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Kerry Diotte

Columnist offers to settle with cops

Kerry Diotte

Sun columnist Kerry Diotte (right) has offered to settle his $1.75-million lawsuit over a rogue police operation that targeted him.

Diotte was one target of a November 2004 police sting to catch him and then city police commission chairman Martin Ignasiak driving drunk after a journalists' gathering at a downtown bar.

Yesterday, the formal offer to settle was issued. Documents reveal that Diotte will settle for vindication, money to cover his legal costs and a donation to charity.

Diotte is suing the Edmonton Police Service, the city of Edmonton, former police chief Fred Rayner, and more than a dozen members of the EPS.

According to the offer, Diotte wants $50,000. Of that, around $20,000 will cover his costs. The rest is to be donated to a "registered charitable cause of (Diotte's) choice."

On his lawyer's advice, Diotte yesterday declined comment.

Diotte wants a retraction and apology for statements made after the sting suggesting he was drunk and was likely to drive.

The offer calls for apologies for the improper access of EPS computer systems to get his personal information and the improper monitoring of his activities.

The EPS must work to ensure such improper access and monitoring doesn't happen again.

Finally, it must be acknowledged Diotte "is free to report and comment on police activity without fear of reprisal."

The apologies, retractions and acknowledgement must be printed in both the Edmonton Sun and Edmonton Journal.

Daniel Carroll, the defendants' lawyer, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, this week former chief Rayner filed his $1.5-million wrongful dismissal lawsuit against the Edmonton Police Commission, the City of Edmonton, former police commission chairman Martin Ignasiak and former executive director John Acheson.

Rayner was fired Feb. 8, following the Overtime debacle.

Bryan Sarabin, the lawyer representing the city in the Rayner suit, yesterday said he'd only received the paper- work on Wednesday and hadn't yet examined it thoroughly.

"It's probably more than a he said, she said. There's really quite a bit in there," said Sarabin.

Police commission chairman Brian Gibson said he'd been out of town on business and hadn't yet been brought up to speed on the matter.

Ignasiak and Acheson couldn't be reached for comment.

Cop tapes 'sickening'
New evidence shows police targeted me as payback for critical columns

There's shocking new evidence that Edmonton Police Service (EPS) officers carried out an unwarranted drunk-driving sting as payback because I've been critical of police in my columns.

Late yesterday I was given the opportunity to hear a tape recording of police officers talking on the night of a Nov. 18 drunk-driving sting at Overtime Broiler & Taproom downtown. The sting targeted me and Police Commission Chairman Martin Ignasiak.

The tape reveals conversations between some of the seven participating police officers on the night of the sting. Police recorded the two-way radio transmission and a transcript of the conversations are part of the EPS report into the sting. But the transcript and full report have not been made public by police.

Many of the things that were said on that tape were sickening. It suggests there's a real need for an independent body to re-examine the finding of the EPS internal probe. Police Chief Fred Rayner on Thursday released just eight pages of report highlights.

The conversations on the tape strongly suggest the unwarranted sting was conducted because some police officers don't like what I write in my opinion columns.

It calls into question whether police truly were on a routine drunk-driving operation as they've long claimed.

It also calls into doubt whether cops had a legitimate complainant who'd contacted them to suggest I was a risk to drink and drive. Rayner insists they had a legitimate complainant that evening but won't provide any more details.

It illustrates some police officers on the sting feel extreme animosity toward me - bordering on hatred. One person on the tape is heard accusing me of stealing columns off the Internet. Another person is heard to joke that any police officer who busted me for impaired driving would be rewarded with drinks for life.

What is said on the tape also shows that the police know where I live and have camped out in front of my home.

The tape also suggests I'll be specifically targeted in the future by police hoping to catch me driving impaired.

Two senior officers are facing Police Act charges after the probe into the botched sting.

Seven cops, including two undercover officers, conducted the sting during a meet-and-greet for journalists and provincial election candidates sponsored by the Canadian Association of Journalists.

Five other EPS employees - four cops and a civilian - received official warnings for inappropriately pulling up personal information on me and Ignasiak from police information systems.

Rayner has decided the seven cops who carried out the sting "will not face disciplinary action" because they were just following orders.

Police admit they were targeting me with seven cops that night after allegedly getting a tip I was going to drive impaired.

They also targeted Ignasiak. Both of us left the event that night in cabs.

The operation came to light when a Sun reporter overheard police two-way radio transmissions that night. Other reporters at the event learned there were two undercover cops present. One of those cops told a female journalist his real name.

The revelations on tape are the most shocking recent news that comes amid a string of unanswered questions about the sting and Rayner's response to it.

One has to wonder why Rayner insisted at the Thursday news conference that Ignasiak was not targeted by police. An EPS spokesman a day later admitted Ignasiak had indeed been a sting target.

The chief told the news conference I was the target of the attempted sting but it was not because I've sometimes been critical of police in my columns.

