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News (Media Awareness Project) - CN ON: Toronto Police Drug Squad Officers 'Tried To Cover
Title:CN ON: Toronto Police Drug Squad Officers 'Tried To Cover
Published On:2012-01-17
Source:National Post (Canada)
Fetched On:2012-01-19 06:02:32

A group of former Toronto Police drug squad officers allegedly
attempted to obstruct the course of justice in a wide-ranging
conspiracy that involved assaulting and robbing drug dealers, a
Superior Court jury heard Monday.

More than a decade after their alleged offences, John Schertzer,
Steven Correia, Nebojsa Maodus, Joseph Miched and Raymond Pollard
began a trial that will examine a litany of accusations against the
officers, most of whom have since retired from the force.

All five are accused of conspiring to attempt to obstruct justice by
falsifying police records and giving false testimony, while several
stand further charged with theft, extortion and assault.

"The defendants tried to cover their tracks and tried to protect each
other from the reach of the law," Crown attorney John Pearson said in
his opening address, calling the conspiracy charge "a bright thread
that runs throughout this entire case."

The Crown alleges the defendants used unjustified physical violence
against prisoners, threatened violence to extract information,
conducted illegal searches and stole cash and property that belonged
to people they were investigating. To cover their tracks, the officers
allegedly falsified police records and lied under oath in cases where
they had laid criminal charges.

The alleged offences took place in the context of five cases dating
back to the late 1990s, when the five officers were members of Team
Three of the Toronto Police central field command drug squad, led by
Mr. Schertzer.

The Crown advised the jury that some of the witnesses may appear
"disreputable and unsavoury" due to their criminal histories, but
advised jurors to judge the case on the basis of police conduct alone.
During the trial, expected to last about six months, the Crown plans
to call about 40 witnesses and introduce a host of other evidence,
including hospital, insurance, business and police records.

"The case before you is not about whether the people I mentioned were
guilty or not guilty of drug charges, and it is not about whether they
are good or bad people, or whether you like them or do not like them,"
Mr. Pearson told jurors. "The point of this trial... is whether the
defendants engaged in the criminal conduct which I have described."

The first case to be dealt with is that of Christopher Quigley, who
alleges he was beaten and robbed in what the Crown described as a
"violent shakedown" by members of the drug squad in 1998.

Mr. Quigley, who began testifying Monday, alleges his mistreatment
began after police arrested him for being in possession of stolen
sunglasses. Though he had no drugs or weapons on him at the time, Mr.
Quigley says he was brought into the station and violently
interrogated by police, who demanded to know "where the drugs are."

"I was attacked by the officers while I was in custody... I was beaten
repeatedly on a number of occasions," Mr. Quigley said, adding he was
prevented from calling a lawyer.

The officers used "their hands, their fists; they choked me," Mr.
Quigley said, as the court viewed photographs of his swollen, purple
eyes and battered body. During nine hours in custody, Mr. Quigley was
"repeatedly assaulted to the point of unconsciousness," Mr. Pearson said.

Mr. Quigley, who had a quantity of marijuana at his house, said he
directed police to the stash after they threatened to "rip [his] home
apart" looking for it. Police also obtained a warrant to search his
mother's safety deposit box, where some of Mr. Quigley's money was
stored. Both he and his mother say the amount in the box was $54,000,
but police only prepared a property receipt for just under $23,000;
the rest of the money allegedly disappeared.

Among the other complainants whose cases will be examined in greater
detail in the months ahead are:

- - Cocaine dealer Larry Vacon. Drug squad members allegedly searched
his apartment illegally and stole more than $1,000 in cash.

- - Cocaine dealer Aida Fagundo. Ms. Fagundo alleges the defendants
repeatedly assaulted her and stole $10,000 in cash and a $20,000 pair
of diamond earrings. The defendants are also accused of failing to
disclose information about a key source in the case.

- - Heroin dealer Kai Sum Yeung. Several of the defendants allegedly
concealed the fact that they had a known source that led to Mr.
Yeung's arrest, and lied about it in court. Mr. Yeung also alleges he
was robbed of more than $1,500 in cash.

- - Ho Bing Pang, who was charged with drug offences. Drug squad members
allegedly conducted an illegal search of the Pang residence.

The trial resumes Tuesday.
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