Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

Archive for September 2018

Canadian cops held in Cuba need justice

with 6 comments

Like many of you I was gripped by the testimony last week of Christine Blasey Ford who accused US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault way back when the two were teenagers and high school students, in what we think was the summer of 1982. 

But even that’s not clear. 

She doesn’t remember a date. She doesn’t remember a location. She seemingly doesn’t remember much other than what she says Kavanaugh did to her. The four people she said were present at the gathering all say they have no recollection of anything similar to what she described including her BFF.

As an investigator, there is so much wrong with her story. As an example, she claims she went to a social gathering at this house but she doesn’t remember where, when or even whose house it was after an afternoon at her country club. She claims when she went to an upstairs washroom she was grabbed by Kavanaugh and his friend and steered into an adjacent bedroom where she was held down and Kavanaugh tried to remove her clothes. 

She claims they turned up music in the bedroom all the while saying there was no music playing downstairs where the others were.  And nobody heard anything including her BFF. 

She then claims she fled after she escaped the two boys but doesn’t remember how she got home. Implicit in this is she left her BFF in the house with two predators, older teen boys and doesn’t remember how she got home. 

Well, I call bulls**t.

I have investigated many complaints over the 40 or so years of my career and I have never heard a less credible story. A 15-yr-old girl goes to a party with older high school guys and leaves her BFF and doesn’t remember how she got where she was, how she got home, where the home was or whose home it was? Nonsense. 

Now I don’t want to diminish any woman who is a victim of any sort of sexual assault. I have investigated and prosecuted many such cases. But please, don’t strain my credulity with nonsense. 

But, and this really must be stated in this Me Too era, just because a woman says something occurred doesn’t mean we have to automatically believe her. 

About 10 years ago I had a conversation with the person in charge of the Sex Crime Unit in one of the Big Five Lower Mainland RCMP detachments and she told me that she estimated approximately 90% of the complaints she investigated were unfounded. I was stunned. 

So, I called the then head of the Sex Crime Unit for a major municipal police department and asked her the same question. She said, and this quote is indelibly etched in my mind, “No, I don’t think it’s as high as 90%. Maybe 85%.”

There are many reasons why a woman might allege something occurred that didn’t actually occur. In the case of Judge Kavanaugh it seems more politically motivated than anything else. Especially given the timeline of the complaint, the lack of questioning by the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Diane Feinstein when she had the opportunity, the dramatic leaking of the identity of the complainant especially in view of the fact she prepared for that weeks prior  by scrubbing her social media, hiring a lawyer referred to her by Feinstein and taking a private polygraph that she doesn’t know who paid for it. 

All of which brings me back to the two Vancouver area police officers being held, since mid-March in Cuba after an allegation of sexual assault by a fellow tourist they encountered in a poolside bar at a resort in Cuba. 

In any such case an investigator looks for evidence of corroboration to give credibility to one party or the other. 

In the Cuba case, the female involved claims she was dragged, at 4:30 in the afternoon, in peak season, from the poolside bar to and through the lobby of the busy resort, up three flights of stairs and held down and raped in a room occupied by the two cops. 

Above is a screen shot of the resort with the location of the bar and the distance to the resort lobby:

Does this even seem remotely plausible? During peak season with a very busy resort, 500 metres to the lobby, past stores, the lobby bar, the front desk and no one noticed? How is that possible?

Well, it isn’t, and that’s why we can say the complaint doesn’t hold water. Why won’t the Cuban authorities see the blindingly obvious? Why won’t the Government of Canada see it as well and intercede on behalf of the two police officers? 

The complainant and the two officers are Canadians. No Cubans were involved in any part of this. If an investigation is required into this, and I would argue that the complaint simply doesn’t pass the sniff test on the surface of things, why shouldn’t that investigation occur in Canada by competent Canadian investigators and make the two officers subject to Canadian law?

Finally, it must be said that I expect little out of the government of Justin Trudeau. He has been a Castro sycophant his whole life. The Minister of what is now Global Affairs, Chrystia Freeland is over in her head with the NAFTA negotiations and the Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale has been a Trudeau lackey since he was first elected as an MP when Trudeau the Elder was the Prime Minister. He has never held a real job or achieved anything in his whole  adult life. Sad, but we cannot really expect much of anything from this lot. 

Erin O’Toole, the opposition critic for Global Affairs, has been made aware of the situation but has yet to do much of anything as far as I can tell. What he should do is raise the matter in Question Period which will get the attention of the parliamentary press gallery and may actually cause the government to do something.

In the meantime, the two police officers languish in Cuba, paying to stay in a hotel with the support of their family and they are struggling emotionally and financially because even though they are not in jail, the Cuban government won’t let them leave. They really need to see something resembling justice and the only way that will happen is if the Canadian government gets seized with their responsibility for their citizens being held in a foreign, communist country. 

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Leo Knight 

@primetimecrime

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Written by Leo Knight

September 30, 2018 at 8:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Cops held in Cuba get community support

with 26 comments

There’s been a lot of reaction to my last post about the two Vancouver area cops who went to Cuba for a holiday last March and are still there because the Cuban government won’t let them leave. VPD Constable Mark Simms, then 28, and his close friend, Port Moody PD Constable Jordan Long, then 30, were enjoying a planned holiday of sun and relaxation when they had a fateful encounter with a girl. 

They were accused of sexual assault by a fellow tourist from Canada, herself a 17-year-old from Ontario. The accusation is that she walked over to the two males seated at the swimming pool bar at their resort. I should add the girl had been in the bar drinking with friends at the same time so there was no reason to assume she was underage. Resort staff were serving her. Equally, age in not a legal question in this matter as the age of consent is 16 in Cuba.

She walked over to the two friends and told them she wanted to have sex with them. Some of the reaction I received concerned why they let her follow them to their room and why did they let her in. Gee, I don’t know. They were on holiday at a resort in Cuba. They’d been drinking at the pool. The girl wanted sex and Simms being a single, healthy guy acceded. Long stepped out on the balcony to let nature take its course. 

The female made two attempts to interest Long but was rebuffed both times. The female got dressed and left and the guys laid down on their beds for a nap. The next thing they knew hotel security were rousing them and their nightmare began. 

The complaint from the girl to the Cuban police said they dragged her from the pool bar over 500 metres to the resort hotel, through a busy hotel lobby and up three flights of stairs to their room where she was held down and raped.

Those are the two sides to this ‘He said / she said’ story.  What we do know for sure is the Cuban police have booted this one around the block. In any matter like this, investigators need to establish if there is any evidence that corroborates one side or the other. Or conversely, finding evidence that pokes holes in the story of one side or the other. 

Police did not immediately request the CCTV video all around the resort be saved for them to review. Why not? This would have conclusively established which side was telling the truth.

A medical exam of the female yielded no corroborating evidence of rape. Typically, there is bruising, vaginal tearing, defensive wounds and the like. Nothing in this case. 

A blood alcohol test of the alleged victim taken 17 hours later yielded a BAC of .12 or 50% higher than the legal limit in Canada. After 17 hours we don’t know if that’s a residual alcohol level or if she consumed alcohol in the interim between the event and the test. 

Police canvassing folks at the hotel yielded no one, staff or otherwise, who saw anything like the girl is claiming. 

That, in itself, is telling. The cops, for their part, were kept separated and interviewed separately and gave similar versions of events. That tends to corroborate their stories. 

They were held in custody for seven days. They managed to contact Canadian officials and their family in Vancouver because Long managed to keep his phone with him and availed himself of the opportunity to reach out to the outside world when he was alone. 

Reverend Blake Field, pastor of the Wilson Heights United church, where the Simms family are parishioners, wanted to help. He speaks Spanish from an earlier assignment in Spain. He got permission of church elders  to go there to see what he could do. He made two trips and spent a total of 26 days there, translating, liaising with the police, Canadian officials and assisting defence counsel in reviewing the investigation including the only statement taken by from the complainant by the police. Two weeks ago he issued a statement to his congregation which he has shared with me. 

In it, he says, “I am not a lawyer, but from all I have seen and heard during the 26 days I spent in Cuba, I am deeply concerned because I am convinced that Constable Mark Simms and Constable Jordan Long have been accused of a crime they did not commit.  I firmly believe that the evidence does not substantiate and actually undermines the reliability and sincerity of the allegations made against them.  This unthinkable situation has taken a substantial toll on these two individuals:  physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and financially, and has been a great burden on their families, loved ones, friends and community.”

“I ask people to imagine how they would feel if criminal allegations they believed with all their hearts were untrue were made against their son or brother or nephew or friend, or indeed themselves. Magnify that by the fact that it took place in a foreign country with its own laws and legal process very different from ours with the serious complication of a complete language barrier.  In my personal life and as a minister of the Christian Church, I stand in absolute solidarity with victims of violence.  That is why I find this particular situation so disturbing, especially at a time when victims are feeling empowered to finally come forward and hold their abusers to account for their actions, as this only detracts from the important movement that is taking place.”

“An appropriate time may come to elaborate on the details which have caused me to believe that Simms and Long are the victims of allegations which are not true.  In the meantime, we ask for your prayers and your support for these two people and their families.” 

“This church has a long history of working for justice, both in the world and in particular situations of crisis.  Because of my experience, I absolutely believe that the details of this situation do not support the allegations that were made. The leadership of this congregation fully supports the work I have done and has covered the expenses related to it. But now these families need your help and support. I would like to announce that the congregation of Wilson Heights United Church has started a benevolent fund to help offset the considerable financial costs that this long ordeal has incurred for these individuals and their families.  We initiated a campaign to which donations can be made through the church website at www.whuc.net or, if you prefer, donations identified for this cause can be made by sending a cheque to the church.   I wish to be clear that I did not go to Cuba as an individual, but rather I went with the blessing and under the auspices of the church I serve.  Likewise, my statement today and the fundraising campaign are to be understood as aspects of this congregation’s mission in the area of justice-seeking in response to this crisis.  May God bless this work.”

Indeed. Godspeed Reverend. 

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

September 9, 2018 at 5:49 pm

Posted in Crime & Punishment

Cops in Cuban paradise in living hell

with 22 comments

It was supposed to be a great week of fun in the sun, a week on the beach in Cuba, get out of the March rains in Vancouver and a much-needed respite from the stresses of the streets in the Lower Mainland for two cops. 

Mark Simms, 28, and close friend of 8 years, Jordan Long, 30, both have about six years law enforcement experience. Simms has been in Vancouver Police Department for over a year after spending years in Delta PD. Long spent years in Corrections before joining Port Moody Police Department about five years ago.  They lead clean lives spending most of their time keeping physically fit and working. 

The boys were sitting by the pool bar at their resort hotel having a few libations late in the afternoon they were approached by a female who was described as about 20 yrs old, 5’10” with a heavyset build. She started the conversation with the two holidaying officers by saying,”I just [expletive deleted] someone who looks like you.”

“I want more and I wouldn’t mind [expletive deleted] both of you,” said the female. 

After a bit of conversation, and, I might add, not accepting her generous offer, the boys excused themselves and got up to go back to their room to have their usual pre-dinner nap.  The girl followed. In the room Mark was laying on the bed nearest the washroom and Jordan went into the bathroom. The female followed and the boys were passive, not dismissing her. 

Once in the room, the female undressed and threw herself onto the bed with Mark while Jordan went into the bathroom. The girl then got out of bed, entered the bathroom, grabbed Jordan by the neck and tried to pull his face toward her in an effort to kiss him. He didn’t want anything to do with her and pulled away and went out onto the balcony.

Upset by Jordan’s rejection, the girl then climbed back onto the bed with Mark and, being a young, healthy, single male, consensual activity ensued. 

After the brief encounter, the female went out to the balcony and asked Jordan to help tie her bikini top. Jordan declined again, not wanting anything to do with her.  Unlike Mark, he was not available.

The female left shortly thereafter and the boys laid down to have a nap.  They were awakened by hotel security about 30 minutes later and taken downstairs where they heard “That’s them.” Police were then called and they had Jordan get his things. 

Without any explanation or reason given, they were taken to a police station in Santa Marta.  They were questioned separately in Spanish with only a Sunwing rep to translate, denied access to a lawyer and kept in cells for 7 days.

