Calgary officers on trial for corruption thought they were keeping child safe: lawyers
Three current and former police officers accused of targeting Calgary mother in custody battle
Defence lawyers for three Calgary police officers on trial for corruption-related offences have painted their clients as do-gooders who believed they were helping to keep a child safe. They argued the men should be found not guilty on all charges.
On the other side of the courtroom, prosecutors called some of the defence arguments "preposterous." They've told the judge that Anthony Braile, Bryan Morton and Brad McNish each had the intent required to commit their alleged crimes.
The three men are facing the following charges:
- Anthony Braile — bribery, harassment, unauthorized use of a computer system.
- Bryan Morton — bribery, harassment, unauthorized use of a computer system, breach of trust.
- Brad McNish — bribery, unauthorized use of a computer system, breach of trust.
The trial began on Feb. 5 and final arguments took place Thursday. Court of Queen's Bench Justice Bryan Mahoney will deliver his decision later this month.
Beginning in 2012, the alleged victim, Akele Taylor, and her common-law husband, Ken Carter, were involved in a bitter break-up and custody battle over their young daughter.
Carter hired retired police officer Steve Walton's private investigation firm to gather dirt on Taylor in an effort to discredit her and gain sole custody of the child.
Taylor testified she was terrorized for two years as people working for Walton surveilled, stalked and harassed her, which included installing a GPS device on her car. Friends of Taylor's were offered thousands of dollars in exchange for disclosing negative information about her.
"Mr. Braile and indeed all of the accused before this honourable court proudly served this community for many years," said defence lawyer Pat Fagan in his closing arguments.
"The only way to understand what has happened here and why they are innocent of all charges is to fully comprehend their perspective — the life of a child was at risk."
Fagan says the accused officers were under the belief that Taylor "was a dangerous prostitute with a drug addiction and gang affiliations who posed a threat to the well-being of [her daughter]."
Taylor was not on trial though and whether or not she used drugs has no impact on the charges before the court, prosecutor Leah Boyd argued.
The alleged victim testified that she began to fear for her life, but defence lawyers have urged the judge to use caution in assessing her evidence.
"Ms. Taylor was a manipulator," said Morton's lawyer, Jim Lutz. "Ms. Taylor was untruthful."
Lutz argued Taylor exaggerated and that his client did not believe he was harassing the complainant, having only provided covert surveillance a handful of times.
Boyd said Taylor was harassed and and both Morton and Braile admitted to participating in the surveillance. She said Taylor does not have to be specific about who did what, when.
The charges of bribery and unauthorized use of a computer system relate to allegations the officers were paid to do searches on internal CPS databases — CPIC and PIMS.
Both Morton and McNish have denied being paid, which would take care of the bribery charge. They also argued it was not uncommon for police to do searches for personal use so their actions would not constitute a marked departure from the standard, therefore it would be unfair to hold the two officers criminally accountable.
"Using CPIC and PIMS for the corrupt purpose of financial gain is obviously not for the public good," Boyd said.
Fagan said Braile was suspended at the time, therefore not a police officer during the alleged database-related offences and was "unaware of policy" particularly because he'd been suspended since 2010 and on stress leave in 2008.
It was an argument Boyd wasn't buying: "He could not have been ignorant of such a widespread, well known CPS policy," she said.
2nd trial in October
All alleged offences stem from activity between 2012 and 2015, during which time all three accused were CPS officers, though Braile had been suspended for unrelated matters. He was fired by CPS in 2016 for professional misconduct relating to a 2008 high-speed chase.
Morton and McNish remain suspended without pay.
The Waltons and Carter face similar charges related to the corruption investigation and are set to go on trial later this year.
Defence lawyers Pat Fagan, Jim Lutz and Paul Brunnen represent Braile, Morton and McNish, respectively.
Mahoney will deliver his decision at the end of April.