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A therapist and two prosecutors named in a $10M malicious prosecution lawsuit bear no responsibility for the dozens of sexual assault charges laid against 12 people in 1991, their lawyer said in his final arguments Thursday.
Donald McKillop appeared to distance his clients -- therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys and Crown prosecutors Matthew Miazga and Sonja Hansen -- from Saskatoon police officer Brian Dueck, the fourth person named in the lawsuit. Dueck is represented by Regina lawyer David Gerrand.
However, McKillop denied trying to absolve his clients of responsibility.
He said they will each "stand to answer for their respective roles."
But that doesn't mean his clients are responsible for the charges that were laid, he said.
Carol Bunko-Ruys (right), who was contracted by the Department of Social Services for the case, had no power to lay or recommend charges, McKillop noted.
Miazga simply acted as a "legal adviser" to Dueck, then a corporal, when Dueck brought him the case file, McKillop said.
"He was neither investigating nor was he directing (now) Supt. Dueck's investigation," he said. "He operated in his proper realm."
And Sonja Hansen (right) wasn't even involved in the case until after the charges were laid in July of 1991.
"Ms. Hansen had no role (in the investigation and charges), and Mr. Miazga's role was beyond criticism."
Final arguments have now concluded in the trial, which began Sept. 8 and had more than 30 witnesses appear.
Justice George Baynton, who will now start sifting through the thousands of pages of documents and transcripts filed during the lawsuit, said he hopes to give his ruling before Christmas.
The suit was filed by the Klassen family and four other extended family members who cannot be named.
Those who can be named include the now-deceased family matriarch Marie Klassen, son Richard and his wife Kari Klassen, son John and his wife Myrna, son Dale and his wife Anita, and daughter Pam Klassen.
The 12 are suing as a result of their 1991 arrests for sexually assaulting foster children Michael, Michelle and Kathy Ross.
The Ross children lived with Dale and Anita Klassen.
McKillop's arguments are in direct opposition to self-represented Richard Klassen, who told court during his closing argument Wednesday, "the blame should fall on the prosecutorial team" of Matt Miazga (right), Sonja Hansen, Brian Dueck, and Carol Bunko-Ruys.
The Klassen family and others were charged and committed for trial, but Klassen's father, Peter, pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual assault in exchange for a stay of proceedings against the others. He served four years in jail.
The Ross children have since recanted, admitting they made up the tales of abuse.
In the lawsuit, the people charged allege that Miazga, Hansen, Bunko-Ruys, and Dueck knew the children were lying and that their disclosures were inconsistent. They alleged in closing arguments Wednesday that the case against them continued so the officials could "save face."
McKillop said it wasn't any of his clients or Dueck that made up the stories of abuse. It was the children.
"The children made up those stories and the children maintained them," he said.
"None of the defendants did."
McKillop said each defendant played a different role in the case and "that seperateness must be taken into account."
He told Baynton that mistakes or even gross negligence are not enough to find people guilty of malice.
"It requires a dishonesty, an attempt to commit a fraud on the court system," McKillop said.
"That's just absent here."
Also Thursday, there were brief submissions in the countersuit launched by Miazga and Hansen.
They allege Richard Klassen damaged their reputations with his public campaign of postering and demonstrations in the years leading up to the lawsuit trial.
Klassen said he felt the public campaign was justified because the information was true and in the public interest.
McKillop said Klassen made statements as if they were fact, and the judge must decide whether they are indeed facts or simply opinions.
In an interview outside court Thursday afternoon, Klassen said he's happy with the case they presented.
"I remain confident. I now put my faith in the justice system," he said.
Two prosecutors, a police officer and a therapist pushed ahead with a failing sexual assault case against more than a dozen people in the early 1990s simply "to save face," court heard Wednesday from the lawyer representing most of the accused.
But the lawyer representing Brian Dueck in the malicious prosecution lawsuit now before the courts said Dueck was simply doing his job. At worst, Dueck, then a corporal with the Saskatoon Police Service and now a superintendent, was mistaken or negligent at times but not malicious, his lawyer argued.
The lawyer for prosecutors Matthew Miazga and Sonja Hansen and therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys is scheduled to present his final arguments today.
