2 men accused of selling fatal fentanyl-laced cocaine released from jail over COVID-19 concerns
SASKATOON -- Two men facing manslaughter and trafficking charges will be released Wednesday from the Regina Correctional Centre over concerns of COVID-19 spreading to inmates.
Defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle said the decision came earlier this week after the COVID-19 pandemic deepened in Saskatchewan.
Voir dire hearings were scheduled for next week, said Pfefferle, who represents one of the accused, Shervin Beeharry.
"Like all of us we're looking at ways to prevent this virus from having a burden on the health system. That includes adjourning court matters where it is not required to proceed immediately, it could include releasing people from custody where the safety of the community is not going to be put at risk," Pfefferle said.
Beeharry, Japmanjot Grewal and Azim Kabani are facing drug trafficking and manslaughter charges following four overdose deaths in March 2018. Police say the alleged drug dealers knew the cocaine they sold was tainted with fentanyl.
Beeharry and Grewal are to be released and will be staying in the Vancouver-Surrey area, Pfefferle said.
The Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General have not responded to a request for comment.
Agreements between defence lawyers and Crown prosecutors to release inmates on conditions will be considered for those who pose little to no threat to the public, Pfefferle said. Those who are released will have to abide by a curfew and police will be able to monitor their movements and behaviour.
"If we're incarcerating people that are not a danger, or if they could be released to the community on conditions, that should occur in even more cases now than ever."
Pfefferle expects more conditional releases coming down the line.
"I suspect if this takes hold, this country will lead the way to make sure incarcerating people is only done if it's for the better good of society."