A man whose murder prosecution [Max Kakegamic] caused unrest among the large native population of a Northern Ontario town has launched a $5M lawsuit against police officers who allegedly suppressed evidence that could show his innocence.
Justin Carambetsos, 29, alleges in his statement of claim that Kenora Police Service officers negligently pressed forward with their case in the face of evidence that clearly pointed toward the lead investigator's nephew.
“What the courts cannot tolerate is police dishonesty”
A judge threw out the murder charge against Mr. Carambetsos last year, accusing officers of committing "egregious acts of misconduct" in their investigation into the slaying of native Max Kakegamic.
In an interview yesterday, Mr. Carambetsos said he became an overnight pariah after being charged. He was twice the target of demonstrations through downtown Kenora by several hundred angry natives.
Mr. Carambetsos said his life has not returned to normal despite his exoneration. The natives who make up a large part of the town's population avoid the bar he and his father bought in 2001 — the Whistling Monkey — and Mr. Carambetsos said he must be careful wherever he goes.
"Just a month and a half ago, I went to the bathroom at a club," he said. "I was surrounded by six native guys who started punching and pushing me."
Mr. Kakegamic's body was found in an alcove on the city's main street on Oct. 4, 2000. His wallet was missing and he had apparently been kicked to death.
Shortly before the slaying, a woman had discovered Mr. Kakegamic passed out on her couch when she returned home. She had asked Mr. Carambetsos — a bartender and friend — to get him out of her apartment. Mr. Carambetsos had carried Mr. Kakegamic outside and left him in a heap on the sidewalk.
The lawsuit notes that Mr. Carambetsos was arrested within six hours. He was released on bail pending his trial.
"I had death threats all the time," he said yesterday. "People chased me and followed me home. Nobody would have me. There was no job I could find in this whole town. I lost about three-quarters of my friends."
His defence lawyer, David Gibson, eventually uncovered and brought to court evidence that a local man with a record of attacking unconscious people — Danny Favreau — had been seen loitering in the area where Mr. Kakegamic was left. Mr. Favreau is a nephew of the lead investigator in the case.
According to the statement of claim, facts gradually emerged showing that police had "conspired to tailor their evidence" to make the charge against Mr. Carambetsos stick.
"It was the usual recipe for a wrongful conviction," Sean Dewart, Mr. Carambetsos's civil-suit lawyer, said yesterday. "You have a precipitous fixation on one suspect, you have police tunnel vision and you have them actively suppressing any evidence that doesn't fit with their preconceived view."
Kenora Police Service has 20 days to file a defence now that Justin Carambetsos and his parents, George and Arlene, have filed a $5-million lawsuit against several parties involved in the investigation of the October 2000 death of Max Kakegamic, his lawyer Sean Dewart said Thursday.
Kenora Police Service has 20 days to file a defence now that Justin Carambetsos and his parents, George and Arlene, have filed a $5M lawsuit against several parties involved in the investigation of the October 2000 death of Max Kakegamic, his lawyer Sean Dewart said Thursday.
The police charged Carambetsos with second degree murder in Kakegamic's death, a charge that was amended to manslaughter after a preliminary hearing, then stayed by a Superior Court justice in February 2004 after the start of his trial.
The lawsuit names six parties: Kenora Police Services Board; officers Lloyd White, Chris Rathchford, Dan Jorgensen and Tom Favreau; and Police Chief George Curtis.
The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, was news to police services board chairman Ron Lunny.
"I wasn't aware of that development at all," Lunny said on Thursday. "I can't say I'm not surprised."
Dewart sent a letter to the police services board last June.
At the time, Carambetsos characterized the letter as an "opening letter, not a civil suit."
"No claim has been filed yet," he said.
Dewart said, "The city refused to meet or enter into discussions. I can't force people to negotiate with me. That's what courts are for."
The suit seeks $2 million in general damages and $2 million in special damages for malicious prosecution, negligence and breaching Carambetsos's Charter rights.
It seeks $500,000 in punitive, exemplary and aggravated damages, pre-judgment interest and court costs. As well, it seeks $500,000 in damages under the Family Law Act for his parents, George and Arlene.
"(Justin) Carambetsos has suffered significant psychological harm and emotional trauma, loss of enjoyment of life, anguish, humiliation, pain and suffering and loss of self-esteem and confidence," the lawsuit says. "He has been and will continue to be stigmatized as a murderer.
"Carambetsos has lost income and, especially because of his age and situation when the charges were laid, his income earning ability for the balance of his life has been permanently harmed.
"The plaintiffs George and Arlene Carambetsos have been deprived of the care, guidance and companionship of their son."
Kakegamic's death was investigated by White, the lead investigator, Favreau, the case manager, Jorgensen, the identification officer, and Ratchford, the file manager.
In staying the manslaughter charge, Justice Peter Hambly cited suppression of evidence by White, Favreau and Rathchford.