In July of 1991, the 12 people now suing and several others were charged with sexually abusing foster children Michael, and twin sisters Michelle and Kathy Ross.
The Ross children had made up allegations of sexual abuse, as well as detailed accounts of satanic ritual abuse, which included animal and human sacrifice. Michael Ross was later discovered to be abusing his sisters.
On the eve of the 1993 trial looking into the Ross children's abuse, Peter Klassen pleaded guilty to four sexual assault charges and the charges against those who are now suing were stayed. Peter Klassen was the father of several of the accused, including John, Richard and Dale Klassen who, with his wife Anita, provided foster care for the Ross children.
The 12 people, including self-represented Richard Klassen, sued for malicious prosecution, and that trial began Sept. 8 at the Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatoon.
After more than 30 witnesses, final arguments began Wednesday.
The children's disclosures were "riddled with inconsistencies," Richard Klassen said in his closing argument.
Any reasonable investigator, particularly ones as experienced as these, should have noticed this and dropped the case, he said.
Dueck asked leading questions to get the desired answers, Klassen said.
"He was very suggestive. He did it with the assistance of Carol Bunko-Ruys," he said.
"He knew that the more he (led), the more that would come."
Klassen and Robert Borden, who represents the other 11 plaintiffs, noted evidence was withheld from them.
Miazga, for example, heard the children disclose more abuse allegations in his office, but didn't tell the Klassen's defence lawyer about it.
Klassen wondered why Dueck and Bunko-Ruys didn't question one of the Ross girls further when she disclosed that she and Michael were up all night "screwing."
Borden argued there was a "conspiracy" to ignore this information and focus only on the stories that made the adults look guilty.
"That's the track (Dueck) was on, and he wasn't going to let the truth or the evidence get in his way," Borden said.
"Their case was disastrously weak. It had no merit."
Borden noted the children were never asked to identify their abusers during the preliminary hearing. Richard Klassen's tattoos, his wife Kari's pregnancy, and other distinguishing characteristics could have tested whether the children saw them naked, as they claimed.
The case ruined the lives of his clients, and not once have any of the prosecutors or others expressed concern, he said.
Dueck's lawyer, David Gerrand, said the judge must be careful not to apply current mindsets and attitudes to a case that occurred 12 years ago.
"What may appear illogical or unreasonable now should not be seen as illogical or unreasonable at the time the matters occurred," Gerrand said.
He said child abuse investigations are complex at the best of times. He noted the testimony of one other officer who said laying charges were often a subjective judgment call of the police officer.
The recantations of the children -- who admitted during this lawsuit that they lied about the abuse -- were not available to Dueck at the time of the charges, Gerrand noted.
He admitted Dueck did lead the children during some interviews, but argued it was necessary to help them focus.
Gerrand cited the protocol in place at the time which stated children were to be believed when disclosing abuse. The laws had also changed at the time, decreasing the need for corroborating evidence in child abuse cases.
"These complaints were to be taken seriously," he said.
The case was also given to Dueck, Gerrand noted.
"It was not a case (Dueck) sought out or chose to champion or advance," he said. "These allegations were not the creation of superintendent Dueck."
As for prosecutor Terry Hinz, who rejected the case when Dueck brought it to him first, Gerrand said Hinz had "many opportunities" to raise his concerns with Miazga and Hansen.
Gerrand encouraged Justice George Baynton to consider the fact Hinz took those concerns instead to the people suing his own co-workers.
Also Wednesday morning, former CBC reporter Amy Jo Ehman testified as a "rebuttal witness." Ehman was the final witness in the case.
Ehman had read and heard media reports on the lawsuit in recent days, including Dueck's assertion he didn't pursue the satanic ritual abuse allegations, only the sexual abuse ones.
Ehman said she called plaintiff lawyer Borden, and offered a different perspective.
Dueck and Ehman met at an event in the early-1990s, and Dueck told her he was working on an important case.
Dueck recommended she read a book about an American day care where the children made allegations of satanic ritual abuse against the adults.
"I remembered being really horrified" by the allegations in the book, she testified.
Despite assertions in the lawsuit that it was not about satanic abuse, "I had been told (by Dueck) that's what it was about," she testified.
