A Canadian soldier will spend up to 30 days in jail for drugging his comrades with cannabis cupcakes during a live-fire training exercise in 2018.
Bomber Chelsea Cogswell was convicted Friday by a New Brunswick military judge in the first such trial for Canadian servicemen.
The 28-year-old man was convicted in August of eight counts of administering a noxious substance and one count of outrageous behavior.
“This case is unique and no similar case exists,” military judge Cmdr. Sandra Sukstorf said during sentencing on Friday. The sentence includes demotion to the rank of private gunner and dismissal from the Canadian Armed Forces.
Cogswell served the homemade chocolate cupcakes to eight soldiers while operating a mobile canteen in July 2018 at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick.
Prosecutor Major Max Reede this week read several victim statements describing how those who ate the cupcakes struggled with feelings of betrayal and loss of confidence in their peers and the military in general.
One soldier, whose previous drug addiction had left him homeless and unemployed, described how the incident threatened his continued sobriety. Another soldier said his decision to lead a life free from intoxicants was irreversibly taken away from him.
“THE AMMUNITION USED TODAY HAD A RANGE OF 14 KILOMETERS”
In August, the military tribunal heard from soldiers who testified to chaotic scenes on the ground as acute poisoning took hold and ended the full-scale exercise.
Dazed soldiers groped and dropped artillery shells. An artilleryman attempted to load a cartridge into a howitzer while the shell’s protective cap was still in place. Another admitted to mis-timing a rocket that controls the distance in which a shell will explode.
A soldier testified that he nearly crashed a truck full of participants into another vehicle as he struggled to focus on the road in front of him.
“The ammunition used that day had a range of 14 kilometers and a radius of 100 feet,” prosecutor Reede reminded the court on Wednesday.
In her guilty verdict, the judge called Cogswell’s actions “unacceptable shocking,” saying the soldier had invited “significant damage” and “potential death” to the 150 participants in the live-fire exercise.
Reede argued that Cogswell should serve a year in prison, while defense attorney Ian Kasper said she should not serve a prison sentence and instead be demoted and fired from the military. .
Members of the Royal Canadian Artillery School are participating in Exercise Common Gunner in July 2018, when the infractions occurred at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick. (Cpl. Geneviève Lapointe / MDN Canada)
Several members of Cogswell’s family, mostly current or former military personnel, wrote letters to the court on his behalf. They spoke of Cogswell’s love for animals, his difficult childhood, and his struggles with abuse in the military.
Psychiatrist Dr Vinod Joshi testified that he diagnosed Cogswell with post-traumatic stress disorder and cyclothymia, a rare mood disorder, prior to the incident.
The prosecution argued that the defense had presented no evidence that Cogswell’s sanity played a role in his decision to serve the marijuana cupcakes.
Between baking the cupcakes and distributing them the next day, “Cogswell had many hours to think about his plan of action,” Reede said.
“His actions were premeditated and targeted, but without discrimination as to specific victims,” added the prosecutor.
He noted that cannabis was illegal at the time and the soldiers were at risk of violating the military’s drug policy.
Cogswell has served in the Army Regular Force since June 2011. She became a skilled artillery shooter in 2013 and was promoted to the rank of bomber in 2015.
Cogswell set to serve his sentence at the New Brunswick Correctional Center for Women in Miramichi, New Brunswick
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