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Cops back from Cuba, no thanks to Canadian government

with 4 comments

The story of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is remarkable. Her escape from Islam and the domineering clutches of her father and brother was courageous and certainly showed the value of social media. 
What is more remarkable is the speed in which the Canadian government acted in getting her to Canada less than five days after she tweeted she wanted refuge in Canada while barricaded in a Thai hotel room. She had been taken from a flight to Australia at the request of the Saudi government.
Her family was pressing to have her return to either Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. Once she was taken from the flight the Thai authorities took her passport and her father and brother flew to Thailand. Things looked dire for her until she took to twitter and pleaded for help. 
On Saturday she boarded a flight from Seoul to Toronto where she was met by the Minister of Global Affairs, Chrystia Freeland and a horde of media for what can only be described as a crass, political photo op. She was not allowed to take questions as Freeland held onto her.
The questionable logic of broadcasting to the world her whereabouts given her fear of her father and brother is another matter. 
Last week, on Tuesday, two Vancouver area police officers trapped in Cuba for the past ten months finally got the news from their lawyer that the prosecutor’s appeal of their acquittal on a bogus charge of rape was turned down. It then began a flurry of activity between the two, their Cuban lawyer, their families and the Cuban government to get their names removed from the ‘no travel’ list so they could get out of that Communist country. 
On Saturday they boarded a plane and flew to Calgary then home to Vancouver. To their credit, the police chiefs of Port Moody and Vancouver PD arranged to have them met at the airport and taken to a local hotel where their respective families were staged for a happy and relieved reunion. 
None of this happened with any assistance from the Minister’s office. Despite the fact there was no evidence supporting the allegation against them and much evidence to support their version of events, the Minister let them languish for ten months facing a distinct prospect of years in a Cuban jail. The Cuban justice system, such as it is, convicts in over 90% of cases. All Canadian government officials would do was say they were monitoring the situation. Essentially saying their hands were tied. 
The Opposition critic for Global Affairs, Erin O’Toole, tried to get the Minister and the Prime Minister’s office to get involved to no avail. Yet, the Minister seems to have moved heaven and Earth to get documents, flights and resources for al-Qunun, a citizen of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia yet did nothing for two Canadian cops.
It’s great that the two police officers are back home. They have had the support of their respective departments and are on a return to work plan. But their troubles may not yet be over.  
When the story broke that they were coming back to Canada, the father of the accuser was quoted in a Global News story saying, “We have reached out to the police in Vancouver and they will be conducting a better investigation here where language barriers are not a factor and both sides can be heard.”
“It’s unfortunate my daughter wasn’t present at the trial but we were told she would not be needed, it’s unfortunate that we keep finding out all information from the news and not from the government agency in charge of such matters. We are not done with this yet, and we hoped it would have been dealt with in Cuba.”
Were I him, I’d be careful what he wishes for. His daughter lied in her statement to police. Likely she lied to her family as well. But as much as social media was a saviour for al-Qunun the accuser’s social media trail will not support those lies nor her father’s assertions. Quite the opposite in fact.
As far as she was told she was not needed that is blatant BS. It was in fact, he who said “she was too traumatized” to attend the trial in Cuba. 
If, in fact, he has filed a complaint with the Vancouver Police, they will be obligated to forward the matter to the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner. Although, I fail to see what they will achieve. The two officers were in Cuba, on holiday in a resort aimed at young adults. Neither are married nor were they representing their departments. One of them had consensual sex with a girl who came on to him in a poolside bar. 
Imagine single young adults hooking up at a resort while on a Caribbean holiday in March? I know shocking right?
Lastly, while the accuser was 17 at the time, she looked older, was being served by staff in a resort bar and was acting like other young adults at the bar. Neither of the officers had any reason to believe she was anything other than what she portrayed. 
This has dragged on far too long. It’s time to let the boys get back to doing their jobs protecting the citizens in their respective communities.
Enough is enough.
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Leo Knight
@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

January 13, 2019 at 1:40 pm

Posted in Crime & Punishment

Tagged with , , , ,

Canadian government sits on their hands while Vancouver cops’ Cuban nightmare continues

with 4 comments

The two Vancouver area cops, Jordan Long and Mark Simms, are still languishing in Cuba, unable to leave the island, Communist country despite being acquitted unanimously by a five woman judicial panel a month ago. They have been informed the prosecution service want to appeal the acquittal. They have not been informed on what grounds the appeal is being sought. Indeed, it seems the prosecution just wants to regurgitate the same arguments it made at trial which were ruled against by the judicial panel.

They have also not been told when the appeal might occur. So, they languish, waiting for something, anything, to occur. 