"The suppression by the police of the Carambetsos statement to (Sgt. Lloyd) White on Oct. 4, 2000 and of (witness) Heather Gunne's statement to (Sgt. Tom) Favreau on Oct. 4, 2000 in the police car, in whatever form it was made, were egregious acts of misconduct," Hambly wrote in his ruling. "Everything that flowed from this has made it impossible now for the accused to get a fair trial."
The police service, Dewart said, is "pretending nothing is wrong."
Curtis asked the OPP to investigate the officers after reading Hambly's findings.
In a report filed with Curtis in December, OPP Det. Insp. Bob Deasy didn't recommend laying criminal charges. However, White and Favreau will face a Police Services Act hearing later this year for "police misconduct."
"Those proceedings don't do anything for Justin," Dewart said.
KENORA police are refusing to release the findings of an independent report into a judge's bombshell allegations that two of its officers committed criminal acts while building a tainted murder case against a local resident.
Chief George Curtis announced yesterday he has recently received the completed document from the Ontario Provincial Police but won't comment further until he decides what, if any, actions will be taken against his members.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Peter Hambly blasted Kenora police earlier this year when he dismissed a manslaughter charge against Kenora bartender Justin Carambetsos.
Hambly found officers deliberately withheld evidence that supported Carambetsos' claim of innocence and ignored evidence that the lead investigator's nephew could be the real killer.
The missing evidence — a statement made by Carambetsos after his arrest — was only disclosed in January by a fellow Kenora police officer who was praised by Hambly but branded a "mole" by fellow officers who were angry he had exposed their deceit.
Kenora police, which patrols the city of 15,000 located 200 kilometres east of Winnipeg, called in the OPP to launch an independent investigation into their conduct following Hambly's ruling.
The case involved the October 2002 beating death of aboriginal Kenora resident Max Kakegamic.
Carambetsos spent eight days in jail before being released on bail and has hired a Toronto lawyer to pursue a lawsuit. He declined to comment when reached yesterday by the Free Press.
The two officers at the centre of the storm — Sgt. Tom Favreau and Sgt. Lloyd White — were pulled off the street and re-assigned to administrative duty pending the OPP investigation. They also could face criminal charges.
A group of police officers in a Northern Ontario town purposely suppressed evidence capable of showing they had charged an innocent man in a racially charged murder, an Ontario Superior Court judge has ruled.
After halting Justin Carambetsos's murder trial, Mr. Justice Peter Hambly harshly condemned Kenora Police Service investigators for misleading the Crown and defence about the existence of a far better suspect — a nephew of the lead investigator in the case.
"These officers were a force unto themselves," Judge Hambly said. "The court can sometimes tolerate police inexperience, blunders, mistakes and inefficiency," the judge noted.
"The court will sometimes make allowances for poor police work done in good faith. What the court cannot tolerate is police dishonesty."
The judge accused three officers, Sergeant Thomas Favreau, Sergeant Lloyd White and, to a lesser extent, Constable Chris Ratchford, of "egregious acts of misconduct," which include suppressing critical evidence, perjury and failing to investigate Danny Favreau, a local tough seen near the body of homicide victim Max Kakegamic on Oct. 4, 2000.
Judge Hambly added that it is "highly likely" that Danny Favreau's alibi was false.
He said the police were derelict in not investigating Mr. Favreau's involvement and in fabricating evidence afterward to cover up their true actions.
The explosive ruling, issued last month but placed under a tight publication ban until this weekend, has fuelled an already tense situation in the town of 15,000.
Mr. Carambetsos's lawyer, David Gibbons, said in an interview that his client "has always maintained his innocence, and we now know that he was charged as a result of a biased rush to judgment by police officers who were prepared to suppress exculpatory evidence, testify falsely under oath . . . and fail to investigate leads that pointed away from him."
Mr. Gibbons said aboriginal leaders are doing their best to keep a lid on the situation. Mr. Carambetsos expects to see "a thorough, independent review of the culture and practices of the Kenora Police Service," he added.
According to a report in the Kenora Miner, Police Chief George Curtis has reassigned Sgt. White and Sgt. Favreau to administrative duties pending an OPP investigation of their conduct.
Still, Judge Hambly noted in his ruling that the rogue officers not only deprived a racially divided community of a fair trial, they likely permitted the real killer to get away.
Shortly before the slaying, a local woman had returned home and discovered Mr. Kakegamic passed out on her couch. She asked Mr. Carambetsos, a bartender and friend, to get him out of her apartment. Mr. Carambetsos, described by Judge Hambly as a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record, carried Mr. Kakegamic outside and left him in a heap on the sidewalk.
Notwithstanding an utter lack of reasonable or probable grounds for suspicion, Judge Hambly said, the police arrested Mr. Carambetsos within hours. He said they also suppressed a spontaneous statement in which Mr. Carambetsos described Mr. Kakegamic calling him an "asshole" as he walked away.
(The officers testified that they viewed the statement as being "off the record.")