SASKATOON -- Crown prosecutor Sonja Hansen still believed in the "gist" of the Ross children's sexual abuse allegations, even though she testified she had no confidence in several of the other child accusers.
Hansen told court on Wednesday she still believed in the "gist" of the allegations of sexual abuse that siblings Michael, Kathy and Michelle Ross were making against their foster parents Dale and Anita Klassen and members of the extended Klassen family.
She believed this despite testifying Wednesday that she had virtually no involvement with the Ross children and she was not confident in the testimony of other children who came forward with stories of abuse at the hands of their foster families.
Hansen is being sued for malicious prosecution because of her part in the complex court case based on allegations of sometimes-bizarre sexual abuse by the Ross children and six other foster children that led to the 1991 arrests of their foster families, the Ross's birth parents and others. Most of the charges were eventually stayed after the Ross children admitted they made up the allegations.
In fall 1991, Hansen was preparing six children, who cannot be named, for a court case against the extended Klassen family. Her colleague Matthew Miazga, who is also being sued, was working with the Ross children on a sexual assault court case against the Ross's birth parents. The Ross children have allowed their names to be used in the media.
Police officer Brian Dueck and therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys are also being sued for $10 million in damages in the malicious prosecution lawsuit launched by 12 members of the Klassen family.
On Wednesday Hansen took the stand and told one of her lawyers, Jerome Tholl, that she had little contact with Dueck and Bunko-Ruys outside of court and "virtually none" of her work involved the Ross children.
Instead, she testified that she focused on discussing allegations of abuse made by six other foster children. It soon became clear during one-on-one interviews that some of the children could not be trusted to give reliable testimony against some of their alleged abusers, she said.
One child told Hansen that he lied about the abuse because he was mad at his caregiver for "being mean" by making him eat "hot sauce" and he wanted to get back at her.
That same child also recanted some of his allegations of sexual abuse, but Hansen said she couldn't be sure if that was simply because the boy was nervous.
"I didn't know if his recantations were genuine," Hansen said. "I don't have a crystal ball. I'm not God. I don't know when someone's telling me the truth or not."
Hansen said inconsistencies in a child's statement did not necessarily mean they were lying.
"Even though children might not be able to give details to precisely when and where and time, they do know that something happened to them and who did it."
However, this went beyond the usual inconsistencies, she said.
By the time of the Klassens' preliminary inquiry ended in January, 1992, Hansen only had two child witnesses who alleged abuse against Richard's sister Pam and his father Peter. Hansen had recommended that all the other charges be stayed and she ruled out the other four children as witnesses.
"I felt I had lost confidence in them as witnesses and I felt I could not offer them to the court as witnesses," she said.
The Ross children stayed on as witnesses and testified against their birth parents in late 1992. Hansen saw some of their time on the stand and told court on Wednesday that the Ross children had suffered an "almost inhumane" experience. She said she didn't feel they should have to go through it again in a trial involving the Klassens.
The Klassen case never made it to trial. Lawyers reached a plea bargain and the remaining charges against the Klassens were stayed while patriarch Peter Klassen pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual assault.
Hansen's testimony on Wednesday was detailed and she was able to clearly remember 12-year-old conversations and dates.
She clearly recalled, for example, that during a conversation with superiors about whether to proceed with a preliminary inquiry against the Klassen family, it was Ellen Gunn, the executive director of public prosecutions, asked her what she thought of the Ross's allegations. Hansen said she believed in the gist of what the children were saying and Gunn told her and Miazga to go ahead with the case.
Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga did not believe the allegations of ritual and sexual abuse made by three foster children, yet he told court he spent months searching for an expert to testify.
In the early 1990s, Miazga led the prosecution of over 70 charges of sometimes bizarre sexual abuse alleged by siblings Michael, Kathy and Michelle Ross against their former foster parents, their birth parents and others.
On the stand at Court of Queen's Bench Tuesday, Miazga testified he sought out people who had experience working with satanic and ritual abuse of children to retain as potential expert witnesses, even though he has repeatedly testified that he did not believe the more bizarre allegations actually happened.
The children eventually admitted to making up the allegations, which included stories of killing and eating babies, being forced to eat their own feces and to have sex with groups of people. It was actually Michael Ross who was abusing his sisters at this time. Most of the charges were stayed.
