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Trigger happy cops cleared

Did Toronto Cops Get away with murder?

The acquittal of the Toronto cops who killed Tony Romagmuolo drew this response from R. G. Fulton:

Randy Martin

. . . Ontario cops are gloating in the media delivered victory. We were bombarded with daily versions of the never-fight-with-the-cops BS.

I am not accusing the baby-faced prosecutors of tanking the case, but how could they lose? A uniformed cop - who is bound by "Policing Standards" (Solicitor General of Ontario) to enforce public order laws, and turn "investigations" over to detectives - arrived with a posse to arrest a youth who made a crank call type of statement to a cop whose identity he didn't even know. And the warrant signed by a Justice of the Peace (read: political appointee) didn't even permit a Feeney' entry into a dwelling.

The trial judge - Archie Campbell - directed the jury to disregard any notion that the arrest of Enzo Romagnuolo was illegal, notwithstanding the fact that same was acquitted at trial on a "matter of law".

Ferguson, Missouri protest

Protest sign in Ferguson, MO after the killing of Michael Brown, a 18-year-old black male, on August 9, 2014 by Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white male policeman in Ferguson, Missouri. The results were that same as Randy Martin. After several months of deliberation, a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson for any criminal charges in relation to the killing. 007

The prosecutors, aware that the courtroom was packed with the same cops that they deal with on a daily basis, raised no COP-RAGE - or patterned abuse of authority - evidence, in spite of the voluminous amount of academic material available on this topic. Once again, the works of Otto Kircheimer, Jerome Skolnick, Paul Chesney, James Fyfe, Richard Ericson, James Q Wilson, etc are treated as apocrypha by justice system puppets.

Prosecutors evaded presentable "use of force" guidelines, that involve an escalation scenario wherein mortal force is used as a last resort. At the Romagnuolo residence, four armed cops, in a clear CONTEMPT OF COP setting, made a forceful after holiday dinner arrest of a youth, eight days after same had made a phone statement that was about as serious as a threat to blow up the moon. The so-called "threat" was a singular event, given in circumstances that only existed for a few hours after the phone call was made. Where was the public order problem? In fact, the troubled cop drove Enzo's brother home a few hours later. He didn't feel the need to restore a breach of peace at that time. Were angry cops attempting to humiliate Enzo in front of his family members, who were rightfully upset about a wrongful arrest? Clearly, Enzo did not resist his oppressors until he was physically pushed by a cop, who had intentionally entered a hot zone. Even judges recuse themselves from trials where they have some personal connection. The shooting scene was a face off between four armed cops and three unarmed men. Under what conditions could anyone of the three have seized a cop's gun, for homicidal purposes? What possible motive would they have for doing so?

The supposedly near fatal injuries to the cops were minor. The lacerations to Randy Martin's nose were probably caused by friendly fire, although provincial regulations under the Police Services Act, enabled evasion of powder burns testing. Of course, Martin has been investigated for shooting a citizen before, and he knows the drill.

The upshot of the above: Ontario cops are threatening to complain to the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services, about the "information" presented by the Special Investigations Unit to the Attorney General of Ontario that caused the charges to be laid; the supervisors of the accused cops, are refusing to charge their subordinates for Police Services Act offences; nobody is talking about an appeal in spite of Judge Campbell's mistatements to the jury, and his pro-cop propensities; the Romagnuolo's civil suit against the cops could be sandbagged; a wave of COP-BRUTALITY, CODE OF SILENCE COVERUPS, CORRUPTION WHITEWASHES, JUDICIAL NULLIFICATION is about to pollute Ontario.

Until media brain detergent is diluted, a fact will escape impact on the Ontario public: cops need to be held by a choke hold on a tight leash.

RG Fulton, Hamilton

RG Fulton LETTER to (re: Thomas Kerr case) - Eye magazine, Toronto, November 30, 2000 - How to beat the cops

The Thomas Kerr Case can now be found here

Officers cleared: Cops in Romagnuolo shooting cry 'tears of joy'

WHITBY, ON -- Tears of joy and anguish fell on opposite sides of a courtroom here as three police officers were acquitted of murder, assault and weapons charges stemming from a deadly 1998 shooting.

Const. Randy Martin's expression quivered and he mouthed the words "thank you," as the foreman of the eight-man, four-woman jury pronounced the 38-year-old York Police officer not guilty of second-degree murder.

Tony RomagnuoloFriends and relatives seated behind him in the packed courtroom gasped and silently began to cry.

The foreman then moved on to York Const. Mike Hoskin, charged with assault with a weapon and careless use of a firearm. The 41-year-old remained expressionless as the words "not guilty" were read out twice.

Durham Const. Al Robins, 51, was next -- acquitted of aggravated assault and shooting with intent to wound as the coutroom's quiet tension drained to a low murmur.

"Randall Martin, Michael Hoskin, Alan Robins, you are free to go," said Justice Archie Campbell, ending the seven-week trial and 11 hours of deliberation by the jury.

