Man on trial for manslaughter denies providing lethal heroin to Toronto nightclub hostess

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A man on trial for manslaughter after two young women overdosed — one of them fatally — in his downtown Toronto condo in 2014 admits giving them cocaine but emphatically denies supplying them with lethal heroin.

“You knew what you gave the girls was heroin” and have created a “story” about cocaine as an alternative explanation for what happened, Crown attorney John Cisorio said Friday during his cross-examination of Maxwell Johnson, 32.

“I would never do those things,” responded Johnson, wearing a charcoal grey suit and plum-coloured tied. He has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death and bodily harm. Johnson has admitted selling pot — but denied the prosecutor’s suggestion that he was also a cocaine and heroin dealer.

In the early morning hours of Jan. 30, 2014, Alyshia Comtois-Arbour and Tatyana Singh, both in their early 20s, ended up at Johnson’s condo on Victoria St., near St. Michael’s Hospital, following a night of partying at a King St. W. nightclub and after-party in a residential loft. Another man and a couple were also present.

Some in the group drank and smoked pot that Johnson supplied, and after a short time Comtois-Arbour and Singh asked for cocaine. The young women worked as nightclub hostesses in the King St. club district and there has been evidence during the trial that they had snorted a small amount earlier that evening.

In soft-spoken, polite testimony, Johnson said he pulled out a small baggie of cocaine that he bought the previous evening. It contained less than a gram. He gave it to the two women, who cut it up into lines and snorted it along with another man, Nicholas Adeyemi.

Comtois-Arbour almost immediately passed out while seated, according to the Crown. Singh, 21 in 2014, felt unsteady on her feet and almost fell over. Adeyemi testified he threw up, and did another line.

In the morning, Johnson woke up and was unable to wake up Comtois-Arbour and Singh. He ran over to St. Mike’s and was told to call 911 from the hospital. By the time he returned to his building, he escorted the paramedics back to his condo. The women were taken to St. Mike’s where Comtois-Arbour was removed from life support on Feb. 2. She was 23. Singh was released from hospital the next day.

Adeyemi left the building at 8:16 a.m. while Johnson was recorded on video surveillance carrying a black bag to another friend’s car. Police later found $54,830 in the bag — which Johnson admits was his.

What he doesn’t admit to was having the 2.58 grams of heroin discovered in a different bag in his condo. His lawyer, Leora Shemesh, suggested to Adeyemi that it was his heroin, and that he drugged the girls with it. He denied that.

Adeyemi testified that he went to hospital to seek treatment Jan. 30, 2014. However, Shemesh produced medical records showing he went to a walk-in clinic days later.

On Jan. 30, 2014, Johnson gave a two-and-a-half hour voluntary statement to police, after declining to have a lawyer present. He was not charged until March 2015.

Cisorio suggested Johnson was “interested” in Comtois-Arbour, a part-time model, and that he drugged her and planned to “get lucky” with her.

Johnson disagreed. There is no evidence that any sex assault occurred. Both women were fully clothed when paramedics arrived.

As a result of his testimony, Johnson will plead guilty to possession of the purpose of trafficking and cocaine trafficking for “transferring” a small amount of cocaine to the young women, Shemesh said in court Friday.

The lawyers will provide Justice Kelly Byrne with final submissions next month.

Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy





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