Nova Scotia

Sentencing delayed for Halifax cop who assaulted homeless man

A Halifax police officer convicted of assault causing bodily harm will have to wait until the new year to learn his fate. Const. Laurence Gary Basso, 39, was convicted for a February 2018 incident where he punched a homeless man in the face and then lied about the confrontation.

Last-minute haggling over material pushes sentencing of Laurence Gary Basso to Jan. 31, 2020

Sentencing recommendations were made for Const. Laurence Garry Basso in Halifax provincial court on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019. (CBC)

A Halifax police officer convicted of assault causing bodily harm will have to wait until the new year to learn his fate.

Const. Laurence Gary Basso, 39, was convicted for a February 2018 incident where he punched a homeless man in the face and then lied about the confrontation.

Basso was supposed to be sentenced Friday, but last-minute haggling over material that was to be used at his sentencing hearing prompted the judge to postpone her decision until Jan. 31, 2020.

The Crown and defence used the Friday hearing at Halifax provincial court to make sentencing recommendations.

While this is his first criminal conviction, Crown prosecutor Sylvia Domaradzki said Basso has been the subject of previous disciplinary decisions.

Previous disciplinary action

According to an agreed statement of facts read into the court record on Friday, a complaint of acting in a disorderly manner or in a manner that is reasonably likely to bring discredit to the reputation of the police force was sustained.

The complaint was based on an allegation that Basso engaged in an intimate relationship in 2008 with someone who was an associate to known criminals. Basso met the woman while checking to make sure someone was abiding by their court-ordered curfew.

In 2015, another charge was sustained against Basso. In that case, a cutting agent used to dilute illegal drugs was missing from a police locker. Basso had given it to a coded source and not recorded the transaction. The Crown laid criminal charges against Basso in that case, but those charges were stayed. He was suspended for 10 days without pay for that incident.

Domaradzki told Judge Laurel Halfpenny-MacQuarrie that a sentence of six to nine months in jail would be appropriate for Basso's crime. She said it is necessary to send a message, not only to Basso, but to other police officers and to the public at large.

Defence lawyer James Giacomantonio said a jail term could threaten his client's ability to keep his job. Halifax Regional Police launched an internal disciplinary inquiry against Basso, but that action was suspended until this criminal trial is complete.

Crown prosecutor Sylvia Domaradzki is looking for a sentence of six to nine months in jail for Basso, while his defence lawyer, James Giacomantonio, is asking for a conditional discharge. (CBC)

Giacomantonio is recommending a conditional discharge for Basso. He's also asking the judge to waive the mandatory weapons prohibition that automatically accompanies such convictions. The lawyer said if his client isn't able to carry a gun, his career as a police officer could be over.

Domaradzki countered there are other career options available to Basso beyond policing. She said a discharge would not send a strong enough message.

Letter from Basso

Basso declined an invitation to speak to the judge during the sentencing hearing, but he previously wrote a letter to her.

"I've never slowed down because policing is not a job to me, it is a passion, it is the thing that I love to do the most in this world," he wrote.

"I may be one of the most relentless and tenacious investigators that has ever sat before you on the stand and I wish that I had been sitting on the other side so that you could see that Gary Basso."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Blair Rhodes

Reporter

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 35 years, the last 27 with CBC. His primary focus is on stories of crime and public safety. He can be reached at blair.rhodes@cbc.ca

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