OPP's Fantino hails dropped charges
Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino, accused of illegally influencing elected officials in Caledonia, says he's satisfied with a court ruling accepting the Crown's decision to withdraw the charges.
He called the ruling a "logical outcome to an unsubstantiated allegation."
Fantino also said in a news release Wednesday that he has "the utmost respect for and confidence in the judicial system" and is "content that this vexatious allegation was dealt with in a just and appropriate manner."
Fantino's comments came less than an hour after justice of the peace Dan MacDonald of the Ontario Court of Justice in Cayuga agreed with a Crown determination there was no reasonable prospect of conviction in the case involving Caledonia, the site of a long-running aboriginal occupation.
Pursuing the case would not be in the best interest of the public, MacDonald also found.
The commissioner was facing one count of influencing or attempting to influence municipal officials, an offence under the Criminal Code that carries up to a five-year prison term upon conviction.
Tories demand McGuinty explain
Ted Chudleigh, the Progressive Conservative critic to Ontario's attorney general, demanded Premier Dalton McGuinty explain why the charges were withdrawn.
While Chudleigh would not comment directly on the allegations against Fantino, he said the Tories had previously called on the attorney general to assign a Crown lawyer from outside the province to prosecute the case.
"This would have been consistent with the attorney general's decision with Michael Bryant's file. It would have helped ensure public trust in our justice system," he said.
A Crown attorney from British Columbia has been appointed to the case of former Ontario cabinet minister Michael Bryant, who faces charges stemming from a fatal collision involving a cyclist in August.
Attorney General Chris Bentley said the Fantino matter was dealt with in the "appropriate manner."
"The Crown who is head of the Justice Prosecutions Unit had carriage of the file and spoke to the matter in court this morning. He was the one who made the decisions in that matter," said Bentley, who added Crown prosecutor Milan Rupic had no involvement in prior proceedings in the case.
Activist to appeal ruling
Meanwhile, the activist who originally pushed for the charges against Fantino has vowed to continue his fight.
"We are not going away," Gary McHale vowed to reporters outside the courthouse. "The government is just digging itself into a hole, allowing us to prove that this whole story has been one of political interference.
"If the government upheld the law instead of putting up hurdles, this case could proceed and justice would be served."
McHale has filed a judicial review to bring the case to Superior Court, where he hopes to convince a judge that an Ontario Crown attorney should not argue the case against Fantino.
As the initiator of the case, McHale has the right to prosecute it, but he has said he would rather have a Crown attorney from another province handle it.
McHale had filed a private prosecution to instigate the criminal charge against Fantino for trying to influence Haldimand County Council against him.
McHale, a computer programmer with no legal background, said he was drawn to the Caledonia fight in the summer of 2006 after repeated clashes over the disputed land escalated into violence. Believing police were failing to intervene, he began to chart all the incidents where no charges were laid and to put videos of some of them on his website.
With files from the CBC's John Nicol and The Canadian Press