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Crown's Final Witness Testifies at Grow-Op Trial


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When Ontario teen Brian McConnell accepted a job offer in Saskatchewan, he was told he would be working on Turtle Island, a "sovereign land" where Canada's marijuana laws didn't apply.

"I wasn't solidly believing it, but I believed it could be true," he testified Monday at a Regina drug trial.

McConnell, then a week shy of his 18th birthday, took the job and spent his summer at a site on the Pasqua First Nation transplanting, fertilizing, watering, and keeping the weeds and grass from choking out the massive crop -- until a pre-dawn RCMP raid on Aug. 21, 2005. On the run from police for about eight hours after fleeing on foot with two other men from the teepee, McConnell said he still held out hope the chief of Turtle Island could straighten everything out. "A last hope -- maybe it was really true," he added.

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Font:****Faced with the prospect of prison after his arrest, he agreed to give a sworn statement about what went on at the grow site, where RCMP discovered more than 6,000 plants they contend are cannabis marijuana.

McConnell was the Crown's final witness at the trial of Lawrence Hubert Agecoutay, 52, Chester Fernand Girard, 59, Nelson Edward Northwood, 58, Jack Allan Northwood, 55, Joseph Clayton Agecoutay, 47, and Robert Stanley Agecoutay, 48, who have pleaded not guilty to illegally producing marijuana and possessing the drug for the purpose of trafficking.

McConnell said he was first contacted by his sister, Girard's common-law wife, in May 2005 about the job. On probation for theft at the time, McConnell understood the Chief of Turtle Island faxed his probation officer on his behalf.

During his first day orientation on May 12, McConnell was shown two greenhouses near Robert Agecoutay's house where a couple thousand pot plants were starting to grow.

McConnell recognized the plants as marijuana. Girard called them "industrial hemp."

"I was told we were on sovereign land ... We couldn't get in trouble because in the sovereign nation of supposedly Turtle Island, there was no THC laws, which means we couldn't get in trouble for marijuana growing because marijuana's then designated hemp," he testified. THC is the chemical which gives marijuana its high. He said Girard talked about using some of the profits from the plants' sale -- estimated at $2,000 a pound -- for a hemp research centre.

McConnell said he worked at the six main greenhouses alongside Robert and Joseph Agecoutay, and other members of the Agecoutay family, including children possibly as young as nine. He said Lawrence Agecoutay, who lived in Regina, didn't actually work at the site, but provided labourers, including his sons, and the property for growing. He knew him as the Chief of Turtle Island, which Lawrence Agecoutay told him consisted of North, South and Central America.

McConnell said Lawrence Agecoutay, who referred to the plants as "medicine," only visited the site occasionally "just to keep an eye out and see what was going on." McConnell was told the chief was busy at meetings with the United Nations.

He said Girard had the expertise and directed the daily operations, but Lawrence Agecoutay "had a large part in it."

McConnell knew Robert and Joseph Agecoutay as the "gatekeepers," responsible for keeping people away from the property. He said Robert Agecoutay set up a roadblock, and he once saw him "greet" some strangers while armed with a gun.

During that summer, the "B.C. guys" -- Jack and Nelson Northwood and a man he knew only as "Ed" -- showed up and began work on four other plots. McConnell didn't trust the straight-laced men, suspecting they were undercover police officers.

In cross-examination, McConnell said the Northwoods had views on Canada's tax laws and looked for loopholes. "That would be a brilliant cover," said McConnell when asked if those views seemed at odds with his theory of them being police.

The trial before a judge and jury is expected to continue Tuesday.

Source: Leader-Post
Copyright: 2008 Leader-Post
Contact: bpacholik@leaderpost.canwest.com
Website: Regina Leader-Post
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