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Martensville scandal

Sold out and talked into lovin' it

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Ron Sterling took calls on John Gormley (CKOM Talk radio) November 18, 2004

Receiving slightly more than a car and a pizza (Ron and Linda will have just enough money to buy a house and a taxi) Ron and Linda Sterling are not complaining that their lawyer, Geoff Dufour could buy many cars and many taxis. His last big settlement was on behalf of Saskatoon policeman John Popowich [in this same scandal]. The public didn't learn what percentage of that $1.3M settlement went to Dufour. We did see Eric Cline (the justice minister at the time) on television graciously apologising to Popowich followed by Popowich apologising to everybody — including the prosecutors!

What was that all about? So far we have not heard the Sterlings apologising to Sullivan and Bauer. And good for Frank Quennell for telling reporters that his department had cut separate cheques to plaintiffs and lawyer. This disclosure came in for some pounding on the Gormley show as Ron Sterling once again thanked his lawyer and spoke of the great sacrifice made on his behalf.

During the show, Pam Shetterley phoned in to thank "her" lawyers — Borden and Holgate, who she also claimed had put money out of their own pockets and stood by her from the beginning. I think this is the Stockholm syndrome at work. The entire justice system held all the falsely accused persons from the 1991 Satanic hysteria rampage hostage. Lawyers who hung in there to get a cut of the action came to be seen as saviors by the hostages.

Part of the schtick of hostage takers is to make the hostages think they are really helping them — things could be much worse — etc. Ms. Shetterley seems not to remember that it was Richard Klassen's father-in-law who went into his own pocket so she could receive a settlement. Has she paid him back?

And she is also very well aware that the trial preparation, the arrangements with the registrar to accomodate the media, the heavy lifting, heavy thinking and the major conduct by the plaintiffs' side at the Klassen/Kvello civil proceeding was done by her brother, Richard Klassen and his executive assistant, Angela Geworsky.


Sterling family lauds lawyer in Martensville case

Geoff Dufour

Ron and Linda Sterling are lauding their lawyer, Geoff Dufour (left), for winning them a $1.35M out-of-court settlement with the Government of Saskatchewan and the Saskatoon and Martensville police.

"We never would have gotten anything at all if it wasn't for him," Ron Sterling stated in a news release issued Wednesday.

The Sterlings and an unnamed individual, who was a youth when unfounded sexual abuse charges were brought against them in 1992, sued the government and police personnel for malicious prosecution.

On Monday, Justice Minister Frank Quennell said the Government of Saskatchewan will pay $925,000 to settle the case.

He said the Saskatoon police will pay $175,000 and the Martensville police $250,000.

Quennell also said $735,000 of the government's $925,000 payout would go to the plaintiffs' lawyer.

He did not indicate what portion of the police departments' payouts will go to lawyers.

The Sterling news release Wednesday states that indications Dufour received 80 per cent of the settlement funds are "absolutely untrue."

"He did not get 80 per cent of what we got. That's totally erroneous," Sterling said in an interview Wednesday. "He received much less than that. He received far less than he deserved," he said.

Dufour paid "a great deal of money out of his own pocket for court costs, examinations for discoveries, transcripts, experts, travel and other expenses. We could never have afforded to pursue the lawsuit if Mr. Dufour had not risked his time and money for us," Sterling stated in the news release.

In the interview, Sterling said Quennell had no business revealing information about the way the settlement money was disbursed.

"I just don't think it's right that the government should have released any of the figures to anybody, especially the amount the lawyers got is nobody's business but mine and my wife's and my lawyer's," he said.

"Why did they release what they paid Mr. Dufour? Why don't they release what they paid their lawyers?" he said.

"I don't know why they would want to put him in the position that it looks like he is taking something that he's not doing."

In the statement, Sterling said Dufour "is the only lawyer in Saskatchewan who has obtained any settlements for any of the accused in the whole Martensville affair."

"We owe Mr. Dufour a great debt of gratitude. He worked tirelessly on our behalf against five lawyers who defended the lawsuit as hard as they could -- and he won. There are very few lawyers in Saskatchewan who are as talented or as honourable as he is," Sterling wrote.

A previous StarPhoenix story left the impression that Dufour was paid more than he should have been paid, Sterling said.

"We would like to have seen him paid a lot more. He deserves more. We will always be indebted to him," Sterling wrote.


Martensville suit settled

A couple who were cleared of charges in a bizarre 1992 child sexual abuse case have settled their malicious prosecution case out of court with the government of Saskatchewan and the Saskatoon and Martensville police forces for $1.3 million.

The Saskatchewan government will pay Ron and Linda Sterling and a plaintiff who was a youth at the time $925,000.

Ron and Linda Sterling

The Sterlings, who operated a home day care in Martensville, and the youth will also share a $250,000 settlement from Martensville police and $175,000 from the Saskatoon Police Service, Justice Minister Frank Quennell said Monday.