One of the problems with all of this is that none of the evidence supports the allegations of the accuser and all of the evidence led at the trial, save and except the statement of the accuser, supports the statement of the two officers. 

The accuser claims she was dragged more than 500 metres from the poolside bar at the resort Sol Sirenas Coral, a four star resort in Varadero, Cuba. Her statement, introduced as the only evidence at trial against the two men, says she was dragged all that way to the lobby, through the lobby, past a bar, coffee shop, front desk, all those tourists and staff, up three flights of stairs and held down and raped in the officers’ room. And somehow, magically, nobody noticed. 

The statement also said that after she fled the room she ran downstairs, stumbling drunk, upset and crying through the lobby and across to the other side of the resort where she was staying with a friend. Again, magically, no one noticed. 

I should also note that she was invited to attend the trial and give direct evidence but declined. 

That couldn’t happen in Canadian law but it can in Cuban law. 

The lawyer representing the two officers requested the resort or the police provide the CCTV video of the day in question and essentially were ignored. The prosecution never led any video evidence that surely would have told the tale as to who was telling the truth. 

A resort security guard did testify at the trial saying that he reviewed what was available and that he watched her walk through the lobby, looking normal, not upset and certainly not running. He also testified that she did not appear drunk. He further testified that he dealt with her personally after the complaint was made and she was completely in control and not exhibiting any evidence of being drunk.

In other words there is not a scintilla of evidence supporting the statement of the accuser and lots of evidence supporting the statements of the two officers. Despite this, the Government of Canada still sits on their hands doing absolutely nothing but “monitoring” the situation. 

Meanwhile, the two cops are sitting in a lower cost, but still expensive, three star hotel because they cannot leave, paying for the cost out of their own pockets. They have been there for nine months and they are rapidly running out of money. 

They have received precious little support from the Canadian embassy there other than being allowed to make phone calls to family members. A senator and a couple of MPs have reached out expressing interest, but as far as I can see the government has done the square root of bugger all.

The families have helped out as much as they can and their pastor, the Reverend Blake Field of the Wilson Heights United Church has done everything he can, including going to Cuba twice and spending a total of 26 days there to try and help because he speaks fluent Spanish from an earlier posting in Spain. His parish’s website www.whuc.net has been taking donations to help, but more is needed. 

And still not a word from the Government of Canada.The Prime Minister is aware. The Global Affairs Minister is aware. But still, nothing is done. I guess having a Canadian passport when travelling abroad really doesn’t mean much in Justin Trudeau’s Canada. 

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

December 5, 2018 at 7:49 pm

Cops in Cuba cleared by courts but still not free to leave

with 5 comments

I have learned in my life to expect very little from our government. And I always get less than I expect. 

The two Vancouver area cops being held hostage in Cuba have received exactly that from our federal government – nothing. There has been no attempted intervention with the Cuban government. They have said they are monitoring the situation and that’s about it. Oh, and they let the boys make phone calls from our Consulate in Matanzas to their family. 

They went on trial in late October after being held in Cuba on dubious allegations of a sex assault by a less than credible complainant. The trial was held before a panel of five judges, two of which were lay persons. I should add that all five were female. In these days of “Me Too” and “believe all women” this is important. 

The complainant, a precocious 17-yr-old from Barrie, Ontario chose not to appear for trial to give evidence. She was invited by the Cuban government and that request was relayed via the Canadian government. But, no. She did not attend for whatever reason.

Most likely she didn’t want to subject herself to cross examination lest she be proved the liar she is.

To be clear, she initiated a sexual encounter with one of the police officers. It was consensual. The other officer stayed on the balcony as nature took its course. She tried to engage him in the activities not once, but twice and twice he rebuffed her. 

Well, hell hath no fury as a wise man once said, to quote former Vancouver Homicide Detective Bob Cooper.  

She left the room and returned to hers in the same resort. She was even seen by a hotel security officer in the packed resort hotel. He testified at the trial that she seemed normal, not drunk, not upset, just normal. 

That’s an important fact in this whole thing. Follow along. 

In law, when considering sex assault allegations, there is something called the Doctrine of Recent Complaint. In essence, if the first person the victim comes in contact with following a sexual assault is told of the assault it adds credibility to the allegation.

Well, that didn’t happen in this case. She said nothing to the hotel security guard nor anyone else in a very busy resort hotel. Not a word and according to the evidence to the security officer she looked normal. Not upset. Not drunk. Nothing out of the ordinary.

So, how’d this thing get started? When she got back to her room she was asked by a friend where she had been and she then and only then came up with her nonsensical story. The friend  contacted security staff who then called police.  By then the complainant was stuck. In for a penny, in for a pound I suppose.

