Judge says Ruthowsky used badge 'as an ATM,' calls for harsher sentence than 10 years

The judge in the trial of corrupt cop Craig Ruthowsky made it abundantly clear Wednesday that the disgraced Hamilton police officer is in line for a heavy sentence.

Justice Robert Clark takes rare step of pushing for longer sentence than suggested by Crown

Lawyers from both the Crown and the defence will have to go back to the drawing board on sentencing submissions for corrupt Hamilton cop Craig Ruthowsky. (Adam Carter/CBC)

The judge in the trial of corrupt cop Craig Ruthowsky made it abundantly clear Wednesday that the disgraced Hamilton police officer is in line for a heavy sentence.

Justice Robert Clark took the rare step of rejecting sentencing submissions from both the Crown and the defence in Ontario Superior Court in Toronto, because in his eyes, neither was harsh enough.

"My principal concerns are that these offences are so grave, and the breaches of trust so egregious and repugnant, that they cry out for an extremely harsh sentence," Clark said.

"It's a scandalous amount of money that this man used his badge to generate. He used his badge as an ATM, a cash machine."

Clark's comments came after assistant Crown attorney John Pollard told the court that the Crown believes a 10-year sentence would be "entirely appropriate."

Ruthowsky's defence lawyer, Greg Lafontaine, said he believes a three- to four-year sentence is adequate. 

You destroyed your own life by taking bribes.- Justice Robert Clark

Ruthowsky, 44, was found guilty late last month on charges of bribery, obstruction of justice, breach of trust and cocaine trafficking. A jury found that he was helping the criminals he was supposed to be investigating in a pay-for-protection scheme.

The judge went so far Wednesday as to tell Ruthowsky directly, "It doesn't look good for you in terms of what you expected the outcome to be."

'A very unpleasant outcome'

Ruthowsky remains out on bail, and therefore is still getting paid as a Hamilton police officer. But the judge told him that any temptation he might have to flee should be ignored.

"It will cross your mind no doubt as it would cross anyone's mind that you have the opportunity here … to escape a very unpleasant outcome for you," Clark said.

"You of all people should know the arm of the law is a very long one, and you would eventually get caught."

Defence lawyer Greg Lafontaine questions his client, Craig Ruthowsky. Justice Robert Clark and Assistant Crown Attorney John Pollard look on. (Pam Davies/CBC)

Ruthowsky also had the opportunity to speak in his own defence Wednesday. He said that he and his family still find the jury's decision "shocking."

"It has destroyed my life, and destroyed the life of my kids, and I and my family's life will never be the same," Ruthowsky said.

"You destroyed your own life by taking bribes," the judge immediately shot back.

The delay in sentencing marks the latest twist in a trial that has carried on much longer than anyone anticipated. Now, the Crown and the defence have to draw up new sentencing submissions that are more in line with what the judge is asking.

That's a complicated task, as there is very little precedent for a case like this. Both the Crown and the defence were forced to use case law from the U.S. to make their respective cases.

"This offence is unprecedented, your honour," Pollard said.

"There has been nothing like this in Canada. There's really been nothing like this in the Commonwealth."

Sister calls Ruthowsky her 'hero'

In his sentencing submissions, Lafontaine asked the judge to "use restraint" in consideration of his client. Lafontaine also showed up 20 minutes late for the hearing — something the judge pointed out as "a hallmark of this case."

"Almost every second day you're just not here," Clark said.

Lafontaine submitted just under 40 reference letters to the court about Ruthowsky. Most came from family and friends.

One of them was from Ruthowsky's sister, Lindsay. She wiped away tears as it was read out in court.

"I've called him my hero my whole life, and I will continue to do so," she wrote.

Another came from Ruthowsky's father, who wrote that he was "aware of the seriousness" of the charges against his son.

"My family and I believe my son chose a career in policing to make a difference," he wrote.

Lafontaine also asked that sentencing be put off until next week, so Ruthowsky could be present for his sons' birthdays, which are coming up in the next few days.

Sentencing is now scheduled for May 29.

adam.carter@cbc.ca

About the Author

Adam Carter

Reporter, CBC Hamilton

Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Hamilton home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music in dank bars. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.