“Charges withdrawn……

…….against 4 Toronto cops”

So read the Toronto Star headline over Wendy Gillis’ November 10, 2017 column.

“A high-profile case involving four Toronto police officers accused of planting heroin on a car dashboard then falsifying court testimony has collapsed before going to trial, after the Crown withdrew the more than two dozen perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges.”

Last week we posted Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan’s September 2015 ruling that found four Toronto police officers had planted drugs in Nguyen Son Tran’s car back in January of 2014. Morgan threw out the seized drugs as evidence and stayed the charges against Tran.

After that decision and the publicity around it, the police’s professional standards unit investigated. That resulted in a total of 25 charges against the four officers, including 10 directed at 10-year veteran Benjamin Elliot. A downcast Toronto Chief Mark Saunders told a January, 2016 news conference that all four officers were suspended…with pay…and faced professional misconduct charges under the Police Services Act.

So, what happened?

In March of this year, that same Toronto Police professional standards unit advised the Crown Attorney prosecuting the case that privileged information had been inadvertently disclosed to the officers’ attorneys. A back-and-forth between the police and the Crown over how this might impact the viability of the court action meant the Crown had a duty to review and re-examine its “voluminous” case, and conduct a “painstaking and detailed reappraisal.” How this privileged information was characterized wasn’t mentioned.

In any case, the delay would postpone the trial until at least the fall of next year, exceeding the timeline limits established by the Supreme Court’s decision in R v. Jordan. The Crown felt it had no choice but to withdraw the charges, and that despite remedies available to sidestep the Supreme Court limits. As one Toronto criminal lawyer put it, “that the Crown attorney on such an important case would simply give up in the face of these issues is shocking and disheartening.”

At the same time, lawyers for the accused considered this a victory, and more, that the four officers were vindicated

What really happened though is that the Toronto Police Service sabotaged a criminal case against four of its own, based on an investigation it had conducted. One would think the forces professional standards unit would be professional standards experts, wouldn’t one? As Nguyen Son Tran’s lawyer said, the police “screwed up their own disclosure obligations? It just stinks.”

One other question appears never to have surfaced at any point, or with any observer. What did Tran do to warrant so much interest from Toronto police back in January of 2014?

PONDER THIS FOR A COUPLE OF WEEKS. WE’RE TAKING A CHRISTMAS/NEW YEAR’S BREAK……..BACK AGAIN ON JANUARY 7, 2018!

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Now, here’s a twist….

…..first the ‘set-up’

The Toronto Star, Friday, September 11, 2015
Marco Chown Oved, staff reporter
“Judge rules police planted heroin in order to frame driver”

It’s the afternoon of January 13, 2014 in Toronto. Nguyen Son Tran is in his car, stopped at a red light. He has a criminal record, pleading guilty a year earlier to heroin possession, although he claimed at the time it belonged to someone else. As he sat waiting for the light to change, Tran noticed Toronto Police Detective Constable Benjamin Elliot in plain clothes pull up beside him in an unmarked car. It was Elliot who had arrested him the year before.

The light changes, and after driving through the intersection, Tran is pulled over by Constable Jeffrey Tout in a police cruiser, later testifying Tran ran a red light. Tout is on his cell phone as he approaches Tran’s car, and is overheard to say, “exactly him” as he comes within earshot. Tran steps out of his car. Elliot arrives on the scene in less than two minutes. Sergeant Michael Taylor and Detective Constable Fraser Douglas also show up. Elliot searches Tran’s car and shortly produces a bag of heroin, saying, “I found it.”

This is a part of the written findings of Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan when he tossed the seized drugs as evidence and stayed the drug charges against Tran in September of 2015. According to the police, they noticed a pile of loose heroin powder on Tran’s dashboard, which led to the search of the car. Eleven more grams of the drug was found wrapped in plastic and stowed behind the steering column.

But, police couldn’t explain how loose heroin got onto the dashboard; there was nothing to indicate how it got there. And why wouldn’t Tran have simply brushed it away when he was stopped. The judge’s conclusion? The heroin was planted.

According to Justice Morgan, the four officers all presented differing versions of what happened on that 2014 afternoon ….except they all did agree to the loose heroin on the dashboard. He ruled they “obviously colluded” in their testimony, describing their actions and false testimony in court “egregiously wrongful conduct.” He cited a number of points where he found police testimony to be patently untrue.

What consequences the officers would face, if any, did not come up at the time, although Toronto Police Service’s able spokesperson, Mark Pugash, did say judge’s comments are taken very seriously.

What’s going on here? Next week, we’ll skip forward two years and pick up the ‘play.’

A comeback – No-Fault Murder?

…..unexpected, but one more reason to persist.

The November 12 post, No-Fault Murder?, included the November 6 letter to Ontario’s correctional service minister Marie-France Lalonde, challenging the decision not to lay charges in the death of Soleiman Faqiri. Eight parties were copied.

Within days, Will Herbert, Inspector of Support Services for the Kawartha Lakes Police Service, and one of the copied, responded by email:

“The City of Kawartha Lakes Police Service acknowledges receipt of correspondence from you dated November 6th, 2017. Please be advised that the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) manages public complaints against police. Should you wish to formally pursue your complaint, the OIPRD can be reached at……

….the website followed….the message concluded….

Feel free to contact me if I can of any further assistance.
Best regards”

Innocent enough, but this is a circumstance that involves the unnecessary loss of life. And, the loss of a citizen’s life at the hands of public servants no less. Every opportunity to comment should be exercised.

We waited a few days:-

“Thank you for your November 9 email in response to my November 6 letter to Ontario’s Minister of Community Safety & Correctional Services, and which was copied to KLPS. This was not so much a complaint against the Kawartha Lakes Police Service or any of its members but more a part of an ongoing social media conversation around the fraternal cooperation among civil servants to avoid accountability. I hesitate to use the stronger language I hear from parties whose frustration leads to rash judgments, although I can understand the irritation.

No doubt, Mr. Faqiri’s family has legal representation, and whether or not an inquiry into his death is held, we can be certain a settlement with a non-disclosure clause is in the works.

In the meantime, there is no point in approaching the OIPRD with a complaint addressing the investigation at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay.

What is the point, and what is more important here, is using what faculties we have to move public opinion.

I appreciate you taking the time to write.

Yours truly…..”

The ‘stronger language’ referenced in the message includes the word COLLUSION, which can be justified with certainty, but needs the weight of that public opinion to have any hope of impact.

We know the drill……stand up, speak up, etc., etc.,