Concerns over video stall officer's manslaughter trial again

An argument around a central piece of evidence in the case against an Ottawa police officer continues to bog down the trial and cause delays.

Crown attempted to play slowed-down version of surveillance video showing Abdirahman Abdi's arrest

Const. Dave Weir, left, and Const. Daniel Montsion. The Special Investigations Unit charged Montsion with manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in the death of Abdirahman Abdi, and his trial continues. (Youtube)

An argument over a central piece of video evidence in the manslaughter case against Ottawa police Const. Daniel Montsion continues to bog down the trial.

Proceedings were halted for a second time Tuesday over concerns about surveillance video taken from the lobby of 55 Hilda St. The video shows Montsion delivering "unjustified" blows to Abdirahman Abdi's head and body on July 24, 2016, according to Crown prosecutor Philip Perlmutter.

The altercation left Abdi bloody and without vital signs. He was declared dead in hospital the next day.

The video is said to be the "centrepiece" of the Crown's case against Montsion, who has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon.

The Crown planned to show a slowed-down excerpt of the original video in court Tuesday, but the defence quickly called for a stop.

Concerns about that same video led Justice Robert Kelly to adjourn the trial for nearly three weeks earlier this month. 

New concerns

Defence counsel Solomon Friedman demanded to know what the Crown has planned for the video so Montsion's lawyers can decide if they should file a Charter application that could see the case dismissed.

The defence learned new information from a recent expert report about how the original files are "corrupt," and the slowed-down version is devoid of time data that would let the viewer know if it's playing at the right speed.

"Is the video playing back fast, slow or at speed?" Friedman told court, quoting from a report he received on Monday from the Crown's video expert.

The defence claims the "doctored" video was shown to the pathologist, who subsequently changed their opinion on the cause of Abdi's death from accidental to criminal. 

Defence lawyer Michael Edelson said the issues surrounding the 55 Hilda St. CCTV video are of "critical importance" to the case. 

Charter applications threatened

The defence still reserves the right to bring a Charter application that could preclude the Crown from relying on the pathologist's final report, or any opinion that's based on the version of the slowed down video.

They're also considering a Charter application alleging abuse of process by the Special Investigations Unit, which charged Montsion, for misleading the Crown, the pathologist, the defence and ultimately the courts.

SIU forensic investigator David Robinson told the court he wasn't aware of the slowed-down video until he started preparing for trial, and that he learned about it from the pathologist's report. 

The video was created by Robinson's manager, Frank Kavcic, but no one has yet explained why. 

Neither the original surveillance video or the slowed down excerpt have been played in court. 

Justice Kelly ordered the Crown and the defence to work together on an agreed statement of facts in an effort to put the video issue to bed in time for court to resume Wednesday morning.

Cellphone video allowed 

The Crown was allowed to show a cellphone video shot by neighbour David Thyne across the road from 55 Hilda St. on July 24. 

The video shows several police officers standing around the entrance to the apartment building as a woman wails in the background.

Video admitted as evidence in Montsion trial

3 years ago
The video shows several Ottawa police officers standing around the entrance to the apartment building at 55 Hilda St. as a woman wails in the background. 1:53

An off-screen voice asks, "What was all that yelling before?"

"It was because of the cops," another voice says.

The Crown hasn't yet explained the significance of the video.