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QB 271 Pre civil trial

Crown lawyer had doubts about cult abuse charges: sources

The senior Crown prosecutor handling a satanic cult abuse case in 1991 refused to lay charges, but other officials proceeded anyway, sources say.

Cpl. Brian Dueck of the Saskatoon Police Service investigated bizarre allegations of orgies, ritual abuse and bestiality made by three Saskatoon-area foster children.

He brought his findings to senior Crown prosecutor Terry Hinz. A group of 13 people, including Richard and Kari Klassen, were accused of making the children eat feces, drink blood and urine, and forcing them to have sex with bats and dogs.

Matthew Miazga

But Hinz refused to agree to charging the adults, according to the sources.

The file was then taken over by Crown prosecutors Sonja Hansen and Matthew Miazga (right). Thirteen people were rounded up in the summer of 1991 and charged.

Klassen's father, who had a previous criminal conviction for abusing children, agreed to a contentious plea bargain on the eve of the trial -- he pleaded guilty and the charges were stayed against the others. All three foster children have since admitted to lying about the abuse.

Twelve of the group charged in the bizarre case have filed a $10-million lawsuit for malicious prosecution. Klassen and lawyers for the other plaintiffs have begun closed-door questioning of the defendants and potential witnesses as part of a pre-trial process called examinations for discovery.

Hinz is now willing to state how he handled the file when it was assigned to him, according to the sources. One motion filed by Klassen seeks to compel Hinz to appear for the pre-trial questioning.

Brian Dueck

Another motion seeks to have Queen's Bench Justice Ellen Gunn appear as well. Gunn was director of prosecutions for the provincial Justice Department in 1991 when Klassen and the others were charged.

A third motion seeks to compel Brian Dueck, now a superintendent with the police department, to answer certain questions he refused to during earlier questioning.

Any documents filed in support of the requests to have Hinz, Gunn and Dueck appear for questioning were put under a sweeping publication ban last Friday by Queen's Bench Justice Mona Dovell, the judge overseeing the lawsuit.

A University of Saskatchewan law professor called the action "highly unusual," while Klassen says it's "so frustrating it's eating me alive."

Some of the motions and other materials in the case had already been available to members of the public for several weeks at the courthouse.

However, Dovell learned a story was about to be published last Friday when The StarPhoenix requested a public document in her office.

Dovell called all of the lawyers in the case together just after 5 p.m. that day for a conference call, then she ordered sealed "all materials filed in support of any motion made either before or after this date regarding the discovery process."

Klassen and Robert Borden, the lawyer for the other plaintiffs, said they weren't in favour of a blanket ban.

In her order, Dovell states that "it was known that a reporter from The StarPhoenix had in his possession a sworn statement of Richard Klassen, which contained paraphrased portions of what Crown prosecutor Hansen had said".

"That information has now been sealed by the court."

The statements by Hansen that are now banned were made during an examination for discovery. Under court rules, the information gleaned from the questioning is kept secret until trial.

However, because some of that information was also contained in a public document on the court file -- Klassen's sworn statement -- The StarPhoenix had been about to publish a story, until Dovell issued her ban.

The motions filed on the case can still be published, although details about why the motions are being made cannot be printed.

Dovell ruled this week that Dueck will have to answer some of the questions he earlier refused to answer. She is expected to rule soon on the other matters.

Dovell's order to seal the documents Friday night does not sit well with Klassen.

"We're not opposed to (by) the rules of court (but) this was filed legally. The public has the right to know," Klassen said. "What's the next step? How far will this go?"

U of S law Prof. Russ Buglass said Dovell's decision to seal public documents was "highly unusual."

Buglass said it's also unusual that The StarPhoenix was not given a chance to make an argument in favour of freedom of expression. Buglass and civil litigation lawyer Andrew Mason said public documents are sealed only when the judge mistakenly allows them to be public in the first place.

"It may have been an oversight. It says to me there was probably a mistake," Mason said.

It's unclear whether any of the specifics of this case will ever become public. Buglass noted that "much more than half" of all lawsuits are settled before trial, and the files are usually sealed as part of the agreement.

Dueck's lawyer, David Gerrand, said it would be inappropriate to comment while the matter is before the courts.

In an interview Friday before the order was issued, Don McKillop, who represents the prosecutors and other defendants, cautioned against publishing the material which is now sealed.

He said the "snippets" of information in the documents would give an incomplete picture of the case.

"There is the potential to keep an old wound open or open wounds and not particularly do anybody any good," he said.

inJusticebusters has learned The StarPhoenix was already 40 or 50,000 copies into its press run when it received its order to stay far away from the sealed material. It stopped the presses but went ahead with the feature story, Klassens await their day in court. inJusticebusters has seen the contentious paragraphs which it would also be in the interest of the public to see. After receiving legal clarification, The StarPhoenix published the above story today (five days later).

The chill which government lawyers have put around discussion of this case is probably what has driven El Nina away. We are pleased that Jason Warick is insisting on getting the story out to the public. We hope the StarPhoenix lawyers will err on the side of the public interest to know the facts of this case rather than be chilled by government and police lawyers who keep threateneing to sue.