The government did not admit liability in the settlement, Quennell said.

Just over 20 per cent — $190,000 -- of the government's $925,000 payout will actually go to the Sterlings, Quennell said.

"The lawyer for the plaintiffs asked for separate cheques to cover legal costs and going to the plaintiffs. I can advise that of the $925,000 the government of Saskatchewan is paying to the plaintiffs and the lawyers, we are paying $735,000 of that to their lawyers," Quennell said.

Geoff Dufour, who represented the Sterlings and the unnamed youth, was not available for comment Monday.

Quennell did not say what portion of the police departments' payouts will go to lawyers. Those settlements will be paid through the two departments' insurers, he said.

The Sterlings and the youth filed a malicious prosecution lawsuit against Crown prosecutors Bruce Bauer, Leslie Sullivan, police personnel Michael Johnston, Claudia Bryden, Rodney Moor, Wayne McGillivray, Owen Maguire, Roy Fleming, Theordore Johnson, the government of Saskatchewan, the board of police commissioners of Martensville and the Saskatoon board of police commissioners.

The Sterlings, the youth and five police officers had been charged with 180 criminal offences which arose out of bizarre allegations of ritual sex abuse against numerous children who had been cared for at the Sterling's home day care.

The Sterlings were tried and acquitted on all charges. Convictions against the youth were overturned on appeal. Charges against some of the police officers were stayed after the Sterling acquittals. The entire file resulted in only one sexual assault conviction.

The stories of murder, animal mutilation and Satanism were proved unfounded and the methods of police and prosecutors came under heavy criticism.

Investigators had elicited the allegations by asking the children leading questions and prosecutors had gone ahead with charges despite police misgivings about the veracity of the claims.

Investigators have improved their child interview techniques since then, Quennell said.

"Knowing what we know now about child victims and witnesses, a case with the same circumstances as this case would have been handled differently," he said.

One of the police officers, John Popowich, sued and in 2002 was awarded $1.3 million.

Three other police officers, Darren Sabourin, Jim Elstad and Ed Revesz, who were also charged, are pursuing their own malicious prosecution lawsuits.

"Hopefully these other cases will be resolved soon. I can't guarantee that they will be settled without a trial. It would be preferable if we don't put people through the stress of a trial, but on the other hand we have to arrive at an amount that is acceptable not only to the plaintiffs but also to the defendants," Quennell said.

Quennell defended public prosecutors, saying that the four malicious prosecution lawsuits represent only a small number of the 82,000 charges brought each year by Saskatchewan prosecutors.

"Clearly the vast majority, 99.9999 per cent of prosecutions, have not resulted in any such type of lawsuit and none have arisen recently," he said.

Also on Monday, the Sterlings filed suit against their former lawyer, Reginald Parker, alleging he failied to properly represent them between 1992 and 2001, when he retired.

The Sterlings and the unnamed plaintiff claim that "Parker's failure to properly advance their claims in a timely fashion severely compromised their ability to obtain a proper or fair settlement or judgment from the defendants."

The claim states that each of the three plaintiffs "would have obtained settlements or judgments in excess of $3 million each for malicious prosecution, negligence, conspiracy and breach of charter rights."

"Because the Sterlings had lived in relative poverty since they were first prosecuted, the defendants were able to starve the Sterlings into accepting a disadvantageous settlement amount," the claim states.

The claim alleges that Parker was instructed in 1995 to add their names to a malicious prosecution suit already brought by the other plaintiffs. Parker waited too long, so that the 12-month window for filing suit had expired.

The defendants successfully deflected the late lawsuit in the mid-1990s but Parker never told his clients, they claim. They didn't learn about the limitations period until Dufour took over their case in 2002, the claim states.


Sask. finally settles with falsely accused Sterling family

REGINA - The Saskatchewan government has settled with the couple at the centre of an infamous case of wrongful sex-abuse charges.

Justice Minister Frank Quennell announced Monday that the province will pay $925,000 to Ron and Linda Sterling and to a person who was a youth at the time the charges were laid in 1992.

At the time, the Sterlings operated a home day care in Martensville, north of Saskatoon. They were among nine people charged with 180 sex-related offences against children in their care. Only one of the accused was ever found guilty.

The children's bizarre stories of murder, animal mutilation and Satanism were eventually proved to be lies and the methods of police and prosecutors came under heavy criticism.

It was later determined that investigators had elicited the allegations by asking the children leading questions and prosecutors had gone ahead with charges despite police misgivings about the veracity of the claims.

"Sexual abuse is one of the most sensitive and difficult issues dealt with by our criminal justice system," Mr. Quennell said Monday in a prepared statement. "The difficulties are further complicated when the victims are children."

It has now been recognized that child victims and witnesses cannot be treated the same as adults, he said.

The Sterlings decided to sue for compensation after the province paid former police officer John Popowich $1.3-million to settle his malicious prosecution lawsuit last June. Three lawsuits related to the Martensville case have yet to be settled.