The prosecution’s theory is that she was too drunk to consent. Yet, in the investigation no one took a blood sample from her until two days later. It yielded a result of .120 which said she had been drinking in the days since the alleged event but nothing more. It was evidence of absolutely nothing except the girl liked drinking while on holiday with her friends. While she was doing that, the two cops she accused of sexual assault were in a Cuban jail. 

I should also add in all of this, the friend who was the first person told of the allegation, was never interviewed by Cuban police. 

So, the only evidence against the two police officers was a statement given to a Cuban police officer on the night in question that was never tested by a cross-examination. And the alleged “victim” declined to return and provide evidence. 

The five female judges heard the evidence and returned a verdict of not guilty. But that is not the end of the matter. There is still an appeal period where the prosecution or the complainant can say they are not satisfied and file an appeal. It is not clear under Cuban law whether the appeal has to be a question of law as it does in most Western democracies. Whether or not the complainant was drunk is a finding of fact and the court found that she was not and her allegations were not to be believed. Yet, the Cuban government still holds the two officers hostage to a system that no one seems to understand. 

When contacted, the boys’ family had this to say: “We are grateful that the judges ruled that the evidence, both scientific and physical, did not corroborate the accusations. In fact, all of the evidence undermined the credibility of the accuser’s statement in numerous important ways. The substance of what the accuser said was directly and absolutely contradicted by the evidence.”

This is important because the Cuban system of justice, such as it is, does not have a presumption of innocence. Quite the opposite in fact. An accused must prove their innocence. The court agreed there was nothing to the allegations. 

But, unfortunately, the two officers are still being held hostage. It’s hard for me to see how any appeal could succeed, but there it is. We still wait for the two officers to be allowed to leave their paradise prison. 

We also wait for the Canadian government to do something, anything to help two serving police officers held by Cuba and not being allowed to serve the citizens of Canada. As I said earlier, I expect little from government and God knows these two officers have gotten less than that. 

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

November 17, 2018 at 7:58 pm

Posted in Crime & Punishment

ISIS fighter more important to Canada than Canadian cops in Cuba

with 13 comments

For seven months two Vancouver area police officers have been detained in Cuba facing an allegation of rape made by a fellow Canadian tourist. They were held in jail for seven days and once released were told they cannot leave the country as the investigation ran its course. 

During that period of time, no one from the Canadian Embassy in Havana bothered to go to see them. The only contact they had was with a consular official in Matanzas who sympathized with them and allowed them to make phone calls to family in Vancouver, but was not able to offer much more than that.

Last week we learned that Canadian officials from Global Affairs Canada were communicating with a former ISIS fighter dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the British media. He isn’t Canadian, he is British born but has a connection to Canada via one of his parents. 

Jihadi Jack’s real name is Jack Letts, a Muslim convert born in Oxford in 1995 to a Canadian organic farmer father, Jack and a British mother, Sally.  

In September 2014 Jihadi Jack travelled to Syria. In 2016, The Sunday Times reported that he told his parents that he had joined ISIS. He has since stated that he travelled to the Middle East “to search for the truth” and that he never really joined ISIS.  He does say he went to Syria “To spread the religion of Allah and to help Muslims.” He married a local girl after he adopted the name Abu Mohammed and they had a child. 

After the fall of ISIS Jihadi Jack was taken prisoner by the Kurdish forces who were at the forefront of the fight with ISIS. The UK said he forfeited his right to assistance because of his ties to ISIS. Because of his Canadian parentage, for whatever reason, the Canadian government has taken over the case. In fact, Global Affairs Canada has reached out to him proactively and saying in an email exchange, “If it would be possible, would you like to come to Canada?”

“I want to live a normal life. I want to come to Canada,” Jihadi Jack replied. This, despite the fact there is no evidence he has ever set foot in the country.

In the email exchange, the consular official explained that we don’t have consular operations in Syria but nevertheless they were working on it. 

Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition raised the issue in the House of Commons in Ottawa with the Prime Minister. As with most things, the PM, Justin Trudeau gave a non-responsive answer to a simple question, saying his government “takes with the utmost seriousness the threats posed by traveling extremists.”

Well that was clear as mud. 

Meanwhile, back in Veradero, Cuba, two actual Canadians, serving police officers are being held in that country on a flimsy accusation that simply doesn’t stand up to the most cursory of examinations. The accuser’s story is nonsense and I suspect even the Cuban authorities have realized this and they have moved the goalposts in what they are saying the two officers did. Now, instead of dragging her over 500 metres from the pool bar to the resort, through the busy lobby, past a bar, coffee shop and up three flights of stairs, they are now saying they took advantage of a drunk female. They took a blood test from the accuser two days after the alleged event and somehow this is evidence of their accusation?

