Calgary trio not guilty in $4.5M cocaine trafficking case

·2 min read
A joint investigation between US and Canadian authorities resulted in a dozen cocaine trafficking-related charges being laid against Christopher Scher, Michael Janecek, and Steven Doporto. On Friday, a Calgary judge acquitted the three men. (Nevada Highway Patrol - image credit)
A joint investigation between US and Canadian authorities resulted in a dozen cocaine trafficking-related charges being laid against Christopher Scher, Michael Janecek, and Steven Doporto. On Friday, a Calgary judge acquitted the three men. (Nevada Highway Patrol - image credit)

More than seven years — and several court twists — after three men were charged in a multi-million dollar cocaine trafficking ring, a Calgary judge has found the trio not guilty.

Christopher Scher, Michael Janecek and Steven Doporto were accused of trafficking 45 kilograms of cocaine worth $4.5 million.

In 2014, they were charged with conspiracy to import cocaine, conspiracy to traffic cocaine, trafficking cocaine and possession for the purpose of trafficking.

But in 2017, mid-trial, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Bruce Millar ruled the men's rights had been violated by a 41-month timeline in getting the case before a judge.

Appeal court sends case back to judge

It was just 11 months after the Supreme Court issued its Jordan decision, a ruling which put hard timelines on what's considered unreasonable delay in getting a case from charge to trial.

Ultimately, that ruling was overturned by the Alberta Court of Appeal, which sent the case back to Millar to continue the trial.

After hearing arguments from prosecutor Frank Polak and defence lawyers Jim Lutz, Michael Bates and Clayton Rice in August, Millar issued his 26-page decision Friday.

The decision to acquit was, in large part, due to two disreputable witnesses, including Austin William Hill.

Witnesses had 'motivation to lie'

In 2012 the Nevada Highway Patrol arrested Hill during a traffic stop and discovered the cocaine packaged in 63 vacuum-sealed bundles in a hidden compartment under the bed of a pickup truck.

Hill was charged at the time but made a plea deal with the Crown in exchange for testimony against his former associates.

Instead of a six- to 20-year prison sentence, an American judge handed Hill five years of probation for his "substantial assistance" to Canadian and American authorities.

That included his testimony against Scher, Janecek and Doporto.

But Millar said the Crown's two key witnesses — Hill and another man — were not credible or consistent in their evidence.

"Their evidence is problematic and must be treated with caution given their motivation to lie," wrote Millar.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting