A soldier at base Gagetown accused of feeding fellow soldiers cannabis-laced cupcakes told police she didn’t add the drug to the cupcake mix she bought at a convenience store.
Chelsea Cogswell did not take the stand, but she denied the cannabis allegations throughout two interviews conducted by military police in September and October 2018.
Video recordings of the interviews were played Monday at Cogswell’s court martial in Oromocto on eight counts of administering a noxious substance to soldiers without their consent.
Cogswell is also charged with behaving in a disgraceful manner and committing an act to the prejudice of good order and discipline.
Judge Sandra Sukstorf said she will deliver her decision Tuesday afternoon.
Accused describes additions to mix
Cogswell, who is from the Oromocto area, said she bought a Betty Crocker cake mix from the Ultramar in Burton, a rural community not far from 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown.
She told investigator J.C. Leblanc that she added avocado oil and coconut flavouring to the mix. She ate five of the cupcakes the night before giving them to the soldiers and felt fine, she said.
“As soon as I heard people got sick I went back to the Ultramar and said this happened,” said Cogswell.
Eight soldiers testified last week about eating the cupcakes on July 21, 2018, during a live-fire training exercise. Cogswell was in charge of the canteen where they got the cupcakes.
The soldiers said they soon began experiencing symptoms of fatigue, drunkenness, disorientation, confusion and paranoia. Some worried about handling guns and ammunition.
Medical marijuana helps her sleep
In the courtroom Monday, Cogswell, wearing a green dress and a white jacket, wiped her eyes with tissue when a video from her police interviews was played.
In one interview, Cogswell said she did use medical marijuana in capsule form to help her sleep because she was having trouble sleeping after a traumatic event the year before.
When asked about herself, Cogswell said that when she comes home from work, she locks the doors, cooks dinner and feeds her cat.
“I don’t date, I don’t go out,” she said. “I’m still recovering from what happened.”
Cogswell did not go into detail about what had happened the year before.
She did describe the culture working at the canteen to Leblanc and told him she was often called the “canteen bitch” by soldiers.
She said marijuana use was rife among soldiers on the gun line.
In his submission to the judge, Cogswell’s defence lawyer Ian Kasper asked for an acquittal of all charges, saying the evidence offered was “evidence of opportunity.”
Case called ‘circumstantial’
There were others with access to the cupcakes who could have added cannabis to them, Kasper said
“It’s extremely circumstantial.”
Only one cupcake wrapper was seized and sent to Health Canada to be tested.
Cannabis was found on the wrapper, but it could have come from another source, said Kasper.
Further, none of the eight soldiers affected were drug tested to prove the cannabis is what made them sick.
The prosecution, led by Maj. Max Reede, asked the judge to consider all the evidence as a whole, not as unconnected. He said there were inconsistencies in Cogswell’s statements to police.
In her first statement, he said, “The accused goes on to note, ‘I warned every single person before they ate a cupcake. I said ‘it’s hot, you’re drinking Monsters, it’s chocolate, it could upset your belly. If you’re scared of that don’t eat them.’ I warned every single person before.'”
In her second statement, Cogswell said she was concerned the avocado oil and coconut flavouring may have made everyone sick.
“According to her statement, she was present every time someone received a cupcake,” said Reede, disputing Kasper’s claim that someone else could have tampered with the cupcake.
“Each of these points in isolation may not amount to much, and that is the nature of circumstantial evidence, but these inconsistencies in the context of all the other evidence could lead a reasonably instructed jury to conclude that the accused did commit the offences.”