Well, this week the two officers finally heard from someone in Canadian consular operations. 

In that communication they acknowledge they are aware that a trial date has been set for October 25 which clearly tells us they have been in communication with the Cuban government. 

They also say there’s not much they can or will do other than monitor the situation. 

In the note, they say, “There are limitations to consular services. We are able to advocate for your fair and equal treatment under local laws. On your behalf we have asked the local authorities several times, through diplomatic channels to expedite the process, but they are under no legal obligation to do so.”

The note goes on. “Once a decision is rendered, depending on the result, you may be released and allowed to return to Canada or be incarcerated.” Well, thanks Captain Obvious.

After saying there is nothing they will do, they invited the two officers to a meeting which is to take place Thursday.  Evidently there will be officials in Ottawa and Miami dialled into the meeting where they will all say sorry, but you are at the mercy of the Cuban justice system. 

So, if I have this right, the Canadian government, which does not have consular operations in Syria, is doing whatever it can to get Jihadi Jack released from the custody of the Kurds. But in Cuba, where it does have consular operations, Global Affairs Canada is doing nothing to get two Canadian police officers released despite the nonsense allegations made against them. 

Canada is the largest supplier of tourists to the Cuban economy, more than 1.3 million a year. The next largest country is the US which provides a little more than 240,000 a year. I’d say that gives this country a little leverage with the Cuban government. 

Canada also gives Cuba a significant amount of foreign aid a year not to mention the too numerous to track federally-funded non-profits who work there helping their locals in all manner of ventures. 

It seems to me that some back-channel communications threatening their tourism and foreign aid would go a long way towards getting some justice for the two Canadian police officers unjustly accused by a sociopathic female. 

Meanwhile, the President of the US has, so far in less than two years, managed to get 17 American hostages released from places like North Korea and just last week, Turkey. If only Canada had a leader with the same testicular fortitude to take advantage of the leverage this country possesses. 

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

October 17, 2018 at 8:41 pm

Canadian cops trapped in Cuba facing kangaroo court

with 11 comments

Over the course of the past month, I have told you the story of the two Vancouver area police officers being held in Cuba on fabricated allegations of rape made by a fellow Canadian tourist.  

The accuser, a then 17-yr-old female approached the two in a poolside bar around 4:30 in the afternoon. She told them in no uncertain terms she wanted to have sex with one or both of them. They were in an adult bar in a resort mostly frequented by Canadians and she had been there being served by resort staff. They had no reason to believe she was underage and she certainly didn’t look it. 

While she was not encouraged to go back to their room, she wasn’t discouraged either. They left the bar and she followed and she was allowed into their room. One of the two, who was single, engaged in consensual sex with her while the other stayed out on their balcony. Before leaving, she tried to convince the other to play and she was rebuffed. Well, hell hath no fury as a wise man once said. 

She left and the two laid down for a pre-dinner nap. They were awakened a half-hour later by hotel security and their nightmare began. Seven months later it’s still going on. 

She claimed in her statement to police that she was dragged physically over 500 metres from the poolside bar to the resort, through a crowded lobby, past a bar, restaurant and up three flights of stairs to a room where she was raped by one of the cops while being held down. Somehow, no one in the busy resort noticed.

That was then. Despite the original statement given to the Cuban police, the prosecution is now trying to say that she was drunk and the two men took advantage of her by somehow directing her back to their room instead of dragging her as she originally claimed in her statement. Convenient isn’t it?

The reality is that the case, as a whole, is a moving target. Cuban justice, such as it is, bears no resemblance to anything we might recognize as justice. The two cops have no ability to face their accuser. In fact, they will not even be afforded the opportunity to challenge the claims made by way of cross-examination. 

The accuser won’t be attending any sort of trial. The only evidence against them is the original statement given by the accuser to the Cuban police officer investigating the claim. 

Under Cuban law, if an accuser cannot attend a trial, a statement is to be given in the presence of a prosecuting lawyer and a defence lawyer so that questions may be asked by both sides. 

That didn’t happen in this case. 

The two officers have been advised there will be a trial the last week in October in the town of Matanzas, where there is Canadian consular staff. But, no one is allowed to view the trial save and except two “guests” of the accused. 

The officers cannot even hire their own translator to ensure they are receiving accurate information of a trial being held in Spanish. The Cuban government will assign a translator, who is employed by the same government agency who employs the judges, the prosecutor and the defence counsel. That sure sounds fair.