Judge Hambly said the police also withheld repeated statements by an eyewitness that she saw Danny Favreau, a man with a history of beating up "helpless men," sidle up to Mr. Kakegamic's prone body and appear to move him.
Shortly afterward, Mr. Kakegamic was found kicked to death.
Another Kenora Police officer, Constable Dan Jorgenson, eventually stumbled upon the suppressed evidence, braving the anger of his fellow officers by tipping off the Crown. In a letter to Chief Curtis in 2001, prosecutor Daniel Mitchell warned that events "raised the spectre" of a biased investigation aimed at favouring Sgt. Favreau's nephew. Tuesday, March 23, 2004, Page A2
Criminal lawyer David Gibson represented a Kenora, Ont., man — Justin Carambetsos — whose murder charge was stayed by Mr. Justice Peter Hambly of Ontario Superior Court. Mr. Gibson was misidentified in a story yesterday.
This material if from Turtle Island Native Network
Margaret Kakegamic and her husband Issac of North Spirit Lake First Nation were supported by family, friends and community supporters as they marched yesterday - four years after their son Max was killed on the streets of Kenora.
The family and the Anishinaabe Peace and Justice Coalition called for a public inquiry and they have good reason to raise issues of injustice, because the prime suspect was freed, after two mistrials and shocking revelations of police wrongdoing during their probe of the murder.
An investigation by the Kenora Police Service resulted in a murder charge. After the preliminary hearing, the murder charge was changed to manslaughter. A trial was scheduled but in February, 2004 the accused's lawyer asked the court to stay proceedings against the accused killer. The judge said he had to grant this request because the police had been dishonest. So the charge against the accused was stayed and he is a free man.
Margaret Kakegamic told the gathering, "I cannot tell you how sad my husband and I feel about our son's death. We know that someone is responsible for his killing. But no one is being tried for his murder. We know there is an investigation of the officers of the Kenora Police Service. But that will not result in new charges against anyone. Maybe the officers will be disciplined. But that will not bring our son back. My husband and I cried many tears when we lost Max.
And we became angry with the justice system when the accused was set free. And we were angry that the police were dishonest. And we are angry with the justice system. It makes us wonder what sort of justice system we have. What will be done solve our son's murder? Did our son die in vain? We would like to see some good come out of this tragedy. One of the ways this could happen is to have an inquest into Max's death. Another way would be to press for a Public Inquiry. Will you help us?"
"There is clearly tension between the natives and non-natives in this city, which has been aggravated by this case. It is important for racial harmony in this city that this case be tried by an impartial jury, having placed before it all legally admissible evidence."
Read the Judge's Report [OFFSITE]
"Our concerns are well-documented and well-substantiated. We believe that a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. We need more than sensitivity training. We need a national and sustained strategy that involves key players in the justice system and all levels of government." . . . National Chief Fontaine
News and Comment
The Ontario Provincial Police have launched an investigation into misconduct, involving the fabrication of evidence and suppression of evidence, by Kenora Police.
Sgt. Tom Favreau and Sgt. Lloyd White were fingered by a Superior Court of Justice, in the case involving Justin Carambetsos, a man accused of manslaughter, in connection with the October 2000 killing of Max Kakegamic of North Spirit Lake First Nation.
A mistrial was declared earlier this year, and recently Superior Court Justice Peter Hambly released details of his ruling, "The criminal investigation management in the Kenora Police Service carried out by Favreau and White was more than deficient. These officers were a force unto themselves. The courts can sometimes tolerate police inexperience, blunders, mistakes and inefficiency. The courts will sometimes make allowances for poor police work done in good faith. What the courts cannot tolerate is police dishonesty".
Justice Hambly also found the officers had ignored or suppressed evidence of a second suspect and misrepresented the case to the Crown when they sought an arrest warrant.
Amazingly, the second suspect who was ignored, is a relative of one of the police officers who is now accused of misconduct.
Justice Hambly concluded, "The accused cannot get a fair trial because the police did not perform their function. Their function was to investigate impartially. What they did was to use the power of the state to gather evidence to support their conclusion that Justin Carambetsos was guilty. Not only did they do that, they used the power of the state to suppress evidence which supported the accused's innocence. This conduct is unacceptable. For me to permit this trial to proceed would be to support and condone what the police have done. It would be to abdicate the role of the court. The charge is stayed".
Justin Carambetsos is a free man, thanks to the efforts of his lawyer David Gibson who pressed the court to look into new evidence regarding the police probe of the death of Max Kakegamic.
The case raised red flags in January of this year, when on the third day of the trial it was discovered that Carambetsos had made a statement to officer White on October 4, 2000 in the police station. Carambetsos told White that Max Kakegamic was bleeding in Maria Campenella's apartment before he touched him. He said that he removed him onto Matheson Street, where he left him alive and conscious. He did not assault him. White disclosed this statement to the investigative team but no one disclosed it to the crown and hence it was not disclosed to the defence.