Jordan had managed to keep his cell phone secreted on him and when he had the opportunity he called the Canadian Embassy in Havana and his brother back in Vancouver. Meanwhile the girl was allowed to return to her home in Ontario. She did not give a formal statement where investigators could question her properly. 

Under Cuban law she doesn’t have to testify. Defence and prosecution counsel are supposed to be present during such a statement interview which is the only chance an accused, via counsel, can challenge the accuser. This legal procedure was not adhered to.

The only evidence they have seen is from a female accuser’s written statement, in which she stated she was dragged from the pool, through the busy hotel lobby to the boy’s room, where she claims she was held down by the neck and shoulders and raped. 

They have since learned the police did take a test for the blood alcohol level in the female  and it was .12, well over the legal limit in Canada. The only problem was the test was taken almost as an afterthought – 17 hours later. 

It is believed these 17 hours were unsupervised, demonstrating a severe lack of continuity between the alleged incident and the time the blood was taken. In other words there is no evidence of what her Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level was at the time of the events. 

Considering that alcohol dissipates in the body at approximately .01% per hour, that would mean that, at the time of the events, she would have had a BAC of somewhere around .32 – .35 which might kill the average person. 

So, something’s not right. The boys said she appeared sober at the time.

Now, I should add that the Cuban Police,  Policía Nacional Revolucionaria or PNR, are primarily made up of conscripts. In Cuba there is conscription for everyone over 16 into either the army or the PNR. That could explain how the initial stages of this investigation were so screwed up. How bad?

There is no evidence the police even checked the lobby CCTV cameras which would have shown whether the female was in fact dragged through the lobby and up the stairs or not.  There is no mention in the police file whether video was reviewed at all or even if it still exists. 

In any ‘He said/She said’ investigation corroboration is key. The video would have been the ultimate corroboration supporting either the complainant or the boys. As it stands, what was left to the police was to interview staff to see if anyone could remember an incident as described by the girl. No one noticed any such thing. 

Now you’d think that if the girl was telling the truth someone would have noticed two men dragging a girl, in broad daylight, some 500 metres from the pool, across the resort, through the lobby and up three flights of stairs to a room.  No staff member saw any such thing nor did any other guest in the resort at the time report any such thing to hotel security.

Equally, once hotel security woke up the boys they were kept apart and questioned separately.  They both gave a similar version of events which, in and of itself, is corroboration of their story. The police did not bother interview any of the female’s friends who were with her on the trip.

I should also add there was a medical exam of the girl that proved negative for any injuries to her body, signs of force or vaginal damage. The female had insisted that a condom not be used, however, Mark wore one anyway.

There is so much wrong with this case. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence of competence in the PNR investigators. Government of Canada representatives have been in touch but thus far don’t seem to be doing much of anything. 

A retired senior RCMP officer with 30 years experience in major crimes and serious sexual assaults has seen the evidence. He said, “I’m horrified at the lack of investigative safeguards and the quality of evidence.”

The boys are not allowed to leave the island nation and are staying at a lower-rent hotel and their funds are dwindling. They families have been helping but there is only so much they can do.  

The pastor at the family’s church, Rev. Blake Field at the Wilson Heights United, has been to Cuba twice to see what he can do because he speaks Spanish. Based on his observations of the case file he is absolutely convinced the boys are innocent and has started a fundraiser to help them. 

He tried to start a GoFundMe page but that was shut down almost out of the gate. He ran into the same problem I had trying to raise money for RCMP Cst. Kwesi Millington.  

It’s been six months since these two young cops have been held prisoner on that Communist Island. 

In Cuban law an investigation takes however long it takes and until it’s complete, there they will sit, unsure if they will face criminal charges. 

Where the Canadian government is in all of this is unknown. Certainly, the Global Affairs Minister and the Public Safety Minister have been informed, but there’s no sign they have done anything. 

On top of all that, the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner is saying they will face an investigation by their office should they be allowed to come back to Vancouver anytime soon.  The boys  said months ago they would not only welcome but encourage a fair and proper Canadian investigation they are certain will clear their names.

This whole thing stinks. At every level. I will keep tabs on this case and report as things proceed. 

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

September 7, 2018 at 7:49 am

Posted in Crime & Punishment

Tagged with , , , ,