The defence lawyers have been given a document called “conclusion provisionals” (sp?) which sounds to me like an indictment document which outlines what the prosecution says is the evidence against the two officers. 

If that is the case, the Cuban government is dropping any pretence of trying to prove the actual allegations made by the accuser about the dragging through the resort and the violent rape while being held down. It would seem they are now trying to claim the accuser was drunk and the two cops guided her back to the room where the “rape” occurred. 

Now, I should note that a blood sample was taken from the accuser to determine her BAC (blood alcohol content). The only problem is that the sample was taken two days after the alleged attack. A physical examination of the accuser showed no evidence of a sexual assault; no semen, no bruising, no vaginal tearing, nothing to indicate anything other than consensual sex had taken place. 

One wonders at what point in the proceedings a kangaroo will bound through the courtroom?

From my vantage point, although I know the Canadian government, while aware of the situation, hasn’t done anything to help these two Canadian police officers trapped in the jaws of the Cuban communist justice system. They say, officially, they are monitoring the situation, but monitoring is not going to help these two men. 

The western concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, the so-called ‘Golden Thread’ that runs through our justice system is not evident in Cuba. 

There will be five so-called judges on a panel hearing this case. Two of whom are lay persons. There is also designated a ‘president’ or head judge on the panel. All questions are routed through the president who does all the talking. 

This is a travesty. But it is not up to the Canadian government to question the Cuban system. It is up to the Canadian government to intervene and stand up for the rights of Canadians being unjustly prosecuted in a foreign land. This case would never get in front of a Canadian judge, it is so weak. Yet, in Cuba two police officers, who were just tourists from Vancouver, are staring at significant jail time on the basis of nothing but the uncorroborated, baseless allegations of what, in my opinion, is a sociopathic female.

Tourism is Cuba’s largest industry. Canada represents more than 30% of that industry with more than 1.3 million visitors every year and is by far and away the single largest contributor to that industry of any country in the world. 

Cuba would not want to jeopardize that cash cow.  The government of Canada needs to remind the Cuban government that unjust treatment of Canadian citizens is a problem. Made even more so when those citizens are police officers who serve the citizens of Canada. 

Perhaps a phone call from the Minister of Global Affairs to the Cuban Ambassador to Canada to remind him of that would be in order.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

 

Written by Leo Knight

October 12, 2018 at 6:27 pm

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 29 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 , , , ,

Broken RCMP means broken people

with 8 comments

This week, a serving member of the RCMP sent a message to the Prime Minister of Canada complaining about the actions of the Commissioner of the RCMP. Yes, you read that right.

I have never heard of such a thing. 

The author is one of the YVR Four who was scapegoated by the Force.  I have written much about their case, included the fact they were scapegoated, thrown under the bus, and two of them served jail sentences for doing their job. 

And the RCMP knew that all along. In a May 2008 report examining the actions of the RCMP in the October 2007 incident at YVR in which Polish traveller Robert Dziekanski lost his life, the authors spent more than 1200 pages examining, primarily, their communications failures and errors after the event. But, throughout the document it clearly states the members were in the lawful execution of their duties and acted according to their training and the use of a Taser (CEW) was appropriate. 

Indeed, in the report it links to an email written to the Commanding Officer, Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass in November 2007, a month after the incident which says all of that. 

Yet, they never said that publicly. They never defended their members despite the withering media criticism, the subsequent Braidwood Commission, the Special Prosecutor appointment, the prosecution of all four members and the conviction and jailing of two of them. They never came to their defence despite knowing all along they did nothing wrong.

The author of the complaint requested an investigation by the RCMP into all of this claiming it amounted to Obstruction and Breach of Trust. The Commissioner, Brenda Lucki, declined to do this hiding behind the fact there was pending litigation against the Force by three of the four members and that precluded a criminal investigation. Stuff and nonsense. 

After being sworn in as Commissioner Lucki said, “I plan to challenge assumptions, seek explanations, and better understand the reasons how we operate. This means that no stone will be left unturned.” Well, apparently this is one stone she will leave unturned.

Hence, the complaint to the Prime Minister who thus far, has declined to get involved. Sgt. Peter Merrifield, co-chair of the National Police Federation, the group seeking standing to represent rank and file members of the Force as their union, also weighed in saying to the Prime Minister, “Your government is playing ‘politics’ with peoples lives. Innocent members of the RCMP have been put in prison, hundreds of them have been destroyed emotionally by the abuse and lack of fair recourse institutionally, and are looking to you to hold the RCMP to account. Worst of all hundreds of our members have been destroyed by internal abuses and a lack of accountability and some of them have tragically taken their own lives.”

