Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

Posts Tagged ‘Cuba

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

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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

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Written by Leo Knight

December 5, 2018 at 7:49 pm

ISIS fighter more important to Canada than Canadian cops in Cuba

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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

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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 in Cuban paradise in living hell

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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

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