2 Calgary police officers convicted on corruption lose bids for appeal
Bryan Morton and Brad McNish were convicted in April 2018
The Court of Appeal of Alberta has dismissed applications from two former Calgary police officers found guilty in 2018 of corruption-related offences to have their convictions overturned or at least their sentences reduced.
Bryan Morton and Brad McNish were found to have participated in a lengthy harassment campaign, designed to frighten and frustrate a local mother into giving up custody rights to her daughter.
Morton was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his crimes while McNish was sentenced to six months in jail.
A third officer, Anthony Braile, was also convicted, but he was sentenced to 90 days in jail to be served on weekends and did not file an appeal.
Braile was the whistleblower. Because of his co-operation with police and prosecutors, he was given a significant reduction in sentence by Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Justice Bryan Mahoney last year.
Morton cited 16 grounds of appeal in his notice while McNish listed 19, many of which overlapped, including an argument that the trial judge had misunderstood the evidence.
Both men also argued through appeal lawyers Alias Sanders and Andrea Serink that Mahoney should have granted a mistrial.
But in two decisions released Thursday, the three-judge panel of Justice Brian O'Ferrall, Justice Elizabeth Hughes and Justice Jolaine Antonio ruled that the lower court judge made no reviewable errors in the convictions of either McNish or Morton.
GPS tracker on victim's car
The case centred around the breakup, hostile relationship and bitter custody battle between Akele Taylor and Ken Carter.
Carter, a wealthy businessman, hired an unlicensed private investigation firm run by former police officer Steve Walton and his wife. The Waltons used the services of current and former Calgary police officers, including Morton, McNish and Braile.
For nearly two years, Taylor was followed and harassed — a GPS tracker was placed on her car and her friends were offered money in exchange for dirt on the single mother.
The surveillance was designed to intimidate Taylor, evoke a sense of powerlessness and highlight the imbalance of power between the victim and Carter, said Mahoney in delivering his sentencing decision.
The Waltons also paid the officers to search for information on internal Calgary Police Service databases.
Taylor testified she felt paranoid, anxious and fearful, believing the police would not help her.
Braile and Morton were convicted of bribery, harassment and unauthorized use of a computer system. Morton also faced a guilty verdict on a charge of breach of trust.
McNish was found guilty of unauthorized use of a computer system and breach of trust.
Ground for appeal rejected
In his appeal, Morton argued that Mahoney should have excluded evidence obtained through the production orders and search warrants.
However, in the 13-page decision regarding Morton's conviction, the appeal court judges dismissed the argument that the accused was denied his constitutionally guaranteed protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
"The appellant has not shown the trial judge erred in dismissing his application for a declaration that his Section 8 Charter rights were violated," the decision reads.
The three-judge panel also dismissed the argument that the lower court judge was wrong in not ordering the disclosure of records relating to Braile's disciplinary citations and other investigations potentially implicating him and tainting his role as whistleblower.
"There is no reviewable error in the trial judge's handling of the disclosure application," the Court of Appeal decision says.
The Court of Appeal also dismissed all the grounds for appeal submitted by McNish, including that Mahoney had provided insufficient reasons for his convictions for breach of trust and for unauthorized computer use.
"The evidence before the trial judge established that none of the activities were for a police purpose: in other words, not for the public good," reads the 15-page decision regarding McNish's breach of trust conviction.
"These findings are supported by the evidence. We see no error. Mr. McNish has not shown that the verdict was unreasonable."
The Court of Appeal also disagreed with the assertion that the trial judge erred in his assessment of McNish's credibility by misapprehending the evidence.
"We are satisfied the trial judge's credibility findings were grounded in the evidence before him, which included many inconsistencies other than the ones set out above, and were available on the evidence. No reversible error has been demonstrated and this ground of appeal is dismissed," the decision reads.
Morton and McNish have been suspended without pay from the Calgary Police Service. The professional standards section of CPS was to conduct an internal investigation after all the court proceedings had concluded to determine if the officers should be fired.
The Waltons and Ken Carter were also convicted of offences related to the harassment of Taylor.
Braile was fired in 2016 for an unrelated incident.
With files from Meghan Grant