Then there’s the treatment of another four members. Four female members, unknown to each other at the time, who were all victimized by the same male member, Rob Blundell. 

Blundell was an undercover operator at the time. When he was working a project in Calgary, he asked for, and got assigned to him, young female constables eager to play with the big boys to act as arm candy, so to speak, to help him establish his cover. In at least one of the cases he never had authorization to do that. But, I suspect, that may have been the case in all.

In each of the cases, after much drinking to play their role, Blundell got them back to his hotel using ruses like: there’s been a mistake with your room booking and now the hotel is sold out so you’ll have to stay in my room or we need to debrief the evening’s operation. 

In three of the cases he molested the female members during the night and they fought back. In one case, the young woman awoke with him having penetrating sex with her. 

None of the four said anything initially, fearing they wouldn’t be believed or it would hurt their career prospects. After Catherine Galliford came forward with her story publicly, the dam burst and each of the four came forward with similar complaints, in similar circumstances about the same male member. One of them was Krista Carle who committed suicide two weeks ago. 

Carle was one of the faces of the hundreds of female members who complained of systemic bullying and sexual harassment in the RCMP. She spoke out very publicly about the abuse. 

But the real problem wasn’t just the abuse she suffered at the hands of Blundell. No, it was the way the RCMP abandoned her and the other three members and protected a rapist. 

After their complaints were laid, the Old Boys network kicked into overdrive. The gossip mill was rife with lies about the four complainants much in the same way the RCMP tried to assassinate the character of Galliford. They were drunks or sluts or slackers or whatever. 

Needless to say none of it was true, but still they endured it. Blundell was brought up in an administrative hearing before a tribunal of senior officers. But, for whatever reason, the RCMP started with the rape complaint, not the groping complaints which would have laid the groundwork for the rape allegation. Instead, they started with that one and in the absence of corroborating evidence, which the other three would have provided had their cases been called first, Blundell was acquitted by the tribunal.

The RCMP then brought administrative proceedings against Blundell on the other three almost identical matters. Suddenly, a senior officer from BC showed up in Calgary and after discussions with Blundell told the counsel representing the women that Blundell would plead guilty to sexual touching, and be disciplined, and the matter would go away. 

Counsel said the three women wanted to tell their stories in the hearing.  They wanted their day in court and she would have to seek instructions before agreeing to the deal. The senior officer, Peter German, now the investigator into the systemic casino money laundering in BC, told the lawyer her client was the CO of E Division, Deputy Commissioner Bev Busson who was paying the bills not the three women. 

And with that Blundell got the only penalty he would ever get for being a predator and a rapist, a day suspension when he pled guilty to sexual touching, admitting to groping over their clothes when the truth is nothing of the sort. 

The Old Boys Network protected another of their own. Blundell retired last year with a full Staff Sergeant’s pension. Two of the four women spoke publicly about the incidents. One of whom has been marginalized in a Vancouver Island Detachment in a non-operational job, and has not been promoted since she filed her complaint. The other is Krista Carle, who left the Force after the administrative hearings and killed herself two weeks ago. 

And the Commissioner insists the Force is not broken. 

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

August 2, 2018 at 7:05 pm

A broken organization

with 5 comments

As an organization, the RCMP is functionally broken. I have said this before and say it again. 

Last week a letter came to my attention written by a serving member of the RCMP. The letter was striking in that it was addressed to the Prime Minister and the Public Safety Minister who is responsible for the RCMP. 

The author of the letter signed his name but I won’t use it for the purposes of this discussion. I have confirmed he has 23 years service and is serving in BC. I am also told his father served and was a 33 year veteran. He was, I am told, involved in two shootings, both of which were deemed justified. 

The author praises the courage of Janet Merlo, Catherine Galliford and Krista Carle, who tragically committed suicide last week. These ladies, among others, have been at the forefront of the public complaints and lawsuits talking about the sexual harassment and bullying they faced as members. Carle’s suicide underlines the problem, chief among them is the denial, foot-dragging and lack of leadership that has existed and still exists in the RCMP. 

 The author says in discussing them, “The manner in which their complaints were handled provides a clear insight into the lengths that some in senior management have and will go to in an effort to isolate, discredit, demoralize and financially destroy those who dare to challenge them. I can tell you that these strategies are still very much in play by RCMP Management today. Management refuses to hold themselves to the very standard that they demand of the rank and file and it is no longer acceptable to allow this to continue without speaking out. Today I am doing just that.”

He also cites the crocodile tears of former Commissioner Bob Paulson when he tearfully apologized to these women at a national press conference and then promptly did the square root of bugger all to fix the problems. There are those who say Paulson was the biggest bully of them all. 