"Diotte was the subject of our attention, not because of who he is, but because of information that was received relative to his behaviour or what his conduct might be relative to drinking and driving," Rayner told reporters Thursday.

How can he conclude that when there's still a disciplinary hearing pending? Has that officer who's under investigation told Rayner I wasn't targeted because of who I am? And Rayner just takes it as gospel?

How can the chief say there is no political agenda against me from cops when the police union has now blacklisted the Sun, and some of its members won't talk to us? Isn't that a huge warning bell that there are political agendas at the EPS against journalists?

Why were the cops running my name and Ignasiak's name in their computer system prior to the sting?

Why do police now claim the sting continued long after Ignasiak and I left the bar? Their original news release said the operation ended when Ignasiak left.

The full report along with the tape must immediately be made public.

Citizens should be deeply shocked and concerned. After all, if a group of police officers can target an outspoken journalist with no criminal record, who else have they targeted or will they target?

Lawyers association says reporter, commission chairman targeted by police

EDMONTON -- The association for Edmonton criminal lawyers says the public should be concerned about allegations that police targeted a reporter and the chairman of the police commission.

Lawyer Tom Engel says the two were targeted for political purposes because both have been critical of the Edmonton police service.

Engel says people shouldn't be afraid of being targeted for expressing their views.

The lawyers' association has laid a formal complaint over the incident at a downtown bar where a journalists' group was meeting.

Police say they were acting on a tip that a drunken patron was planning to leave the bar and drive.

But the journalist and commission chairman both left in cabs.

The police chief is meeting with the commission tonight to discuss the investigation into the allegations.

Engel says it should be done by an independent person or body.

Commission executive director John Acheson says the allegations are very serious, and the commission wants to find out what happened and why.

Furor grows over sting on police critics
Police commission chairman a target

EDMONTON - Edmonton police officers staking out a downtown bar during an attempted drunk-driving sting operation last week specifically referred to the police commission chairman and an Edmonton Sun columnist as targets, The Journal has learned.

Sources familiar with the investigation say Shane Holladay, an Edmonton Sun reporter, was listening to a scanner tuned to police radio frequencies Thursday night when he heard police officers refer by name to Sun columnist Kerry Diotte and police commission chairman Martin Ignasiak.

At one point, police referred on air to Diotte as Target 1 or T1 and Ignasiak as Target 2 or T2, sources say.

Holladay took extensive notes, but did not tape the transmissions. A Sun photographer, Perry Mah, also listened to the scanner broadcast as officers discussed Diotte and Ignasiak, sources say.

City police staked out the Overtime Broiler and Taproom in downtown Edmonton for several hours Thursday during an informal provincial election function sponsored by the Edmonton chapter of the Canadian Association of Journalists, of which Diotte is president.

Both Diotte and Ignasiak believe they may have been targeted by police because they have been vocal critics of the city police in relation to several issues.

Ignasiak is also spearheading a campaign to make the police service more transparent and accountable.

Ignasiak and Diotte have said the sting operation may have been an attempt to mute their criticism of the police through intimidation.

It's not known if Holladay spoke directly to Diotte, but the columnist was told by someone from The Sun that police were waiting to bust him for drunk driving.

Diotte, however, did not believe what he had been told. He thought his colleagues were playing an elaborate joke on him. Still, he took a taxi home from the bar.

Ignasiak was not told of the attempted sting, but he also left the bar by taxi.

He only learned of the police operation when he was contacted by The Sun on Friday.

Other reporters at the function, however, were certain police were involved in some sort of operation.

CFCW radio reporter Connie Thiessen said journalists at the event were made aware of the police sting by Sun reporters and it took them no time to identify two men seated nearby as police officers.

Both Sands and Thiessen said one of the men made a cellphone call the moment Ignasiak prepared to leave.

Thiessen and CBC TV producer Mary Jane Weber approached the two men and engaged them in friendly conversation.

One man gave them his name, which The Journal has confirmed is that of an Edmonton police officer.

After Ignasiak learned of the attempted sting, he demanded a meeting with Edmonton Police Chief Fred Rayner and Mayor Stephen Mandel. The three men met Saturday morning.

After Ignasiak told Rayner what he had been told by several reporters about the sting operation, Rayner offered to conduct an investigation.

Both Ignasiak and Rayner agreed not to comment publicly until after a report on the investigation was presented

to the police commission today at 5 p.m.

But with neither Rayner's nor Ignasiak's knowledge, the police media relations office issued a press release at 12:43 a.m. Sunday.

In it, they admitted there were two police officers in the bar, but they went further, stating that the officers were conducting a drunk-driving investigation after receiving a complaint that a drunken patron was going to leave the bar and drive.

The press release also stated that "during the course of their investigation, officers noted a second intoxicated man whom they recognized as a high-profile member of the community."

Both Diotte and Ignasiak said some people have already assumed the unnamed drunks referred to in the press release were them.

Both strongly deny being intoxicated, an opinion shared by several reporters, including Journal reporters, who were at the event and talked to both men.

