Pubdate: Sat, 13 Sep 2003
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2003 The London Free Press a division of Sun Media Corporation.
Author: Randy Richmond


A Melbourne couple claims their Charter rights were violated over drug
charges that were eventually withdrawn.

In an apparent first in Ontario, a member of the Hells Angels and his wife
have filed a $3-million lawsuit against London, provincial and federal
police. Melbourne residents Marty and Veronica Zager are claiming police
negligence, malicious prosecution and the breach of their Charter rights
over drug and conspiracy charges that were eventually withdrawn.

"I feel strongly the police took advantage of their authority and they
misused it," Veronica Zager said yesterday.

"I think they should be held accountable for it."

The suit alleges police ignored evidence and harassed the Zagers, their
associates and their children.

Police had not been served with papers yesterday, but their lawyers vowed to
fight the lawsuit.

"It certainly will be defended," said David Thompson, a London lawyer
representing the police board and city officers.

The officers will get a "vigorous defence," vowed Brian Adkin, president of
the Ontario Provincial Police Association.

"It is a pain, but it is hazard of employment," he said.

Police couldn't remember a case of a self-acknowledged Hells Angels member

There's been "nothing that I'm aware of," said Sgt. Terrence Maroz, manager
of civil litigation for the OPP.

The statement of claim was filed recently in Ontario Superior Court of
Justice in Toronto. It contains allegations that have not been proven. No
statement of defence has been filed yet.

Named in the claim are the Attorney General of Canada, which oversees the
RCMP, the London police services board and eight RCMP, OPP and London police
officers, including members of the province's Biker Enforcement Unit.

The province will be added to the claim soon, said lawyer Linda Chen, with
Sack Goldblatt, Mitchell of Toronto.

The statement of claim centres on a March 21, 2002, raid on the Zagers'
residence in Melbourne and two of their area massage parlours.

The claim alleges London, OPP and RCMP officers broke open the door of the
Zagers' home with guns drawn, scaring two of their children, 7 and 9.

Their 17-year-old daughter asked to see a search warrant and was "physically
dragged away" by an officer, the Zagers claim.

The officers then searched an outbuilding on the property, rented to others,
and found drugs.

Even though police knew the outbuilding was rented and someone else admitted
the drugs were his, police charged the Zagers with possession for the
purpose of trafficking, the claim says.

Police then alerted the media and the attention prompted their banks to
freeze their accounts, the Zagers say.

Based on wiretaps that began in March, the Zagers were then charged in
December with conspiracy to obstruct justice by claiming someone else owned
the drugs.

All charges were withdrawn, their criminal lawyer in the cases, James
Lockyer, confirmed yesterday.

Police were negligent and acted with malice by ignoring evidence, the claim

Besides the emotional trauma of harassment and time in jail, the Zagers
suffered loss of income, the claim states.

Several of their basic rights, including freedom from arbitrary
imprisonment, were taken, the Zagers claim.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Josh