The letter consists of more than 4,000 words. The frustration is palpable and the author outlines many issues where he has identified areas of concern to supervisors, the Commanding Officer of E Division (BC), even the Commissioner and has heard nothing back. 

He says this, “My attempts to get any accountability and to get potential wrongdoing independently investigated has proven futile. Requests for documents results in heavily redacted useless pieces of paper or claims that no notes exist yet perpetrators are permitted to retire or are transferred. I am one of many with allegations that deserve independent inquiry / investigation from an agency separate and distinct from the RCMP. I, and others who have brought forward legitimate concerns have effectively been shunned and banished by RCMP Management including the current Commissioner and Commanding Officer of British Columbia and her staff here in ‘E” Division. This is either a failure of leadership or the result of legal advice that completely lacks insight into member health, safety, care and wellbeing. This lesson should already have been learned through the failures identified in numerous inquiries and commissioned reports. Why do we keep getting it wrong?”

Why indeed? 

He goes on, “I speak to members on a daily basis that are living one day at a time. I also hear from members on a weekly basis who are on the brink of suicide and have been left almost completely destroyed by management. What a sad waste of human resources.”

Sad indeed. Last week I spoke with Eddie MacDonald, a retired member who is on the executive of the National Police Federation, the organization which has applied to get certification to be the bargaining agent for the rank and file members. They have over 10,000 members who have signed on for their representation. Yet still they wait. 

MacDonald told me things are so bad they have a group studying suicides and mental disorders of RCMP members in the last year. Every police officer knows someone who killed themselves due to the rigours of the job. “My source stated 40 + since 2006. Since October 2017 there have been 11 members, serving and retired, who have died at their own hand.” That’s stunning and it’s something neither the media nor the Force will talk about. 

This week the Coroner’s office in BC announced there will be an Inquest into the death of Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre in July of 2013. Five years ago. What the heck took so long? 

Lemaitre was the media liaison officer who provided the press briefing in the hours after the death of Polish traveller Robert Dziekanski. 

The initial information he provided the media turned out to be inaccurate and he wanted to correct the record based on further information provided by investigators. He was over-ruled by the officer in charge of IHIT who had conduct of the investigation, Wayne Rideout. He was taken off the file and later reassigned to the Integrated Road Safety Unit (IRSU) and ultimately Langley Traffic.  There he encountered a bullying, harassing supervisor who was the subject of many complaints for bullying and nothing was done.

Lemaitre became the media’s whipping boy in the weeks after the Pritchard video surfaced which showed the interaction between Dziekanski and the YVR Four. He was called a liar in the media when in truth he gave preliminary information to the media given to him by the IHIT media spokesperson and investigators. Like most of these things, preliminary information was incomplete and inaccurate and further investigation revealed more details. 

The decision by Rideout not to allow Lemaitre to correct the public record was a brutal error. It directly resulted in the Braidwood Inquiry and ultimately the creation of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO). I believe it also resulted in the suicide of Lemaitre. 

On the day Lemaitre committed suicide that supervisor was sent home by the RCMP and told not to come back. Fired, but not really. He was paid for at least two more years until he retired with a full pension. Another example of the lack of RCMP leadership and sweeping a problem under the buffalo skin so to speak.

My guess is the bullying became a part of the investigation of the Coroner but was stymied by the Force and thus the delay. It will be interesting to see if the Coroner’s Inquest goes down that path or if the RCMP has politically manipulated things so that it will not be on the table.  On the other hand, a lawsuit has been filed against the RCMP by Lemaitre’s widow Sheila. That will be heard in open court unless the RCMP settles on the courthouse steps admitting liability. 

Things haven’t changed in the RCMP.  Leadership, such as it is, diminishes the junior ranks and won’t listen favouring instead the old boy’s club they protect at the expense of all else. Never ever do or say anything to tarnish the buffalo, (the centre of their logo).

I have long described the RCMP as more than a hundred years of tradition unhampered by progress. Sadly, even with a new commissioner, nothing has changed. 

The BC member who wrote the letter to the Prime Minister anticipates he will be disciplined and perhaps even bullied for going outside the Force. Let’s hope that doesn’t occur. But my bet is that it will. 

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

July 25, 2018 at 5:55 pm

Common sense judgement

with 6 comments

In the wake of the discussion last week of the manslaughter charge against RCMP Cst. Jason Tait, as a result of his actions stopping a drunk driver who was refusing to stop, let’s consider some things. He took the action he took to protect the citizens of Castlegar. He did his duty at great risk to himself, much like police officers do every day across this country.

Things happen in the blink of an eye and police have to react to what is unfolding with two objectives; to eliminate the perceived threat and to protect life, which includes their own.

