Narcotics Bust: Breaking Bad? or Broken Back?



A 60-year-old John Edward Heinonen appears handcuffed shortly after 2 pm this afternoon in Bail Courtroom 103 before Justice of the Peace Bruce Leaman on 3 weapons-related charges. He’s approximately 5’8” and slim build. He’s well dressed in greyish clothing. He’s very attentive throughout the entire proceeding.


THIS IS A CROWN ONUS CASE. The accused is represented by local lawyer James Lisowski and the Crown Attorney is Mary-Ann Mackett. The Crown wants to detain Heinonen in jail or a potential surety release which is essentially the most onerous form of release and the highest rung on the bail ladder.

Defence lawyer Lisowski is of the legal opinion his client should be released on a much lower rung of the bail ladder and he’s prepared to fight for it.

We have a contested bail hearing on a Friday afternoon.



Law enforcement agents nabbed a 60-year-old Thunder Bay man in a Grand Portage drug bust on Friday, March 2, 2018.

John Edward Heinonen was arrested by agents from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Border Patrol at about noon after he took delivery at the Grand Portage post office of a package containing hundreds of non-prescribed narcotic pills.

Postal inspectors earlier had intercepted the package in California, addressed to Heinonen in Minnesota. Authorities found it to contain 390 codeine and 440 diazepam pills shipped from Fiji.

In turn, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials contacted the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. Agents were waiting when Heinonen arrived at the post office to receive the package and arrested him as he returned to his pickup truck.

Inside the truck, they found four more packages, all addressed to Heinonen. Those packages were opened after a search warrant was obtained. They were reported to contain 400 carisprodol, 740 tramadol hydrochloride, 380 zopiclone and 690 tramadol HCL pills. In total, Heinonen was found to be in possession of 3,040 narcotic pills with a combined weight of about 1,100 grams.

During questioning, Heinonen claimed that all the drugs were for personal use, but he acknowledged he had no prescriptions for them. He explained that he found he could purchase the drugs more economically from abroad.
Heinonen has been charged with first-degree drug possession but was released on March 5, 2018, after his brother brought money to the USA posting the $100,000 bail.

The arrest was made with the assistance of the U.S. Border Patrol and the Cook County Drug Task Force, which includes the Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Border Patrol, Minnesota State Patrol and Minnesota conservation officers, in cooperation with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations. The Sheriff’s Office also is working with law enforcement in Canada on the case. Heinonen had 987$ US and 150$ CDN cash on him


Court hears from the Crown that on March 4, 2018, Sergeant Rybak with Thunder Bay Police received a call from Deputy Jason Hughes of Cook County Sheriff’s Office about the recent arrest of Heinonen. TBPS secure a search warrant that day and enter Heinonen’s home of 5 acres on Onion Lake Road at 5:35 pm through the garage door. Several weapons are seized and computers. Court hears that Heinonen allegedly used a “ghost IP” address on the computer to order all the pills from Fiji. Police continue to investigate the computers. Heinonen has a Licence for restricted firearms commonly referred to as an RPAL.


Court hears allegations of a loaded .303 rifle with no trigger lock in the master bedroom. Also allegedly found is a mini handheld crossbow with 7 bolts (arrows) at a different location in the home. It’s alleged to be a prohibited weapon.


A Walther GSP .22 calibre handgun that allegedly is not registered is found.

Police busted open his gun safe and four other restricted firearms are seized as well as all rifles and shotguns. Court hears they were all secured properly. The court does not hear of any evidence of drugs or cash found at his home.
Court hears that Heinonen waived his right to counsel and silence in America. He allegedly told authorities it was personal use for back pain. By March 7, 2018, Heinonen has still not returned to Canada. Sgt. Rybak contacts his American counterpart to inquire. An arrest warrant is issued for Heinonen. Heinonen returns to Canada on March 14, 2018, and is arrested by Thunder Bay Police and held at Thunder Bay Jail.

Crown Attorney Mary-Ann Mackett begins to discuss the American charges as a reason to detain Heinonen. Defence lawyer James Lisowski is quick on his feet to object to further details of this. He wants the focus to be on the Canadian charges and finds this highly prejudicial to his client. The Canadian Court has no jurisdiction over American charges. The Justice of the Peace gives Mackett a bit of leeway on the discussion of the American charges but it’s limited mostly as a segue to why the search warrant was executed in the first place on Heinonen’s home. His Worship Leaman concurs with Lisowski that the focus of this hearing should be on Canadian charges.


Mackett suggests to the court that jeopardy is becoming large and he might become a flight risk.

