injusticebusters logo

Stephen Williams (2003)

Homolka author released on bail

Stephen Williams

TORONTO - The author of two controversial books about sex killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka was back in court Thursday to face 94 more counts of disobeying a court order and violating a publication ban.

Stephen Williams, 54, was released on his own recognizance by Ontario Court Justice Salvatore Merenda.

The bulk of the new charges relate to Crown brief materials from the Bernardo case that Mr. Williams was ordered to hand over to police in May 2002 after banned information allegedly appeared on his Web site.

Specifically, 58 of them relate directly to the Web site, while 28 are the result of material that appears in Mr. Williams's first book, Invisible Darkness . Eight more relate to Karla: A Pact with the Devil.

A single charge of disobeying a court order has also been brought against the numbered company that Mr. Williams and wife Marsha Boulton own and operate from their home in Harriston, Ont.

Mr. Williams, who's scheduled to appear in court again Nov. 25, was also charged earlier this year in relation to Crown material that allegedly appeared on his Web site in May.

In July, police armed with a search warrant descended on the Mr. Williams home looking for material that was to have been turned over to the authorities after a judge ordered his Web site shut down May 3. Stephen Williams and Marsha Boulton, also an author, had their computers seized along with all of their files, making it all but impossible for the couple to earn a living, he said outside court.

"They've taken everything away from us," Mr. Williams said, including the latest draft of his wife's latest project, an historical novel based on the true story of a Presbyterian cult in Cape Breton in the 1850s.

"I didn't know it was illegal to write about Presbyterians," he said.

Without any means of income, the couple is depending on the generosity of neighbours and friends, said Mr. Williams, who has long maintained he's the target of a smear campaign by law enforcement authorities. He has faced charges over his publications in the past.

He was charged with breaching a court order in 1998 after Invisible Darkness was published. Those charges stemmed from the belief by authorities upon reading the book that Mr. Williams must have viewed banned videotapes made by Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. He was acquitted of the charges in 2000.

Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka are serving prison terms for the death of teens Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy.



Bernardo author faces 94 new charges

More than 50 indictments focus on Web site maintained by investigative writer

The author of two books on the Paul Bernardo murder case expressed astonishment yesterday after police laid 94 new charges against him of violating publication bans and court orders.

"This is obviously an attempt to demonize me and to influence public opinion and any judge or jury who might become involved in it," Stephen Williams, 54, of Harriston, Ont., said in an interview.

More than 50 charges stem from an Internet site on which Mr. Williams posted vast amounts of material he had acquired while investigating murders committed by Paul Bernardo and his former wife, Karla Homolka.

Karla Homolka

Almost one-third relates to his first book, Invisible Darkness. The remainder of the new charges pertain to his second book, Karla: A Pact With the Devil.

"I have never acted for anybody charged with this many offences in my life," Mr. Williams's lawyer, Edward Greenspan, said. "They have turned this into a unique case. They want to make it a huge battle, and that's exactly what they are going to get."

Mr. Greenspan likened the police action to charging a highway speeder for every tenth of a kilometre he drove over the speed limit.

"To put it mildly, it is overreach and overkill," Mr. Greenspan said. He said Mr. Williams had better lie low or the charges could reach 200. "We're close to the Guinness record already."

Ontario Provincial Police Superintendent Ross Bingley said the charges were necessary because Mr. Williams has repeatedly violated the privacy of sexual-assault victims.

"We take these offences very seriously, in that protection of sexual assault victims is paramount in this country," he said. "That's why the investigation took so long and was so thorough."

But Mr. Greenspan said it is all about persecuting an author who had the temerity to criticize and embarrass powerful law-enforcement officials. "Had he written a book favourable to the government and police, I don't think we would be here," he said.

Mr. Williams said that if the authorities were hoping to scare him and like-minded authors from writing books that cause them discomfort, it is working.

"The damage is already done," he said. "Anyone thinking of a career as an investigative journalist will immediately go into dentistry or law. If I had had any idea that something like this could happen in this country, I wouldn't have done it myself.

"I'm no hero, and I am no poster boy for free expression," Mr. Williams said. "I simply set out to write a book that told these stories. Any thinking person in this country knows my books are very well done and that they are indictments of the Attorney-General, the police and the state."

Mr. Williams was charged in 1998 with viewing banned videotapes involving the murders of Bernardo victims Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy. Those charges were withdrawn. He was charged again last May, and his Web site was shut down.