Tait was charged by the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) three and a half years after the event occurred. It took the Independent Investigations Office nearly two years to do their investigation and a further 16 months for CJB to review it before filing a criminal charge against Tait. That is unconscionable.

I think to appropriately consider this, it is instructive to look at the decision of the now retired Provincial Court Judge Donald Gardner in the prosecution of Delta Police Cst. Vicken Movsessian who was charged with careless use of a firearm after another lengthy IIO investigation. 

The incident happened on Nov. 7, 2013 and the court decision was rendered in December of 2016. Suffice to say it has been underreported.

The officer was seconded to CFSEU, a Joint Forces Operation working organized crime. On the night in question, CFSEU had surveillance on a vehicle they believed contained a gang member wanted on over thirty warrants, several of which involved firearms offences. The suspect was believed to be seeking a weapon with which to conduct a home invasion. 

During the surveillance the vehicle stopped at a residence of a known gang associate. A passenger got out and went into the carport and retrieved something from the rafters. Police surveillance units could not determine what the object was other than it fit into the hand of the person who retrieved it. 

After the vehicle drove away, it was decided to stop the vehicle in what is called a Code 5 takedown, a high-risk traffic stop with multiple police vehicles blocking a suspect vehicle and officers with drawn weapons ordering vehicle occupants out and on the ground where they are secured. Or, at least, that’s the plan. 

During the execution of the stop, Movsessian was focussed on the man in the rear seat the police believed to be their primary target. The suspect dropped his hand towards his hip and Movsessian fired once, striking the suspect. He then dragged him out of the car and secured him. Apparently, at some point in time Movsessian said he was sorry. He recognized the person he had shot was not their target but rather another related drug dealer, a 31 yr-old named Michael Minchin.

Evidence at trial summed up by the trial judge said this: Cst. Movsessian yelled ”Police, show me your hands.”  “He then saw the target in the backseat lean forward, then turn sideways towards the window. Initially he saw that person’s hands in the air and his face pressed against the window.  His face was illuminated by the nearby lighting.  He had his hands in the air, then suddenly he could not see his hands anymore, as he was leaning back. He seemed to be reaching for something, and the officer thought he was reaching for a firearm.”

The search of the suspect and the vehicle turned up drugs but no weapon. 

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) was contacted and an investigation was begun.  Seven months later a Report to Crown Counsel was submitted. It should be noted that Cst. Movsessian never give a statement to investigators as is his right. 

The IIO submitted a Report to Crown Counsel some seven months later and it took the Criminal Justice Branch nearly a year later to approve a charge of Careless Use of a Firearm against Cst. Movsessian. How they arrived at that is anyone’s guess. One can only assume it was because of the apology, but that is only a guess. 

At trial the Crown advanced the theory that Cst. Movsessian forgot his training to keep his index finger on the trigger guard and accidentally shot Minchin. Defence argued no such thing. Defence argued that Cst. Movsessian “acted intentionally in discharging his firearm and his conduct did not amount to careless use of a firearm.”  Indeed, Cst. Movsessian testified during the four day trial to that effect. 

The judge relied on the evidence of a use of force expert, RCMP Insp. Chris Butler who testified about reaction time for police officers with a weapon drawn and the perception of a threat. Judge Gardner said in judgement, “The summary of the above two points means that officers are almost always behind the action/reaction time curve. If an officer waits until he or she is able to discern with complete certainty that an offender does in fact have a gun, the officer will be shot at 100 percent of the time before they respond.”

The judge also displayed a remarkable amount of common sense when he said, “I also note that this trial has occurred over four days. The submissions of counsel alone lasted more that two hours, an I have not lost sight of the fact the accused did not have that amount of time to decide whether or not to shoot.”

“I have concluded that Cst. Movsessian had reasonable grounds to believe, at the moment he fired his weapon, his life was in danger due to the unpredictable actions of Mr. Minchin. As such, Cst. Movsessian’s actions were not a marked departure from the standard of care of a reasonably prudent officer in these circumstances.”

And with that he dismissed the charge. This is important for the IIO and CJB to understand the decision and the fact Gardner J. took judicial notice of threat perception / reaction times for police and the fact officers have milliseconds to decide shoot/don’t shoot. The fact he also took judicial notice of that when he referred to the amount of time for counsel submissions compared to Cst. Movsessian’s decision to shoot.

One hopes the judge assigned to the charge against Cst. Tait also considers these salient facts as well. One also hopes the IIO reads this decision and thoroughly digests it as they proceed in their investigations going forward. 

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

April 26, 2018 at 5:23 pm