…..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.’