Yesterday, the OPP informed the publisher of Invisible Darkness, Kim McArthur, that she is distributing a book that is the subject of criminal charges. But they failed to specify the allegations against it.

"It is a huge chill," Ms. McArthur said in an interview. "How can they say to me that they believe this book has illegal material and yet not tell me what it is?

"I think they should be out looking for Cecilia Zhang [a 9-year-old who is currently missing in Toronto] rather than laying 94 criminal charges against an author who wrote an excellent book about one of the most horrible crimes ever committed anywhere in the world," she said.

Several weeks ago, police again searched the home Mr. Williams shares with author Marsha Boulton, adding to their legal troubles by laying two charges of carelessly storing a firearm.

"We had been plagued recently by foxes and raccoons; we have lost 30 chickens," Mr. Williams said, adding: "Every farm in the country has them [firearms].

"It's just one more thing," Mr. Williams said. "This morning, we were down at the OPP station getting fingerprinted and mug shots. If this keeps up, we're going to lose the farm."


OPP raid Bernardo author's home

Early yesterday, police raided the Harriston-area home of Stephen Williams, author of two books on sex killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, executing a day-long search warrant that Williams' lawyer called heavy-handed.

"I am amazed because they are treating it as treason or murder," said Edward Greenspan. "He is not Bernardo. He writes about Bernardo, and he doesn't even like Bernardo. But his book on the Bernardo case ( Invisible Darkness ) is riddled with criticism of the police and the crown.

"Never in my experience has a Canadian author been treated like this by the authorities," Greenspan added. "And it looks like the crime is that he wrote things that were unfavourable to the authorities."

Police executed a warrant at 6 a.m. that authorized a search of Williams' house and car for documents, computer systems, programs and data, and devices capable of storing data.

Williams was charged on May 4 for allegedly posting material covered by a publication ban on Bernardo's trial to a Web site.

Several OPP officers refused to comment on the search other than admitting investigators were on the Williams property.

In the afternoon, at the home halfway between Mount Forest and Harriston, a lone constable guarded the entrance.

Willams said in an interview that he and partner Marsha Boulton, herself an author, were woken by pounding on the front door that reverberated through their farmhouse. "Until I opened it and saw basically about a dozen cops, I didn't know what was going on."

According to Williams, he and Boulton were shown the search warrant, and were told the police were taking possession of their home, and would remain there as long as necessary.

The couple left about an hour later but were turned away by police when they returned to the house for more clothes and given no indication of when they would be allowed to return.

"They've taken everything we have," he said. "All of our computers, all of our files, all of our work in progress. All of our names and addresses. Our financial stuff, personal and otherwise."

Williams says he is baffled by the raid, three months after he was arrested, because he has done everything the authorities required, including shutting down the Web site, and surrendering his archives to the court.

In 1998, after Invisible Darkness was published, he was charged with allegedly viewing banned videotapes made by Bernardo and Homolka, who killed Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French in 1991 and 1991, respectively.

Williams was later acquitted. Currently, he is under investigation over his 2002 book, Karla: A Pact With the Devil.


Shoot the Messenger, Burn the Evidence

The murders of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French have always been considered special cases, and I use special in the way that it has come to be used in the modern world -- as a euphemism to describe those deemed deserving of extraordinary, meaning particularly gentle, treatment.

Initially, this happened in a rather genuine way, largely in the public imagination.

It was born in the horrific nature of the crimes committed upon the two young women; in their tender years and innate vulnerability; in their parents' profound decency and palpable agony, and in the then relatively novel nature of the videotaped evidence which documented the girls' torture at the hands of their abductors and rapists, the scary pair of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

This spirit -- of goodwill toward the Mahaffy and French families and outrage at their daughters' murders -- then morphed into a series of unprecedented Ontario court and Ontario government decisions which, taken together or separately, look more ill-advised with each passing day.

The most recent of these is the prosecution of author Stephen Williams, who last week was forced by court order to hand over some of his files -- he has written two books about Bernardo-Homolka -- to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice where, like virtually everything else of import in this case, they were promptly sealed.

Mr. Williams appears to have made a mistake by briefly posting on his Web site some material banned from publication by earlier court orders, including a dated picture of one of the couple's rape victims, known only as "Jane Doe," and allegedly the names of some of the women who were raped by Bernardo when he was on the prowl in Toronto.

When informed that he was allegedly breaching an order -- and to be fair, there are so many of these, some of the orders themselves under seal, that keeping them straight is a full-time job -- Mr. Williams immediately shut down the site until the offending material could be removed.

