Judge jails fen­tanyl dealer in land­mark case

Windsor Star - - CITY+REGION - JANE SIMS

Carolyn de Wit’s life ended in a bath­room stall, just min­utes af­ter the server had bought “a no­to­ri­ous killer” drug be­hind the Nor­wich restau­rant where she worked.

Her cousin’s hus­band, Wil­liam Knapp, 36, had sold her a sin­gle 50-mi­cro­gram patch of the pow­er­ful painkiller, fen­tanyl, from his own pre­scrip­tion he had for his chronic pain dis­ease.

That hap­pened more than two years ago, when Su­pe­rior Court Jus­tice Thomas Heeney said Mon­day not as much was known about what he de­scribed as “with­out a doubt the most dan­ger­ous drug on our streets to­day.”

Had Knapp sold de Wit, 32, the fen­tanyl in 2018, the judge said he would have sent Knapp to prison for much longer than the 2½-year sen­tence he was dealt Mon­day. With time served, he has 777 days — two years, one month and 16 days — left to serve in prison. Heeney said at the sen­tenc­ing of Knapp, who pleaded guilty in Fe­bru­ary to crim­i­nal neg­li­gence caus­ing death and drug traf­fick­ing, that he would have ques­tioned the joint pro­posal from the Crown and the de­fence as not harsh enough to de­ter “those who traf­fic” in fen­tanyl. In a case of many firsts, Heeney made the re­mark­able com­ment that his de­ci­sion to ac­cept the sen­tenc­ing rec­om­men­da­tion shouldn’t be con­sid­ered a start­ing point for sen­tences in fen­tanyl traf­fick­ing go­ing for­ward. Knapp’s case is among the first in On­tario to con­vict a fen­tanyl dealer for crim­i­nal neg­li­gence caus­ing death. The judge said it should send a mes­sage that fen­tanyl deal­ers will be dealt with harshly. An opi­oid drug far more pow­er­ful than mor­phine, fen­tanyl has been im­pli­cated in grow­ing num­bers of over­dose deaths in Canada, in­clud­ing in South­west­ern On­tario. The drug has moved west to east in Canada, its toll ris­ing as it moves. Knapp, who walked into court with a cane, sat qui­etly at the de­fence ta­ble through­out the hear­ing.

“I’m very sorry for ev­ery­thing that hap­pened,” he said in a low voice when given the chance to ad­dress the court, in­clud­ing de Wit’s hus­band and fam­ily. Knapp, his de­fence lawyer Nick Cake told Heeney, suf­fers from Char­cot-Marie-Tooth, a chronic, hered­i­tary nerve dis­ease that causes the pain re­cep­tors in his legs, feet and hands to con­stantly flare up.

He was a fos­ter kid who at­tended 21 schools be­fore quit­ting in Grade 10 to work.

His med­i­cal con­di­tion led him to ev­ery painkiller on the spec­trum — per­co­cet, mor­phine, oxy­codone — be­fore he was pre­scribed fen­tanyl in Oc­to­ber 2015.

By then, he’d de­vel­oped a tol­er­ance to the pre­vi­ous prescriptions. He’d been put in a methadone pro­gram to get off oxy­codone be­fore fen­tanyl came into his life. Knapp also found out he could sell his painkilling patches for a profit.

Fed­eral drug pros­e­cu­tor Mike Smith called what’s hap­pened with fen­tanyl an “epi­demic” of over­doses and death that’s de­stroy­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

“He needs to spend time in a fed­eral pen­i­ten­tiary,” Smith said of Knapp, “who knows the dan­gers of fen­tanyl more than any­one in the room.”

As­sis­tant Crown at­tor­ney Nancy Komsa told Heeney that de Wit’s fam­ily is still griev­ing and were un­able to pro­vide vic­tim im­pact state­ments be­cause the loss is “still too painful, too raw.”

She noted the case law on fen­tanyl and crim­i­nal neg­li­gence is sparse, es­pe­cially in On­tario. But fen­tanyl “is a drug of im­mense, dev­as­tat­ing pro­por­tions.”

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