OROMOCTO, N.B. — The soldier convicted of serving cannabis-laced cupcakes to eight of her comrades during a live-fire training exercise in New Brunswick in 2018 has been sentenced to 30 days in jail, but plans to appeal.
Bombardier Chelsea Cogswell is also to be dismissed from the Canadian Armed Forces and reduced in rank to private gunner.
Military Judge Cmdr. Sandra Sukstorf delivered the sentence at a hearing Friday, but just moments later, Cogswell's lawyer informed the court of his intention to appeal the conviction and was ready to file an application for Cogswell's release pending that appeal.
After a number of breaks in the proceedings to prepare the documents, Sukstorf granted the release with a number of conditions, such as having no contact with any members of the artillery school, and to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.
The prosecution had recommended a year in jail, while the defence told the court the soldier should instead be dismissed from the military and demoted to the rank of private.
Cogswell, 28, was found guilty on eight counts of administering a noxious substance and one count of disgraceful conduct following a court martial in August.
She had served the cupcakes to soldiers while operating a mobile field canteen on July 21, 2018, on the training grounds of 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown.
The soldiers were taking part in Exercise Common Gunner - a major live-fire training exercise involving about 150 personnel - using large howitzer guns.
The affected soldiers had to stop their role in the exercise when they became ill and complained of feeling paranoid and anxious.
Testimony during the court martial described soldiers who were wandering around places they shouldn't have been while others were laughing and giggling. At one point it was reported that group of people fell down laughing.
"These circumstances presented a potential for significant harm including death," the judge said in August.
A former commandant of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery School also testified Tuesday that Cogswell's actions potentially placed individuals in a great amount of danger.
During the sentencing hearing Monday, the prosecution read from the victim impact statements of five of the soldiers. They described feeling betrayed and now had difficulty trusting other people. One said he had trouble going back to work because many of his fellow soldiers felt the episode was funny.
During sentencing Friday, Sukstorf said Cogswell's actions had damaged trust among soldiers.
"Members serve together in austere circumstances and the interdependency and trust placed upon each member in various units are necessary for survival. Trust is a cornerstone upon which a member’s loyalty, duty, integrity and courage rests," she said.
"While serving on operations and on exercise members rely upon each other for the delivery and provision of water, rations and any other necessary supplies. They can’t be constantly second-guessing what might have been added to their food. Trust is implicit in service," she said.
Defence lawyer Ian Kasper told the court that Cogswell suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and from cyclothymia, a mood disorder. Kasper also said that a combination of comments and catcalls from fellow soldiers had pushed her to her limit.
The judge said she had considered a longer jail sentence but greatly reduced it because of Cogswell's mental health issues.
The defence must still apply to have an appeal heard by the Court Martial Appeal Court of the Canadian Armed Forces. No date has been set.
This report by The Canadian Press was published on Nov. 19, 2021.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press