Pubdate: Fri, 29 Jan 2016
Source: Sudbury Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Osprey Media
Author: Liam Casey
Page: A8
Bookmark: (Corruption - Outside U.S.)


Four officers charged with perjury, obstruction of justice

TORONTO - Four Toronto police officers have been charged with 
obstruction of justice and perjury after allegedly providing false 
testimony in court.

Police Chief Mark Saunders says the officers face a total of 17 
charges and have all been suspended with pay as the case plays out in court.

Saunders says a team from the force's professional standards division 
will investigate other cases the officers have worked on.

"Anything that questions the integrity of any member of the Toronto 
Police Service concerns me," Saunders said at a news conference 
Thursday morning.

Court documents show the charges against the officers stem from the 
case of a man accused of drug possession and drug trafficking 
following a traffic stop on Jan. 13, 2014.

In September, Ontario Superior Court Judge Edward Morgan dismissed 
the charges against Nguyen Son Tran, ruling that the drugs found in 
his car were not admissible due to an unreasonable search and seizure 
that violated the defendant's charter rights, according to the court documents.

The judge cited the officers' inconsistent testimony as a reason for 
dismissing the charges.

"The false creation of a pretext to search the defendant's vehicle, 
combined with the collusive fabrication of a story by the two lead 
Officers as to why they came to assist in the traffic stop of the 
defendant, certainly amounts to egregiously wrongful conduct," Morgan 
wrote in his decision.

The officers' accounts of the initial traffic stop vary, Morgan noted.

Tran was pulled over and police said they saw heroin sprinkled on the 
console of his car, which led to a further search of the car where 
they found roughly 12 grams of heroin. One officer alleged Tran had 
run a red light and nearly hit a pedestrian.

Tran testified that he had not run a red light, but was pulled over 
by police after one officer recognized him and said no heroin was 
found in his car, but that an officer produced a bag of heroin after 
searching the vehicle.

It was the same officer who had arrested Tran a year earlier. Tran 
eventually pleaded guilty to possessing heroin in that case, 
according to court documents.

"There is too much falsehood, and too many unexplained and otherwise 
unexplainable elements in the police testimony," Morgan wrote in his decision.

"I conclude from all this that the loose heroin was placed on the 
console of the Toyota by the police after their search, and was not 
left there by the defendant prior to the search."

The charges against the officers haven't been tested in court.

Tran's lawyer, Kim Schofield, told The Canadian Press she was pleased 
with the charges laid against the officers.

"They figured out afterward that they needed grounds in order to 
search him," she said, alleging they "conspired to plant evidence."

Toronto police union head Mike McCormack said the allegations are disturbing.

"We're troubled by these types of allegations, but they are 
allegations and they aren't proven in court yet," McCormack said.

He said he has spoken to all four officers who were charged, adding 
"they're obviously quite upset by it."

"I imagine that they will be pleading not guilty on this."

McCormack said the officers were arrested around 7 a.m. Thursday and 
released before 9 a.m., emphasizing the officers weren't given 
special treatment.

On Monday, Const. James Forcillo was found guilty of attempted murder 
in the shooting death of Sammy Yatim on a streetcar in 2013, but 
found not guilty of murder.

McCormack said the new allegations have made for a difficult week for 
Toronto police officers, but said the public should have confidence 
in the force as a whole.

"We're concerned about public confidence and police legitimacy, but 
the officers are dedicated professionals and we testify thousands and 
thousands of times a year, and we'll continue to do our jobs."

The officers charged Thursday are: Const. Jeffrey Tout, 41, Det. 
Const. Benjamin Elliott, 32, Const. Michael Taylor, 34, and Det. 
Const. Fraser Douglas, 37.

All are scheduled to appear in court on March 11.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom