grewal and Azam Kabani, was once charged with manslaughter in connection with the deaths.
But on Monday, after a joint submission by Crown and defence lawyers, Beeharry only pleaded guilty to four counts of criminal negligence causing death. The manslaughter charge was withdrawn.
Beeharry had no prior criminal record, according to Crown lawyer Katharine Grier.
Standing in court Monday in a dark suit and a mask, Beeharry took off his glasses and addressed the court — including the parents of one his victims — and apologized for his crimes.
He said he hoped to go back to B.C. to be a productive member of society again.
Danyliuk sentenced Beeharry to six months, on top of time he had already served in custody after his arrest.
"Four people don't have an opportunity for the second chance that you have," Danyliuk said.
Accused lands in hospital
Monday's proceedings were also meant to include the pleas and sentencings of Grewal and Kabani, but things took a turn.
Eleanor Funk, Grewal's lawyer, told the court Grewal had been admitted to a Saskatoon hospital earlier in the morning for something that appeared to be drug related. Grewal, like Beeharry, had been released from custody in March and had travelled from B.C. to Saskatoon for his court appearance. Funk added that Grewal appeared to be fine, from the information she had.
Danyliuk adjourned Grewal's matter to Tuesday, citing the "extraordinary circumstances."
"She [Funk] needs to make sure she's getting cogent instructions from her client," Danyliuk said.
Grewal faces three counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
If convicted, he faces another three months in prison.
'He fully appreciates the great break that he's getting'
Things proceeded for Kabani, who did make it to court. The 22-year-old faced one count of possessing cocaine plus a lesser offence.
The Crown lawyer on Kabani's case, Wade McBride, said Kabani was "not a main player" in the operation and that he was a latecomer to the Pawlychenko Lane stash house police busted.
"He fully appreciates the great break that he's getting here," Kabani's lawyer Mark Brayford said.
Like Beeharry, Kabani had no prior criminal record.
Danyliuk gave Kabani a conditional sentence of two years — which he'll serve outside of prison, back in B.C. — plus a $50,000 fine.
The manslaughter charges against Beeharry and Kabani were withdrawn.
McBride cited resources, the potential for lengthy parallel voir dire proceedings, the COVID-19 pandemic and the desire for closure for the victims' families as reasons why the joint submissions came about following the manslaughter charges.
'Killer boys and girls'
The agreed statement of facts, which was filed with Beeharry's joint submission, along with lawyers' courtroom statements Monday, offered new insights into the case.
The operation marketed the tainted drugs using code for cocaine only.
"On March 8, 2018 they sent a text message from cell phone 306-881-7300 to some of their customers advertising their drugs as 'killer boys and girls'. 'Boys' is drug jargon for crack cocaine and 'girls' is drug jargon for powder cocaine," according to the agreed statement of facts.
One victim purchased what he thought was cocaine from a man he described as "Joe's guy." Police later took the unusual step of citing the dealer Lil Joe/Joe Bro, plus the cell phone number, in a public advisory warning people about the drugs. The victim had purchased drugs from the same dealer before with no ill effects.
The victim, plus a woman who also took the drugs, "knew something was wrong after doing a small amount of the drugs as they felt dizzy," according to the agreed statement of facts. "They told others that they thought the cocaine they bought was laced with something. Their eyes starting rolling back in their heads and they fell over."
The pair was taken to the hospital and treated for fentanyl overdoses. Both recovered.
Another victim who survived her overdose texted the dealer phone to say, "WTF, This shit burns" and to warn that something was wrong.
They continued selling the drugs even after the woman's warning, according to the agreed statement of facts.
Exactly who among the accused knew what about the drugs remains unclear, however.
"Not everyone in the [stash house] knew there was a tainting to the cocaine," McBride said.