A federal Crown lawyer accused a convicted Malakwa drug dealer Wednesday of trying to delay an extradition hearing to the United States.
But a B.C. Supreme Court justice agreed to adjourn the hearing, a key step in a process that may eventually send Colin Martin to Washington state to face charges that he was a key organizer in an international trafficking operation.
Martin represented himself in court Wednesday, something he said he will not do for an extradition hearing. He let his Vancouver lawyer go on the eve of the hearing, which was set for Monday in Vancouver.
“The charges I’m facing are extremely serious, so serious a person, if convicted, could spend the rest of their life in an American prison,” Martin told Justice Hope Hyslop. “I want a lawyer to conduct my hearing.”
Federal Crown lawyer John Gibb-Carsley said the offence for which Martin is wanted in the U.S. is equivalent to conspiracy to traffic in marijuana, MDMA (ecstasy) and cocaine.
“This was a sophisticated cross-border smuggling operation between 2007 and 2009 between Canada and the United States,” he said.
“Mr. Martin’s involvement is alleged . . . to be organization of helicopters. It was sophisticated, huge and used multiple helicopters.”
Marijuana and MDMA was shipped to the U.S., while return flights brought cocaine to Canada, American prosecutors allege.
One of the helicopter pilots arrested on the U.S. side in 2009, Sam Lindsay Brown, hanged himself in a Spokane jail. His story was told in Rolling Stone magazine and by Fifth Estate.
Martin said he no longer wants Vancouver lawyer Terry La Liberte to represent him because he doesn’t have enough money to pay the legal bill. He wants to return to work, as a logger, to fund his defence, something he said could cost as much as $30,000.
Martin was arrested, along with co-accused Sean Doak and James Gregory Cameron, in April 2012 after American extradition requests.
Doak and Cameron were ordered to be extradited after a hearing but have filed appeals.
A fourth man, Adam Christian Serrano, entered a guilty plea in the U.S. and is scheduled to be sentenced in October, according to a Vancouver Sun report. He faces a minimum 10-year sentence.
In addition to the extradition hearing, Martin faces unrelated charges for cultivation of marijuana. That trial is scheduled for March in Salmon Arm.
Hyslop granted an adjournment so Martin can ensure he has a lawyer for the extradition hearing. He must appear every two weeks in B.C. Supreme Court to ensure he has a lawyer, funded by legal aid.
By Oct. 31, Hyslop ruled a date must be set for an extradition hearing.
Martin claimed Legal Services Society rates will not fund an experienced lawyer for his extradition hearing. He expects to return to work this month as a faller, where he will earn upwards of $500 a day.
Martin has six children with his wife Jennifer Cahill. He said the family was recently forced to rely on social services while he was in jail and denied bail. The family recently lived in a home once listed for sale for $1.75 million, according to news reports.
The Crown asked for an expedited hearing, arguing Martin has a history of court delays.
“Extradition is more than Canada’s domestic obligation,” Gibb-Carsley said. “Canada’s obligations to its treaty partners are on the line.”