Lisowski seems to consider this ridiculous and counters that the gravity of his Canadian allegations are low. His client has no criminal record, has strong ties to the community and the maximum sentence for these crimes is 5 years if found guilty. There is no mandatory minimum. Heinonen has never had a single criminal charge in his life until these recent allegations. It would be highly unlikely that his client receives any jail time whatsoever on the Canadian charges.

Lisowski is very well prepared for this lengthy hearing today and chooses to call his client to the stand to testify. It’s not a move this Counsellor makes often at a Bail Hearing Heinonen is escorted to the witness stand by one of Thunder Bay’s finest and fastest officers Kevin.

Heinonen is sworn in. Lisowski leads his client on background questions. Heinonen tells the court that he was born in Port Arthur in 1957. He graduated from Hammarskjold High School then went to the University of Manitoba for 5 years, graduating as a dentist with high marks. He spent 6 years as an associate dentist and 13 years in his own practice at 777 Red River Road. He began developing back problems and pain in his late 30’s. He ultimately had to retire in his early 40’s due to back pain in an effort to try to manage his pain. He testifies his mother encouraged him to try stock market trading during the crash of 1987. He’s been doing it ever since and follows it daily. He made 30 000$ last year trading. It’s not a steady income but it teaches humility he testifies.

He further testifies that he receives a disability income for his back. He owns his own home and vehicle. His mother and brother are here in Thunder Bay. He has other families in Finland. He and his brother visit and care for their 87-year-old mother here in Thunder Bay on a daily basis.

Lisowski questions him about his health. Heinonen testifies he has heart disease and had heart surgery recently. Also has diabetes and arthritis. Jail is affecting his health. Jail food is not good for his diabetes and he hasn’t been getting enough exercise which is adversely affecting his blood sugar and health. He hasn’t slept properly because lights are always on in jail.

Lisowski asks him if he will be able to follow conditions. Heinonen responds that he now knows what being incarcerated is like and will do anything to avoid going back.

Heinonen is very articulate in his responses and very comprehensive of all questions presented.
Crown Attorney Mackett questions Heinonen. “Do you have an addiction?”

Heinonen responds “No I do not”.

She begins to suggest that police are still investigating and speculates there could be further charges.
His Worship Leaman interjects that it’s not appropriate for him to deal with things that might happen.
Mackett has a couple more questions for Heinonen but then changes her mind. She decides that Heinonen should be released based on the testimony she’s heard and wants to release him. It’s just a matter of release conditions. Lisowski tells the court his client is “on the radar and not going anywhere”.

Heinonen returns to the prisoner’s box.


Final submissions to His Worship Leaman.

Crown Mackett suggests a bail condition to allow police to search Heinonen’s home whenever they wish
Defence lawyer Lisowski’s reply to that request is “constitutional rights cannot be given away at the bail stage”.

Lisowski has all angles covered today and is very well prepared. He has Heinonen’s brother present as potential surety and has also had John Howard Bail Supervision approval done in advance anticipating worst-case scenario but he is steadfastly confident in his submissions and case law. He further submits to the court the recent decision of R. v Tunney from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The Tunney decision covers numerous problems within the bail system. Overuse of sureties is one of those problems. Lisowski further submits that there is no evidence these firearms were used for any nefarious or threatening purpose. This is northern Ontario. He lives in a rural area.

Lisowski wants his client released on an undertaking with minimal conditions.

Justice of the Peace Leaman is meticulous and covers all aspects of everything in his final decision. He states “ The important thing to remember is that this man is innocent until proven guilty at trial. People might want to link things in their minds but they are not linked in law. There is no reason to detain on primary, secondary or tertiary grounds. This person is minimal or no risk to the public.He’s never had criminal charges before in his life and he’s entitled to show that he can comply with court orders “

His Worship rules that Heinonen be released on the lowest rung of the bail ladder with an undertaking. He wants to impose 2 conditions. The first condition is that Heinonen turn in his passport to police and second condition is that Heinonen not possess any weapons.

Defence lawyer Lisowski is quick again to point out that his client will require his passport to travel back to the USA to deal with his American charges. His Worship Leaman recognizes this to be an issue and an oversight on his part. He thanks Lisowski for pointing this out. Mackett has no objection.

Thunder Bay Police remove the handcuffs from the accused. Heinonen is released on an undertaking with one condition: do not to have any weapons. His next court date is for First Appearance in Courtroom 105 on Tuesday, April 10, 2018. He exits the courthouse with his brother.

Court closes 2.5 hours after this started at 4:30 pm for what is quite possibly the longest hearing ever to release someone on an undertaking with one condition.



With files from the Duluth News Tribune