Judge uses decoded drug dealer language to convict man of trafficking cocaine in Sudbury

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A judge with Ontario's Superior Court of Justice had to interpret coded messages between suspected drug dealers to convict a man of running cocaine from Toronto for sale in Sudbury.

The case offered insight into language used by those in the illegal drug trade to communicate with one another without explicitly saying what they were doing.

Jerry Brodricks was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to traffic cocaine and one count of trafficking cocaine between March and June 2018.

In a decision released June 25, Brodricks was found guilty of conspiring with a Toronto man, Ishmael Robinson, a case largely based on messages between them intercepted by police.

"The Crown theory is that Mr. Brodricks was a member of an ongoing buy-sell conspiracy with Ishmael Robinson and others to traffic cocaine from the Greater Toronto Area to the Sudbury area," the court transcript of the case said.

"Robinson purchased cocaine in large amounts, distributed the cocaine to Mr. Brodricks and his associates, who then pooled the profits of the sales for Robinson to re-supply. The Crown’s evidence on both the conspiracy and trafficking counts is entirely circumstantial."

The key issue, wrote Justice R.F. Goldstein, was whether the Crown had proven it was cocaine being trafficked, as opposed to another substance.

Brodricks was arrested in Sudbury on June 22, 2018, and police found cash and cocaine in his vehicle. Another arrest took place June 7 at a residence in Mississauga. When police arrived, they found a suspect flushing cocaine in the toilet.

"The police also found about a half-kilo of cocaine in the home," the transcript said. "The cocaine was in two bricks of about a quarter-kilo each. The police seized items (including a passport) belonging to Mr. Robinson."

The Crown relied on expert evidence from a Toronto police drug squad who explained the coded language dealers use to avoid saying explicitly what they are doing.

One of the bigger challenges in the case is the fact police didn't catch anyone in the act of trafficking.

"(As) Mr. Brodricks' counsel points out, there is no direct evidence of trafficking cocaine," Goldstein wrote. "Trafficking in a substance is usually proven through a sale to an undercover officer or agent, or through police observations of a transaction. In this case, there was no sale to (an) undercover officer. The police did not observe any transactions involving Mr. Brodricks."

The defence argued that meant there was reasonable doubt not only about whether trafficking was taking place, but also whether cocaine was involved.

A 'band' is a stack of $1K in cash

But Goldstein ruled that interpretation of the numerous communications between the suspects showed "beyond a reasonable doubt" exactly what was going on.

For example, the judge pointed to an exchange between Brodricks and Robinson on May 14, 2018.

"Mr. Robinson asks Mr. Brodricks, 'What kinda change you have?' to which Mr. Brodricks replies, '11 or 12 bands,'” the transcript said.

The Toronto drug squad officer testified that a 'band' is a stack of $1,000 in cash held together with an elastic band.

In another exchange, Brodricks tells Robinson he needs to see someone named Monique.

"Mr. Robinson asks, 'does she have a change?' To which Mr. Brodricks replies, 'no, I took it. Nine, right?'" the transcript said. "They then confirm that Mr. Brodricks will give her another nine."

The Toronto officer testified that a 'nine-pack' can refer to nine ounces of cocaine, and that 'change' is a reference to money.

"I infer that this call was a discussion about Mr. Brodricks supplying Monique with nine ounces of cocaine," the judge wrote.

Half B, Cuban, cutsies, soft, white

Other slang that had to be interpreted from the intercepted communications include 'a half B,' which is an eighth of an ounce of crack cocaine; 'white,' usually a term for cocaine; a 'Cuban,' a term for a quarter ounce of cocaine; 'cutsies,' a slang for customers buying the cocaine; and 'soft' refers to cocaine in powder form, while 'hard' is a reference to crack cocaine.

While any of the individual messages police intercepted wouldn't be enough to prove the case, Goldstein ruled that all the messages together paint a consistent picture of a cocaine trafficking operation.

"I find that there is no reasonable possibility that Mr. Brodricks was conspiring to traffic something other than cocaine," the judge wrote. "Mr. Brodricks may have been conspiring to traffic in something other than cocaine, as well as cocaine. The evidence that he was conspiring to traffic in cocaine, however, is overwhelming."

Read the full transcript here.