What the jury didn't hear at the Craig Ruthowsky cop corruption trial

From corrupt cops to a mountain of other charges, here's what the jury didn't hear at the Craig Ruthowsky trial.

From corrupt cops to a mountain of other charges, there's much the jury was not aware of

Det. Const. Craig Ruthowsky of Hamilton police is facing several charges in Toronto Superior Court. The Crown alleges Ruthowsky was helping the criminals he was supposed to be prosecuting, in exchange for cash. The jury is now deliberating on a verdict. (Adam Carter/CBC)

The jury at the corruption trial of Hamilton cop Craig Ruthowsky never heard key details about two other police officers who were part of the evidence.

One of those officers, Ian Matthews, was held up as a kind of gold standard of unconventional policing who still got results — but the jury didn't know he also shot himself as he was under investigation for an inappropriate sexual relationship with a source.

The other, Robert Hansen, is a corrupt cop who was still able to give testimony through a police interrogation video. The jury never learned that Hansen was convicted in a gun planting scheme, and is now subject to a massive lawsuit.

Those details were kept from the jury, court heard, largely to not cause any sort of "guilt by association" in Ruthowsky's case. Now, those 12 jurors are deliberating on a verdict, so CBC News is able to report aspects of the case not heard at trial.

In this trial, the 44-year-old is accused of selling police secrets and protection for monthly payments of $20,000 from a crew of drug dealers. He was arrested after being caught on police wiretaps as part of a massive Toronto police guns and gangs investigation called "Project Pharaoh."

The 17-year-veteran of Hamilton police has pleaded not guilty in Superior Court in Toronto to charges of bribery, attempting to obstruct justice, trafficking cocaine, criminal breach of trust, and conspiring to traffic marijuana. 

Here's a deeper look at what the jury didn't hear at his trial.

Trial witness was jailed for 'vigilante justice'

It was a combination of Crown evidence and quick asides by Ruthowsky's defence team that brought Matthews and Hansen into the trial's evidence. 

Hansen's inclusion was the most substantial. He gave evidence about Ruthowsky — sort of. The jury saw a two-hour video that was shot back in 2016, when Hansen was interviewed by an OPP officer, about what he knew about Ruthowsky's case.

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

Hansen was in street clothes in the video, and in court, the lawyers and the judge kept referring to him as an officer, but he's not anymore.

Hansen was sentenced to five years behind bars in June of 2016, for what Superior Court Justice Catriona Braid called "vigilante justice."

He also worked closely with Ruthowsky in Hamilton police's guns and gangs unit. While testifying, Ruthowsky referred to his former colleague as "Bobby Hansen," and said he did some work on Hansen's swimming pool.

Ruthowsky also said Hansen was a "good cop."

In May of 2012, Hansen texted someone he thought would plant a gun at a suspected drug trafficker's house:

Hansen:"He could use some jail time. Do u you have any ideas how to get him?"

Source:"You keep him away from my girl by locking him up if you can do that I'll set him up for you"

"I'll let you guys get him with a thing"

Hansen:"This will get him put away for several years"

"I will help u fuck these guys up"

When the source expressed reluctance a few days later, Hansen encouraged him to persevere, and even talked about other "set ups" in the future.

Hansen:"It would help tons. Especially that heat."

Hansen appealed his sentence and lost. The target of the gun-planting scheme, Darren Mork, is suing Hamilton police, Hansen and former chief Glenn De Caire for $1.5 million.

Darren Mork said he felt that justice prevailed when he found out that former Hamilton police officer Robert Hansen had been convicted and sentenced. (Rebecca Berreth)

As Hansen worked in the guns and gangs unit over the same period as Ruthowsky, the Crown, defence and judge were all worried about the jury hearing anything about what he'd done, because of "guilt by association." Another issue, court heard when the jury was out of the room, was that Ruthowsky's lawyer, Greg Lafontaine, had also defended Hansen.

Lafontaine said that Hansen's family had been "routinely" calling his office over the last few months, concerned about his safety in jail. People — presumably other inmates — had heard that he was a police officer, and was about to testify against someone.

"Not a minute goes by without a death threat," Lafontaine said.

Usually a witness appears in person, but here, the court elected to just show the video of his interview with the OPP.

"The question I have to grapple with, is how to instruct this jury so they're not misled," Justice Robert Clark said when the jury was out.

In the end, he just ended up telling them, "There's good reasons the witness is not here."

Officer who shot himself mentioned several times at trial

The other mention of a Hamilton cop with a checkered background came through the defence, during cross-examinations.

Routinely, when other cops were in the witness box, Lafontaine would present to them the idea that Ruthowsky had "unorthodox methods," but got results. Many of the witnesses agreed.

Hamilton Police Staff Sgt. Ian Matthews shot himself at police headquarters back in 2013. (Courtesy of the Hamilton Spectator)

On more than one occasion, Lafontaine brought up other police officers as comparisons to help prove his point. One of them was Ian Matthews, who Lafontaine also said "worked outside the box," but was revered among his peers.

"He was somebody who was a hard worker, who was creative, who would think outside the box?" Lafontaine asked Sgt. Ryan Moore of Hamilton police.

"That was my impression of him," Moore responded, and later agreeing that Matthews was "highly respected."

The defence only said that Matthews had "passed away," but the details are much more complicated than that. The 25-year veteran of the force shot himself inside Hamilton police headquarters back in 2013. At the time, he was being investigated for an inappropriate sexual relationship with a source in a notorious arson that destroyed the city's Hindu temple.

Office of the Independent Police Review Director reports about the investigation into the matter concluded the relationship between the woman and Matthews included "drugs, sex and money."

Then-police chief Glenn De Caire told the OIPRD that, absent an explanation from Matthews, he would have been charged under the Police Services Act had he not killed himself.

Ruthowsky himself brought Matthews up in his testimony. He was talking about test a he'd had done on a known drug dealer's cocaine cutting agent — not to help out the dealer, but to make a run at an associate of his, who he said is one of Ontario's biggest cocaine kingpins. 

Ruthowsky said the only officer he talked about the plan with was Matthews — who was a Staff Sergeant in the homicide unit at the time. Ruthowsky testified Matthews told him to "keep it on the down low" because there had "been breaches" in Hamilton police of late, linked to organized crime.

Ruthowsky facing 16 other charges

The jury also didn't know that the charges on which they are deliberating are just a sliver of the allegations against Ruthowsky. 

In this police wiretap, Hamilton police officer Craig Ruthowsky is heard giving advice to a drug dealer. 0:35

Last August, Ruthowsky was hit with 16 new charges, including bribery, breach of trust, perjury, cocaine trafficking and weapons trafficking.

Those charges come from a Hamilton police investigation separate from this trial, into events that took place between 2009 and 2012.

The charges are:

  • Bribery
  • Two counts of breach of trust
  • Two counts of obstructing justice
  • Public mischief
  • Weapons trafficking
  • Fraud under $5,000
  • Two counts of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence
  • Trafficking marijuana
  • Perjury
  • Robbery
  • Two counts of trafficking cocaine

The preliminary hearing for those charges is slated to start in October.

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.

With files from Kelly Bennett