Calgary police officer on trial for corruption testifies he never met woman he's accused of harassing
Three current and former police officers accused of targeting mother in custody battle
One of the officers on trial for corruption-related offences testified in his own defence and said he never met the woman he's accused of harassing.
"I'm a suspended Calgary police officer," said Const. Bryan Morton when asked by his lawyer Jim Lutz about his occupation.
Morton is on trial alongside Const. Brad McNish and Tony Braile.
The three worked for Steve and Heather Walton, who operated a so-called private investigation firm that was hired by multimillionaire Ken Carter, who wanted the company to dig up dirt on his ex-girlfriend, Akele Taylor.
Taylor and Carter were in the middle of a vicious battle for custody of their daughter. The dispute began in 2012.
After three weeks of witnesses, the Crown wrapped up its case Monday. On Tuesday, Braile's lawyer Pat Fagan said he would not call any evidence, before Jim Lutz called his client to testify.
Prosecutors Leah Boyd and Julie Snowdon have not yet had the chance to cross-examine Morton.
The charges faced by Morton include unauthorized use of a computer system, breach of trust, bribery and criminal harassment.
Morton testified he did work for the Waltons — from January 2013 to July 2014 — but mostly as security for an oil company and one of its executives. He said he knowingly took one assignment related to Taylor.
Over that time, Morton was paid more than $60,000 by the couple on top of his work as a Calgary Police Service officer.
'I have never seen that person'
Morton said although he knew her name, he never spoke with Taylor and had seen only a photo of her before she appeared in court earlier in the trial.
"Other than the day she was in this courtroom, I have never seen that person in my life," said Morton.
Morton says he first began working for the Waltons in January 2013, when he was given his first assignment for the self-described private investigator.
That's when he says Steve Walton showed him a photo of Akele Taylor and tasked with confirming that she attended a court-ordered doctor's appointment in Edmonton.
Morton says he was told Walton's client had a child with Taylor and that there were concerns for the child's safety. Taylor was a "prostitute and a heavy drug user," Morton says he was told.
Evidence was presented earlier in the trial that a GPS unit was placed on Taylor's car. The alleged victim testified she was "stalked" and harassed constantly and began to fear for her life. Some of her friends were offered thousands of dollars in exchange for dirt on her that would help Carter's fight for full custody.
Morton testified that in Edmonton he never saw Taylor; he'd been watching the back of the doctor's building while Walton and Braile were out front.
After that, Morton said he never knowingly did any more work on the Akele Taylor/Ken Carter investigation.
But in February 2014, Morton testified he was tasked with watching a home in Cougar Ridge for about a week. He said Walton explained that they'd been hired by a lawyer named Jane Hoffman to watch a house to see if a child came in or out.
Morton said he was not given any other information.
Earlier in the trial, during Taylor's testimony, she said she moved to Cougar Ridge after living in an apartment on Bow Trail S.W.
Court has heard evidence that Hoffman was working for Carter during his custody battle with Taylor. Carter is said to have paid more than $1 million to the Waltons' company for the investigation.
$1,000 per day to house sit
Most of Morton's work for the Waltons was as security for Athabasca Oil and for one of the company's executives, Sveinung Svarte.
Svarte hired the Waltons' company to provide security for his family during contentious firings and layoffs and after the flood that damaged his house.
There was concern the $20 million in property inside the unoccupied flood-damaged home along the Elbow River would be looted. Svarte spent nearly $200,000 on security.
Morton and others, including current CPS officers, were paid $1,000 per shift to watch the house 24/7.
In July 2014, after his home had been repaired, Svarte hosted a Stampede Party, which Morton also worked at. He testified that was the last time he did work for Steve Walton.
Morton trusted Walton and Braile
The breach of trust and unauthorized use of a computer system charges relate, in part, to searches Morton is alleged to have done on police databases — CPIC and PIMS — for Walton's company.
Although Morton said he was never paid for it, he did confirm he ran names at the request of Braile and Walton. He said he did it because both were very well respected at the time and he trusted their intentions.
"If either one of those two individuals asked me to check and they tell me it's for a legitimate reason, I will believe it's for legit reason."
Morton explained CPIC and PIMS inquiries are done to help prevent criminal acts and to ensure public safety.
"The nature of what police do is respond to public concerns. So if there's a concern that there may be some criminal activity going on, I'm duty-bound to look into that," said Morton.
Trial to wrap Friday
On Wednesday, the prosecution will cross-examine Morton. It's not yet known if defence lawyer Paul Brunnen will call McNish to testify.
Braile, Morton and McNish face charges of bribery and unauthorized use of a computer system. Braile and Morton also face charges of criminal harassment, while Morton and McNish each face a charge of breach of trust.
The trial is set to wrap up on Friday. Court of Queen's Bench Justice Bryan Mahoney will reserve his decision.
Later this year, the Waltons and Carter go on trial for similar offences.