The press release noted that after the high-profile community member took a taxi from the bar, the investigation ended.

Ignasiak has accused the police of issuing the press release in an attempt to "spin" the story.

He noted there were many others in the bar that night who clearly had more to drink than he had and he questioned why the plainclothes officers apparently paid no attention to them.

The investigation into the alleged sting operation is being conducted by Edmonton Insp. Rick Bohaychuk. He has asked several witnesses to provide statements and copies of any tapes or notes they may have of police broadcasts from that evening.

But the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association has objected to Edmonton police investigating their own officers.

The lawyers question the objectivity of the investigation and they fear the findings will be kept secret.

It's not yet been decided whether the report will be made public.

The association has filed a complaint under the provincial Police Act with the police in an attempt to ensure the police service provides full disclosure of the findings of the investigation.

"We're trying to ensure everything is transparent; that a proper investigation is done and if it isn't, then we have a remedy by going to the Law Enforcement Review Board," association spokesman Tom Engel said Tuesday.

"Without initiating a Police Act complaint, things can be done behind closed doors and we don't get to participate in it," Engel said.

"This is a very serious public issue and so we want to be a party to it."

Probe needed to clear the air

It is good the EPS has launched an investigation into an apparent sting operation carried out Thursday night. The person carrying out the internal investigation, EPS Insp. Rick Bohachyk, has some serious allegations to probe.

The chief allegation is that Edmonton Police Commission chairman Martin Ignasiak and I were for some reason targeted that night by police in a highly unusual drunk-driving sting operation.

That night I was hosting a meet-and-greet mixer for provincial election candidates, their supporters and for journalists at Overtime Broiler & Taproom downtown.

It was presented by the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ). I'm president of the local chapter and a director of the national board.

While at the event I wound up talking on a cellphone to a Sun police reporter who was in our newsroom.

He told me he was hearing EPS officers chatting on a police scanner about both me and Ignasiak, who was at the mixer.

The reporter said I should know it appeared police were aiming to catch both me and Ignasiak driving home after drinking.

I was certain this reporter was pulling my leg. I figured he was playing a prank on me because I'd written a couple of recent columns, parts of which raised questions about how forthcoming police were in providing details about a fatal pursuit.

In that column, I said a young driver who fled police should receive the brunt of people's anger, but cops still should provide the public further details about how the chase was handled.

That night at Overtime I told our police reporter something along the lines of, "Yeah, right. I don't believe you. It doesn't matter, I'm taking a cab home anyway."

I took a cab sometime between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. If I have a couple of beers, I cab it. Drinking and driving is wrong.

That was the germination of what has become a very important news story.

Ignasiak huddled this weekend with Mayor Stephen Mandel - who was also at the CAJ event - and Police Chief Fred Rayner in hopes of getting a full accounting of police actions.

Police admitted in a news release they sent cops to the bar after receiving information that "a drunken patron was going to leave a downtown restaurant in his car."

In the same release they noticed "a second intoxicated man whom they recognized as a high-profile member of the community."

Police say they saw both of us leave in cabs and then, "the officers concluded their investigation."

Rayner has promised he will give the police commission an interim report today on the incident.

It's no secret why this probe is so important.

There are many questions that have to be answered. Among them: Why would police send two undercover cops into a bar for something like this?

What gave them legal grounds to target Ignasiak and I for such a sting?

Why does it appear that no other drinkers in the bar were of interest to police who ended their operation when I departed and when Ignasiak left later?

An operating partner at Overtime is on the record as saying he certainly didn't notice anyone who was drunk and intent on driving his car home. And he didn't call in police.

So who made the complaint and why?

Was it a civilian or a police officer?

I know one thing for certain and witnesses there will agree. I was not drunk. I was not even acting intoxicated, so why would police be interested in me that evening?

The most pertinent allegation police have to sort out immediately is that Ignasiak and I have somehow been singled out because we've been outspoken about some facets of police operations.

Let me set the record straight on my views about police.

I have written numerous opinion columns over the years that both praised and condemned EPS actions. That is my right in a free society. Free speech is a democratic right tens of thousands of Canadians fought and died for.

There should be no repercussions from the state or from police in Canada for expressing a legitimate, honestly held opinion.

I have friends who are police officers with both the EPS and the RCMP.

We agree on some police issues and we agree to disagree on others.

I have frequently written that I believe the vast majority of officers on the EPS are honest, hard-working, well-intentioned people doing a hell of a tough job.

I still firmly believe that.

Those officers know when I write opinions that question certain police procedures or investigations, I'm doing so because I want the EPS to live up to the high expectations of citizens.

Just like the majority of EPS officers, I want a well-funded, professional, efficient, accountable police department that is fully equipped to fight crime in the city.

I want them to be able to bust the scumbags out there and put them behind bars so we can all live in a safer community.

And that is why a thorough probe of this incident is absolutely vital.

As a journalist I share the same goals as the majority of devoted EPS members.

Let's get some answers on this sting and let's get them quickly so the dark cloud can be lifted from the EPS.