Mounties in Robert Dziekanski case allege witness tampering, intimidation
Complaints ask for investigation into how evidence was gathered
An RCMP constable and a former Mountie charged with perjury for their testimony at the Braidwood inquiry have lodged complaints with B.C.'s civilian police watchdog.
The complaints by Const. Gerry Rundel and retired corporal Monty Robinson mark the first time any of the officers involved in Robert Dziekanski's death in 2007 have attempted to defend themselves outside of the grindingly slow prosecutions against them.
Robinson and Rundel have asked the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) to look into claims that Vancouver Police Department officers used "intimidation" and "leading questions" to investigate a new allegation against them.
Their complaints stem in part from details revealed by CBC News in February.
Documents showed that last September Vancouver police officers opened an investigation into a claim that all four Mounties involved in the Taser-related death of Dziekanski met secretly before testifying at the inquiry into what happened.
At the Braidwood inquiry, which was convened to investigate how Dziekanski died after being stunned with a police Taser several times, the officers all testified they had not discussed the incident with each other.
Last August. Janice Norgard told police and the special prosecutor the four had met at her house in Richmond, B.C., in January or February 2009.
Norgard came forward after reading that one of the officers, Const. Bill Bentley, had been acquitted of perjury.
She alleged the 2009 meeting had been arranged by her ex-common-law partner, Brian Dietrich, who is Bentley's cousin.
But in Robinson's complaint to the OPCC, the former Mountie alleges the Vancouver police detectives who looked into Norgard's claim made multiple mistakes.
"The rules of evidence and the collection of evidence have been ignored in this case," Robinson wrote in the complaint obtained by CBC News.
Wally Oppal's involvement questioned
Robinson points out that Norgard emerged with her claim after a bitter separation battle with Dietrich ended in court. Robinson suggests the Vancouver police failed to look into that matter.
"No one requested to view or obtain separation agreements between Dietrich and Norgard," he wrote.
And Norgard didn't go straight to the authorities. She went first to Wally Oppal, an old family friend, who was also the attorney general who called for the inquiry in 2008.
Oppal then sat in on the interviews Norgard gave to the special prosecutor and police detectives.
Robinson questions why the former attorney general was allowed to be present and why Vancouver police detectives failed to challenge Oppal's involvement.
"It asks the questions of witness tampering by the former attorney general," Robinson wrote.
"The supervising officer who reviewed the file failed to open an investigation on Oppal or report his conduct to the Law Society of B.C."
Const. Rundel raised a similar concern in his separate complaint.
"These officers should not have let Oppal sit in on the interview and have an influence on their investigation, one that Oppal has a vested interest in."
"There is evidence to support misconduct and witness tampering," Rundel wrote.
Intimidation during interrogation?
Rundel is also concerned with how the police conducted their initial interview with Norgard's ex-partner, Brian Dietrich.
Several times in the recorded encounter, Insp. Laurence Rankin pressed Dietrich to confirm Norgard's story, and suggested police could go looking at Dietrich's "cellphone records, emails ... any number of things."
Although Dietrich repeatedly told the police at his door that he didn't remember any such meeting, Rankin advised him not to hold back out of "misplaced loyalty” for his cousin Bentley.
"You are a witness, and we don't want to see anything like that change," Rankin told him.
When Dietrich told the officers he intended to let his cousin know about the police visit, they warned him not to.
"Is there a law against it?" Dietrich asked.
Rankin suggested Dietrich could be charged with obstruction of justice.
Rundel wrote that the "officers immediately treated Dietrich as a suspect."
Norgard claims at centre of perjury trials
Both Rundel and Robinson also complain that police failed to follow procedure when they tested Norgard's recollection of who allegedly met at her house.
Instead of asking Norgard to pick out the Mounties from a number of pictures, police presented her with just four photos of the RCMP officers.
"The interview of Janice Norgard was a leading interview," Rundel wrote, "with Wally Oppal present.”
“Officers took her vague allegations as fact, while the interview of her ex-common law Brian Deitrich was more of an interrogation."
Neither Rundel nor Robinson would comment.
Deputy Complaint Commissioner Rollie Woods said he is prohibited by law from commenting on any "complaint or to even confirm that a complaint was made unless the [commissioner] determines it is in the public interest or the matter is already in the public domain."
Vancouver police spokesman Randy Fincham told CBC News that "it would not be appropriate for us to comment on an ongoing investigation that is being conducted by the OPCC."
The special prosecutor has confirmed Norgard's allegation is behind new perjury indictments issued last month.
Robinson’s trial for perjury is scheduled to begin in May.
Rundel is slated to be in court in October.
The fourth officer involved, Const. Kwesi Millington, is also scheduled to be in court in October.