But the Crown, alerted by an April 30 story about Mr. Williams' plan to post documents on his Web site, had the excuse it needed: Prosecutors sought a seizure order and also charged him criminally with violating the publication ban and breaching the court order.

This, in my own jaded view, was but the pretext.

More significant is the climate which has always permeated this case, the heavy hand which is applied to anyone who does not meekly surrender important freedoms in the name of these special victims -- and Mr. Williams is one of this small group -- and the fact that the author is perhaps the harshest critic of the very Crown office now prosecuting him.

Strip his new book, Karla, A Pact with the Devil, of the self-aggrandizing bits, and what is left is a pretty ruthless indictment of the way the Bernardo-Homolka case was handled by some of the province's top Crown law officers and certainly by the head of the joint task force which ran the police investigation. It is clear Mr. Williams had a copy of what's called the "Crown brief" -- basically, the entire police and prosecution file -- as well as unprecedented access to all of Homolka's psychological records, given to him by the man who was the first psychiatrist who treated her, the late Dr. Hans Arndt.

Remarkably, Mr. Williams also managed to establish an instructive correspondence with Homolka, who, of course, unlike her ex, will soon be leaving prison.

In ruling that he must surrender the Crown brief to the court, Mr. Justice Robert Blair suggested this was not a "case of pure [free] speech" because the contested Web site posting was "at least somewhat in aid of the sale of his books," said Crown briefs are not "to be bandied about willy nilly in the public domain," and said he found it "hard to conceive of any way in which Mr. Williams could have come into possession of the contents of the Crown brief in any lawful manner."

Well, golly, I can come up with a couple of lawful ways off the top of my tiny pointed head: Mr. Williams might have been given a copy, as Dr. Arndt gave him his files, by a member of the prosecutorial or defence teams or by the police officers who may have had access to the brief. As Eddie Greenspan, who is defending Mr. Williams on the criminal charges, said last week, "There isn't a book written on crime in the history of this country, or a documentary, or a docudrama, in the entire body of this literature, which doesn't start with the writer having an idea -- and step one is to get the Crown brief."

Lest we forget: The sweeping publication ban imposed upon Homolka's controversial plea bargain trial saw American reporters and the public barred from the courtroom, and everything but the bare bones of the plea banned.

The publication ruling that followed at Bernardo's trial was better crafted but still unusual -- the worst of the videotapes were never allowed to be seen by the public or press.

Two of those peripherally connected but most vigorously prosecuted were Bernardo's first lawyer, Ken Murray, who had discovered the hidden tapes the police missed and was charged with obstructing justice for holding on to them, and, guess who, Mr. Williams, charged with breaching a court order with his first book when police concluded he must have seen the banned videos.

Mr. Murray was acquitted, but not before he was publicly vilified. The Crown abandoned the charges against Mr. Williams -- though not before seeing he was publicly punished -- by piously claiming a trial would have caused the French and Mahaffy families distress.

And, perhaps most stunning, in December of 2001, at a secret ceremony at a location never disclosed, the videotapes and a whole whack of other evidence from the case -- all of it from a public trial held in a public courtroom in a democratic country -- were incinerated with official state blessing in the presence of the two families and their lawyer Tim Danson, who was, as it happens, in court when Justice Blair recently issued his ruling.

The truth is, Mr. Williams' real offence was not in getting a copy of the Crown brief, or even to post material which may have been under ban on his Web site. It was A) to scrutinize the folks whose actions or ineptitude collectively led to the pact with the devil and B) to refuse to pay obeisance to the notion of victim, or in this case victims' families, as sacred objects.


Ontario judge orders author to relinquish Bernardo files

Writer charged over posting of data on Web site must give Crown material he received about notorious murder case

An Ontario judge has ordered the author of books about Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka to hand over tens of thousands of pages of sensitive material to the Crown after a secret hearing.

Author Stephen Williams, who was charged Sunday with violating a publication ban by posting allegedly illegal information on his Web site, said his lawyers are scrambling to overturn the order before it takes effect on Friday.

"It means to me that I'm going to be forced to give up everything I spent 10 years accumulating," Mr. Williams said in an interview after his release from jail yesterday. "The time frame they have given us is tremendously short."

The material includes hundreds of transcripts, interviews with witnesses, and videotapes that depict Mr. Bernardo and Ms. Homolka doing everything from touring their home to engaging in bizarre sex practices.

"What they are trying to do is get it all back," Mr. Williams said. "And once they do, we'll never get it again. The bulk of this material is not in contravention of any publication order and I'm not in possession of it illegally."