Now former suspect Richard Klassen and 11 members of his extended family are suing Miazga, along with fellow prosecutor Sonja Hansen, therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys and police officer Brian Dueck, for $10 million in damages at a malicious prosecution trial.
Robert Borden, who represents 11 of the plaintiffs, accused Miazga in court of having an agenda.
"You were on a course to demonstrate to the people in Saskatoon, at least, that you were on a mission that is to fight these Satanists."
Miazga denied the accusation, calling it "outrageous."
Miazga testified on Tuesday he had little knowledge about satanic and ritual abuse.
"I didn't know much about that," he told Borden. "Still don't, to tell you the truth."
Miazga recalled asking Dueck and later Bunko-Ruys about those aspects of the case. He told Borden on Tuesday that he knew Dueck had attended a few seminars on ritual and sexual abuse.
Bunko-Ruys helped Miazga and Hansen find an expert on ritual and sexual abuse to testify, a task that took months, Miazga said.
Dueck's initial and follow-up police reports mention several experts by name who could provide more information, or possibly testify in court, as well as what Borden called a "plethora" of references to abuse of a satanic and ritualistic nature.
Miazga eventually retained a Hamilton psychiatrist named Joanna Santa Barbara. She testified in November 1992 at the trial of the Ross's birth parents and a family friend that the children likely suffered sexual and ritual abuse. Santa Barbara told the court in 1992 that the children seemed to be displaying many symptoms consistent with ritual abuse, although she added that their abnormal behaviour and unusual degree of sexual knowledge could be linked to other forms of trauma.
Borden questioned Miazga about advice he gave to Dueck, the investigating officer, leading up to the July arrests of the Klassen family members and the Ross's birth parents. Miazga and Dueck, who had never worked together before, spoke a few times in spring 1991, because Dueck said he wanted advice from a Crown prosecutor before laying the charges.
Miazga advised Dueck that there were reasonable and probable grounds to lay the charges. However, he advised Dueck to get search warrants for some of the houses where the alleged abuse took place and suggested that he talk to the accused in the hopes of getting them to confess.
In the end, though, it was up to Dueck, Miazga said.
"If he believed the children, he should go ahead and lay these charges," Miazga said on Tuesday.
During his cross-examination, Borden brought up the topic of exculpatory evidence, which is evidence that could be seen as helping to clear the Klassen family of blame.
Miazga said he was aware of exculpatory evidence, such as that fact that all the accused denied the allegations.
He also eventually found out about an incident in which Anita Klassen took an injured Michelle Ross to the hospital, which he said was not something in keeping with the behaviour of an abuser.
But he said he only found out during the lawsuit trial that Dueck had conducted videotaped interviews with children who denied any abuse happened. Those children were close to some of the plaintiffs and spent a lot of time in their home. The videotapes were not brought up until after the charges were stayed.
Klassen, who is representing himself, wrapped up his cross-examination of Miazga on Tuesday. Much of Klassen's cross-examination centred on responses to potential reporter's questions prepared by the provincial Justice Department's media relations office. Those responses cited a lack of evidence as the main reason for staying the charges against the Klassens.
Miazga had testified that the primary reason for agreeing to stay the charges was because the Ross children were emotionally unstable and could not handle spending more time in court. On Tuesday, he said he still felt that way and that he disagreed with the answers prepared by his department.
Klassen had several questions about evidence gathered in his own case. Although most of the allegations were made by Michael Ross, Miazga testified that all three Ross children told him during interviews that Richard Klassen had abused them.
Klassen asked Miazga if he was aware of any medical evidence linking Klassen to the Ross children.
Miazga replied that given the time frame and nature of the allegations and the fact that DNA testing was not available, there was no medical evidence directly linking any of the accused with the children.
There was however, evidence consistent with recent and past sexual abuse, Miazga said.
Hansen is expected to take the stand today and her testimony should last a couple of days in total.
Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga appeared to distance himself from the decision to lay charges as he found himself being cross-examined on Monday by a man he once prosecuted for sexual assault.