Almost three years ago, City Solicitor Theresa Dust defended gag orders by saying it would be misleading for the story to come out in bits and pieces or, as Don McKillop says today, "snippets." This is bogus. If the media was allowed to tell the story, it could use forthright language, name its sources and we would get a more relaxed attitude toward what has become a legal farce.

The truth is that they are embarrassed the public is finally learning that they knowingly allowed children to be brutally and repeatedly sexually assaulted in Saskatoon and Warman. That they are continuing to insinuate that any of the adults involved in Q.B. 271 (1993) are guilty compounds their criminality.

We repeat, not even the court has the authority to seal evidence of crimes.

Why we broke the publication ban | The story with links to very large bits and pieces which anyone could put together and get a fair gist | The media's involvement | Holgate dumps Klassen

Rick Klassen June, 2002

Klassen weathers latest gov't challenge to lawsuit: Province's bid to halt case denied by judge, who says it's 'imperative' matter proceed

Richard Klassen wept and hugged supporters in court Wednesday afternoon after he thwarted a third attempt by government and others to stop his multi-million-dollar lawsuit against them.

Klassen, acting as his own lawyer, is suing police, prosecutors, and other officials, claiming they maliciously prosecuted him in a ritual child sexual abuse case in the early 1990s.

The case, dubbed "Scandal of the Century" at the time, revolved around false abuse allegations from three children against Klassen and about a dozen other adults.

The children have all publicly admitted to lying. Klassen and most of the others have sued, but the case has moved slowly.

On Wednesday, Justice Department lawyer Don McKillop and private lawyer David Gerrand applied on behalf of their clients to have Klassen removed from the lawsuit. They argued Klassen violated rules requiring him to keep secret the documents that the defendants have turned over during the course of the lawsuit.

McKillop and Gerrand argued that two people gave out pamphlets containing confidential information, and Klassen was a party to it. They have videotape, taken by police, which shows Klassen giving the two people a ride to the courthouse.

The lawyers noted Klassen lit a cigarette for the woman sitting in his vehicle, further proof of his involvement with them.

McKillop and Gerrand admitted they had no direct evidence Klassen distributed any of the information, but they asked the judge to "draw the inference" that he was a party to it.

"Mr. Klassen is simply thumbing his nose at the court and at my clients," McKillop said.

Klassen successfully argued that there is no proof connecting him to the distribution of any information.

"I cannot control what others do. There's no doubt I want to disseminate (the information), but I didn't," Klassen said.

Justice Mona Dovell said Klassen will remain on the lawsuit, as there is no clear reason to remove him.

"This indeed is an unfortunate case," Dovell said. "I am not prepared to strike the claim on the evidence before me."

She encouraged Klassen to distance himself from anyone involved in giving out confidential documents, and she said it's "imperative that this matter proceed."

Neither McKillop nor Gerrand would comment specifically on the case.

The provincial government and other parties agreed to pay a settlement of $1.3M earlier this month to former Saskatoon police officer John Popowich.

Popowich was wrongly accused of child ritual abuse in the botched Martensville sexual abuse case.

Klassen and some others involved in his case say their lawsuit is similar to those launched by the Martensville accused and they should also be entitled to a settlement.

However, McKillop said he has received no instructions from government to change his approach to the Klassen matter.

His only consideration is taking the most cost-effective route. If there is a "risk of an adverse judgement," the government is more likely to settle, he said.

Other considerations, such as doing the right thing, are likely handled by the politicians, he said.

People wrongly accused of ritual child abuse get trial date for lawsuit

A trial date has been set in the lawsuit brought by 12 people wrongly accused of ritual child abuse in Saskatoon more than a decade ago.

"It comes as a relief. There has been a cloud over the plaintiffs," said Saskatoon lawyer Robert Borden, who represents most of them.

"The public will know (what happened) and draw their own conclusions."

The pretrial hearing is scheduled for May 1 and 2 in Saskatoon. The trial will begin Sept. 8, and two months have been set aside.

Richard Klassen, the only plaintiff defending himself, is also glad the date has been set.

Klassen has immersed himself in the lawsuit for the past several years, and is "100 per cent certain" that they will win.

"Let's get this thing to court. We're progressing at a very rapid pace now," he said.

Klassen and the other plaintiffs were charged in the early-1990s with abusing three children. The children fabricated horrible stories of abuse and devil worship to officials.

Almost all of the charges were later dropped, but the plaintiffs say their lives were ruined by the false label of child abuser.

The children have all publicly admitted to lying, but Klassen has always maintained there was never any evidence to justify charges in the first place.

Now Klassen and Borden's lawsuit against police, prosecutors, social workers and others is going to trial.

"We were never guilty (but) we were never vindicated," Klassen said.

Klassen said he'll be examining all options, including the possibility of a settlement. But Klassen and Borden both said the most important thing is for the truth to come out.

"We want to find out how this could have happened. We also need to show the public that we were right," Klassen said.

"We must be constantly vigilant that this never happens again," Borden said.

In the meantime, Borden and Klassen are in the process of compiling the documents, testimony, and other information to make their case.