Mr. Williams was released on $25,000 bail yesterday in connection with two charges of violating a publication ban. The Crown alleges that he disclosed the identities of some "complainants and victims" in the Bernardo-Homolka case -- probably some of the victims of Mr. Bernardo's so-called Scarborough rapes.

The material comes from a Crown disclosure package prepared prior to Mr. Bernardo's trial for the murders of schoolgirls Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy.

Mr. Williams said the Crown seems determined to ferret out the identity of the person who gave him the disclosure package.

"I would never give up a source," Mr. Williams said.

"If it ever came to that, I think if you give somebody your word, you have to die by it."

As he was kept in the dark about the proceeding on the weekend, Mr. Williams had no lawyers on hand to challenge Crown arguments that he hand over the material.

The series of events began last Tuesday, when Mr. Williams told The Globe and Mail of his plan to post most of the material on his Web site. Within hours of him starting to do so, police spotted the names they say cannot be published.

The 53-year-old man was arrested at his rural Ontario farm on Sunday morning and held in jail overnight. Mr. Williams, who has claustrophobia and high blood pressure, said medics were called when he began hyperventilating.

His lawyer, Edward Greenspan, was highly critical of the police and Crown yesterday for arresting a writer and keeping him in jail unnecessarily. He said Mr. Williams would have voluntarily surrendered himself to the police.

"This happens in totalitarian countries, but it shouldn't happen in Canada," Mr. Greenspan said.

He also questioned the fact that prosecutor Michal Fairburn conducted yesterday's bail hearing despite having been depicted "in a light she cannot have enjoyed" in Mr. Williams's book, Invisible Darkness.

The book told of how Murray Segal, director of the criminal branch of Ontario's Crown Law Office, left his wife and three children during the Bernardo case to live with Ms. Fairburn.

"I would have thought that Crown would not be involved in this case," Mr. Greenspan remarked.

Asked about the issue yesterday, Ms. Fairburn said: "No comment. It's before the courts."

Several years ago, Mr. Williams was charged with a similar offence in connection with banned videotapes of the murder victims. After almost 18 months of pretrial skirmishing, the Crown withdrew the charge. The Crown made a successful attempt to force him to reveal his sources in that case as well. However, it never went so far as to get an order to seize his files.

Mr. Williams said yesterday that he and Mr. Greenspan still don't know what he posted on his Web site last week that was illegal.

"I find the whole process alarming, astonishing; unacceptable in a democracy," Mr. Greenspan said. "You would expect this in Iran. I think the Attorney-General of this province has a lot of explaining to do. I think it has to do with the fact that he wrote a book critical of the police and critical of the Crown," he said.

"This is a free country. If you want to set up a Web site, you can set up a Web site."


Canadian Police Arrest Author

TORONTO -- An author who posted details of one of Canada's most notorious murder-rape cases on a Web site has been arrested for violating a court-ordered publication ban.

Stephen Williams, who wrote two books about Canadian killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, was released on $17,500 bail Monday at a court hearing. He was arrested Sunday.

The information posted on his Web site included evidence from Bernardo's 1995 trial on murder and sexual assault charges, which was closed to the public.

Both Bernardo and Homolka, his ex-wife, are imprisoned for the sexual assault and killings of Leslie Mahaffy, 14, in 1991 and Kristen French, 15, in 1992.

Bernardo is serving a life sentence, while Homolka accepted a manslaughter conviction and 12-year prison sentence in 1993 in exchange for testifying against her then-husband.

In her testimony, Homolka portrayed herself as a helpless victim acting on Bernardo's orders.

Canadian media labeled her plea bargain "the deal with the devil."

Police investigated the Williams Web site at the request of the French and Mahaffy families. The information was no longer available on the site on Monday.

Williams said last week he would post the material because the public never had full access to the trial.

"The public got to see very little about this case," Williams said. "The material on my Web site was an education. There was nothing in there that violated the court order."

A separate police investigation continues into whether information contained in Williams' latest book on Homolka, titled "Karla: A Pact With the Devil," violated conditions of Homolka's plea bargain.

The plea bargain prohibited Homolka from speaking to the media or benefiting financially from the crimes.

Williams has said the pair never discussed the crimes and Homolka received no financial gain for the book about the plea bargain and prison life.

Homolka has been denied parole and is expected to go free in 2005 after serving her full sentence. If police determine she violated conditions of her plea bargain, though, her sentence could be lengthened.