Miazga was the lead prosecutor in a case charging Richard Klassen and his family with sexual assault in 1991. The allegations turned out to be false, and Klassen and 11 of his family members are suing Miazga, prosecutor Sonja Hansen, police officer Brian Dueck and therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys for malicious prosecution.
Miazga started working on the case in 1991 after investigating officer Dueck brought it to the Saskatoon Crown prosecutors office in order to get advice on charges.
Dueck testified earlier in the trial that he wanted to know how to proceed in his investigation into sometimes bizarre allegations of abuse made by siblings Michael, Kathy and Michelle Ross, who were foster children in the home of Anita and Dale Klassen. The allegations later included the couple's extended family, as well as the Ross children's birth parents.
Klassen, who is representing himself in the $10-million lawsuit, began cross-examining Miazga on Monday.
Miazga said he was involved to give advice to Dueck, appearing to distance himself from Dueck's decision to lay charges and the manner in which he laid those charges.
"We do not direct the course of the investigation," he said, adding that unlike what might be portrayed on American television shows, prosecutors in Saskatchewan do not tell police what charges to lay and prosecutors do not have to approve charges before they are laid.
"Police are able to lay any charges they see fit," Miazga said.
Miazga was not the first prosecutor to look at Dueck's investigation into the allegations made by the Ross children.
Terry Hinz, now retired, testified that he had seen the same file before it came to Miazga. Hinz said he had told Dueck there was not enough evidence to proceed to trial.
But Miazga said on Monday Hinz had a chance to bring up his concerns to Miazga on at least one occasion and did not.
Miazga said he didn't note any major concerns with the evidence Dueck gathered, although when asked, he said he probably had some questions about an allegation in the file regarding the sacrifice of a small baby.
"I'm sure I would have wondered about that sort of thing," Miazga said on Monday.
Miazga testified when he asked Dueck about other allegations, such as blood letting and ritual abuse of animals, he did not get the impression that Dueck was serious about pursuing those allegations.
"It wasn't being suggested to me that these things necessarily happened. They were things the kids were saying and I think we were trying to figure out what to make of it," Miazga said.
Miazga testified that he watched the videotaped interviews Dueck and Bunko-Ruys made of the Ross children's allegations. He said he did not note any major concerns at the time.
Miazga referred to his notes frequently on Monday because he said he cannot remember details about events that occurred more than a decade ago.
In the afternoon, Klassen and Miazga had a heated discussion about an incident when Kathy Ross made a new allegation during a meeting with Miazga that Kari Klassen, Richard's wife, had abused her.
There was a charge against Kari Klassen regarding Kathy Ross, but Dueck testified earlier in the trial that there was no basis for this charge and that he had simply made a mistake.
"I had assumed that because there was a charge against Kari regarding Kathy that there was some foundation for that charge to be laid," Miazga said.
Miazga was preparing Kathy Ross for court at the time and no one witnessed the exchange, although Miazga did make notes about what Kathy Ross said about the abuse, which included inappropriate touching and fondling.
Richard Klassen asked Miazga how he could prove what Kathy Ross said.
Miazga became upset at that and said there was no reason for him to make up the incident.
"I can't imagine what motivation I would have to write something down that didn't happen," said Miazga.
"You either have to believe me or you don't."
Before Klassen began his cross-examination, Miazga testified about the incidents leading up to most of the charges against the extended Klassen family being stayed in 1993.
The Ross children's birth parents and a friend were convicted in late 1992 of abusing the Ross children. Several years later, those convictions were overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Justice Mary Batten, who presided over the 1992 trial, said in her judgment that she hoped the three convictions would end the matter because the children had suffered enough and needed time to heal.
Although Miazga said he felt the case against the extended Klassen family was much stronger because Batten appeared to believe the children's allegations, the judge's comments weighed heavily on his mind, Miazga said.
Therapist Bunko-Ruys also told him the children were backsliding on any gains they had made and their foster parents at the time said they were emotionally fragile, Miazga said.
Miazga said that's why he was ready to listen when Jay Watson, lawyer for Richard Klassen's father Peter, called him a short time later and offered a deal in which Peter Klassen pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual assault in exchange for stays on the rest of the charges against the other family members.
After discussion with his superiors in the Justice Department, Miazga and Hansen agreed to the deal.
