Kurt Churchill, Anthony Clowe acquitted after lawyers file application about unfair trial delays

Kurt Churchill, Anthony Clowe acquitted after lawyers file application about unfair trial delays

Two men charged in the wake of a police investigation targeting "high-level" cocaine trafficking in the St. John's area had acquittals entered at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Wednesday morning, after their lawyers filed an application about unfair trial delays.

Lawyers for Kurt Churchill and Anthony Clowe had submitted a so-called Jordan application. Erin Breen represented Churchill, while Randy Piercey represented Clowe.

A Supreme Court of Canada decision from last summer, known as R. v Jordan, imposed a deadline of 18 months for provincial court cases to be concluded. In Supreme Court, the deadline is 30 months.

Churchill and Clowe were arrested and charged in 2014, and were scheduled to go on trial in January 2018.

On Wednesday morning, the Crown called no evidence in the case, and asked the court to enter acquittals on all charges.

Investigation called Operation Battalion

Churchill had been accused of conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, plus weapons offences.

Clowe faced charges of money laundering and possessing property obtained by crime.

The pair were charged after police seized $300,000 hidden in the lining of two suitcases at an airport in Montreal in March 2014, as part of a six-month Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit-Newfoundland & Labrador (CFSEU-NL) investigation dubbed Operation Battalion. Police in Montreal and Vancouver also assisted in the probe.

The Crown told the court it plans to file an application for forfeiture of the money seized as part of the investigation.

Clowe is the father of former NHLer Ryane Clowe. Ryane Clowe was not implicated in Operation Battalion.

In 2015, another St. John's man was convicted of charges related to that police probe.

Leroy Thomas pleaded guilty to money laundering, possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, and possession of a prohibited weapon — a set of brass knuckles. He received a sentence of three years.