A man sworn to protect the public and safely escort prisoners has been arrested for allegedly smuggling drugs into the provincial jail system.
Tyrone David was picked up Friday morning after he allegedly met up with a woman at a strip mall parking lot in the 300 block of Pleasant Street in Dartmouth. The meeting and alleged transaction took place just before 9 a.m., police said.
Both the 40-year-old deputy sheriff, who was in uniform at the time, and the woman left in separate cars. She was later arrested after she was pulled over by police on Chadwick Street.
The deputy sheriff was taken into custody in the parking lot of the Dartmouth provincial courthouse, not far away.
On Friday evening, police sent out a news release saying they had charged Mr. David, 40, with 12 counts of possession of narcotics for the purpose of trafficking.
Kathleen Kierans, 22, has been charged with 12 counts of trafficking.
Justice Minister Ross Landry said Friday that the sheriff, who’s been on the job about five years, is on paid administrative leave.
Police wouldn’t reveal what kind of drugs were allegedly exchanged during the meeting, but sources told this newspaper that a quantity of cocaine and cash were involved, and were passed from the woman to the deputy sheriff.
Sources said the woman is the girlfriend of well-known crime figure Jimmy Melvin Jr. but police would not confirm that report.
Mr. Melvin didn’t appear in court Friday morning but his lawyer, Josh Arnold, made an appearance on his behalf.
Mr. Melvin’s case was on the docket Friday so a date could be set for his preliminary hearing on charges of possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose, violating a weapons prohibition order, being in a vehicle that contained a prohibited weapon and possessing ecstasy and an anti-anxiety drug. He also faces charges of breaching bail conditions from a previous release.
It’s not believed Mr. Melvin, who’ll be back in court on Nov. 18 for the preliminary hearing along with two co-accused, will face any charges in connection with Friday’s arrests, the sources said.
Mr. Arnold said Friday that he couldn’t comment on any connection between the 22-year-old woman who was arrested and his client. He said he hadn’t heard anything about the deputy sheriff’s or the woman’s arrest.
Halifax Regional Police spokeswoman Theresa Rath said officers didn’t randomly stumble across the drug deal.
"This investigation occurred over a series of days. We were acting on information that we had received," she said Friday.
Ms. Rath wouldn’t reveal what makes police think the drugs were going to the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth.
"We can’t get into why we think that, but suffice it to say that based on the evidence that was seized, we believe that the drugs were destined for transportation into the corrections system. Our investigation will continue (looking) as to where (the drugs) may have been destined and to whom."
She said police haven’t received information to suggest that any other deputy sheriffs were involved.
Mr. Landry called the situation very disappointing.
"It’s always a concern when one of your employees is alleged to be involved in illicit activities," he told reporters at Province House. ""It raises a concern."
He said the positive in the situation is that drugs were kept out of the Burnside jail.
"That’s our goal and if any of our employees are involved in drug usage, we have a zero tolerance policy and we adhere to that strongly."
Aside from the police force’s investigation, Justice Department officials are also conducting their own probe.
Mr. Landry said officials believe it is an isolated incident. But Liberal justice critic Michel Samson said there have been lots of stories about drug use in prison, so he thinks the Justice Department investigation should be fairly broad.
"It might be time for the minister to take a look and determine exactly how is it that illegal drugs continue to get inside of our correctional facilities in light of the protocols that one would think are in place to prevent that from happening," said Mr. Samson.
Sources from the jail have said drugs regularly find their way inside, especially on court days, weekends and holidays.
One inmate from the Burnside jail was taken to hospital in the past month suffering from an overdose. Sources said he overdosed on ecstasy but his life wasn’t in danger.
Former Crown attorney Anne Calder is awaiting trial dates on charges of trying to pass drugs to a client at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility on July 14.
She faces several charges, including trafficking in prescription painkillers, possession of the painkillers for the purpose of trafficking and possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.
Mr. Samson and Tory MLA Cecil Clarke, a former justice minister, said Friday’s arrest is an unfortunate blemish on the dedicated workers in Sheriff Services.
Mr. Clarke said he expects swift, strong action.
"An example needs to be made and a message needs to be sent," Mr. Clarke said.
The province can’t tolerate its employees taking drugs into jails, whether or not they’ve been coerced.
No one from the union representing Sheriff Services workers was available for comment Friday.
Meanwhile, it’s not clear whether the cases against Walter Allan Gerrior and Kerry-Anne Zwicker, co-accused with Mr. Melvin, will be able to proceed Nov. 18 because they don’t have lawyers yet. Mr. Gerrior, like Mr. Melvin, has been in custody since they were arrested in September, and will be back in Dartmouth court Tuesday for a bail hearing.