Klassen continues his cross-examination today. Robert Borden, the lawyer for the other 11 plaintiffs, is also scheduled to question Miazga today.
The case is expected to last at least until next week.
A Crown prosecutor being sued for malicious prosecution proceeded with the sex abuse case against Richard Klassen and his extended family even though there were times the children making the abuse allegations lied to him and others.
According to the testimony of Matthew Miazga, one of two prosecutors assigned to the case in 1991, he met individually with Michael, Michelle and Kathy Ross several times between October, 1991, and December, 1992, to discuss their testimony, explain how the court system worked and emphasize the importance of telling the truth to him, the police and others.
"There were times that I knew they weren't telling me the truth about things where I had independent knowledge of it and we talked about that. I can remember times I would use firmer language than I might use with a child because it would concern me that they would say things -- and this would be about school or their personal life where I would have independent verification," said Miazga at Court of Queen's Bench on Friday.
Miazga along with prosecutor Sonja Hansen, Saskatoon police Supt. Brian Dueck and therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys are being sued for $10 million by Klassen and 11 members of his family who were charged with sexual assault stemming from horrific allegations of ritual abuse made up by the Ross children and others.
Miazga, who explained he wasn't feeling well, was asked during direct examination by his lawyer Don McKillop to speak louder because lawyers for the plaintiffs couldn't hear his testimony, despite microphones and speakers in the court room. Several times he asked McKillop to repeat questions. He frequently drank water during his questioning. And to aid his memory, Miazga brought his diaries and a timeline that he prepared.
Miazga testified he was concerned about the credibility of Michael when, in November, 1991 while testifying at another sex abuse preliminary hearing, the boy lied about keeping a notebook.
He said Michael's foster parents and a therapist weren't surprised by the lie and explained he was trying to appear to imitate the judge and lawyers who were taking notes.
That led to a telephone conversation with Miazga, Hansen, and their superiors: Wilf Tucker, the regional Crown prosecutor; Fred Dehm, who was taking over Tucker's job while he was on leave; Ellen Gunn, executive director of public prosecutions; and Richard Quinney, director of prosecutors.
Gunn, now a justice of the Court of Queen's Bench, testified earlier in the civil trial that she had no memory of the sex abuse case. Quinney, who is deceased, was also named in the civil trial, but earlier this week, Justice George Baynton decided there was no basis for the case against Quinney.
Miazga said the group decided to proceed with the preliminary hearings in both that case and the Klassen case and let the judge decide if the matters should go to trial.
Miazga said he conferred with some of his superiors again during the Klassen preliminary hearing because Michelle was inconsistent during cross-examination, which lasted several days.
"She was beginning to agree with everything essentially that was put to her in cross-examination no matter what it was," said Miazga. "Anytime a witness is inconsistent I would have concerns about that witness being found to be a reliable witness by the court, and there's always the question is this person telling the truth or are these inconsistencies due to other reasons such as fatigue or the age of the child."
Again, it was decided to continue with the hearing and let the judge decide if the case should proceed.
Provincial court judge Robert Finley presided over both preliminary hearings and after they had concluded, he had lunch with Miazga and Hansen who wanted to thank the judge for how he treated the children during the hearings.
"During the course of the lunch, he conveyed to Ms. Hansen and me that he believed what the children said insofar as the sexual assault allegations were concerned.
"And the effect it had on me was a confirmation from a person who had heard the whole case, had seen the kids, had heard their cross-examination and he believed what they said. That adds some support to the belief I had," said Miazga.
He also testified that in the 1990s the test that he and other prosecutors applied in deciding whether to proceed with a prosecution was two-fold: "that there were reasonable and probable grounds to believe that an offence has been committed, and that it was in the public interest to proceed with that particular charge.
"It's test that was there throughout the prosecution and it's something you would bear in mind and reassess as often as you felt it was appropriate."
Miazga said he applied the test throughout his prosecution of the 12 accused and based on the interviews with the children and other evidence, he believed he repeatedly met the test.
The court proceedings stopped earlier than usual because not only was Miazga feeling unwell, but Richard Klassen told the judge he was sick too.
On Monday when the case continues and after McKillop finishes his questioning, cross-examination of Miazga will begin.