Tony Romagnuolo's widow, three sons and other kin sat stone-still on the other side of the courtroom's gallery as the verdicts were read. The 44-year-old carpenter was shot four times outside his Sunderland home by Martin on Dec. 28, 1998, after an ostensibly routine arrest erupted into a fatal clash. Romagnuolo's 17-year-old son Rocco was shot by Robins that night. His eldest son Enzo, 20, was arrested for threatening bodily harm, committing assault to resist arrest and assault causing bodily harm, all on Hoskin.

The grim-faced Romagnuolos left the rear of the courthouse with downcast eyes and no comment. Red streaks stained Rocco's cheeks and female relatives cried openly.

Out front, defence lawyers David Humphrey, Scott Fenton and Harry Black were sharing the joy and relief of their clients with a throng of reporters and photographers.

All three officers cried "tears of joy," in the words of Fenton.

Humphrey said last night would likely be the first good sleep Martin has had in a long time.

"He's delighted, relieved and gratified that the jury listened to the evidence and recognized that he acted with complete justification," Humphrey said .

Martin was only the second Ontario police officer to be charged with second-degree murder -- the most serious charge laid for on-duty events. Neither landed a conviction.

Martin told the jury he pulled his gun during a struggle with Tony Romagnuolo because he was in a chokehold and feared falling unconscious. He shot Romagnuolo in the leg before the man wrestled for control of the gun and a shot went off near Martin's face. Martin then forced the gun down and fired three shots into Romagnuolo's torso at point-blank range.

The police went to the Romagnuolo home that night to arrest Enzo for threatening to break Hoskin's legs eight days earlier during a telephone conversation.

Hoskin, 41, said he pulled his gun that night because Enzo tried to grab it from his holster. He then fired into the ground what appears to be the first of eight shots that night. Enzo had punched him seven to 10 times in the face during their struggle.

"He was the victim of a vicious assault ... he survived that ... and he got charged for it," said Fenton. "He, as well, is so relieved it's over. It's been a marathon."

Robins testified he fired two shots at Rocco, hitting him once in the side, as the teen ran toward the battle between his father and Martin. He said he feared Rocco would gain control of Martin's loose gun and start shooting.

His lawyer, Harry Black, called the acquittal a relief and an important message.

"(A conviction) would have said something wrong happened here instead of saying police officers in the most extreme moments rely on their training," Black said.

The veteran police lawyer blasted the civilian-run Special Investigations Unit during the trial for its investigation of the three officers (which included a drunken investigator minding the scene) but refused to comment on it yesterday. The police watchdog is already facing a lawsuit by York Det. Bob Wiche, who was charged with manslaughter for shooting a 16-year-old four years ago. The case was dismissed.

The police chiefs of Durham and York both attended yesterday's verdict and urged everyone involved to now leave the tragic events of that night behind. Both chiefs said the officers are welcome back into the fold of regular policing duties whenever they're ready to return. Neither SIU investigator Robert Taylor nor Crown prosecutor John Corelli could be reached for comment.

"This has been a tragic situation, a life has been lost," said York Chief Robert Middaugh. "It is time for the healing process to start for everyone involved."

The future for all is still very uncertain.

The Romagnuolos have since moved out of what Linda described as her secluded, rural dream home and now live in Richmond Hill. They have a $40-million civil lawsuit pending against the two police services. Enzo was acquitted of his threatening charge last fall, but is awaiting trial in February for the two assault charges.

Where the officers go from here is also unclear. Humphrey suggested his client Martin has to consider whether or not he can ever return to policing. Suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, Martin has been off duty since the shooting.

Hoskin has been on administrative tasks for York's traffic unit for the past two years, but is welcome back into regular duty whenever he's ready, Middaugh said.

Robins has also been performing administrative-type duties for Durham Police as he continues to take medication and see a psychiatrist to fend off depression stemming from the night he shot Rocco.

"Al Robins is a lovely man and I saw perhaps more often, because it's lasted so long, the effect it had on him," Black said.

Police officers cleared in fatal clash

WHITBY, ON - At the request of a judge, a courtroom remained still and nearly silent Tuesday as a jury cleared three Toronto-area policemen of criminal charges - including one of second-degree murder - in the killing of Tony Romangnuolo.

Members of the Romagnuolo family wept silently when the jury foreman repeated "not guilty" five times, one for each of the charges.

During the gripping trial, the jury heard that the officers knocked on the Romagnuolo home in rural Sunderland just before 8 p.m. on Dec. 28, 1998. They were there to arrest Lorenzo Romagnuolo who had threatened to break the legs of Constable Mike Hoskin.

When Mr. Lorenzo resisted arrest, his father and brother stepped into the fray, and 12 minutes later the body of Tony, the 44-year-old carpenter and father of three, lay in the snow near his seriously injured son, Rocco.

Constable Hoskin was charged with assault with a firearm and careless use of a firearm, Constable Al Robins was charged with shooting with intent to wound Rocco and with aggravated assault, and Constable Randy Martin was charged with second-degree murder.

After six weeks of testimony and nearly two days of deliberation, a sombre jury walked into the packed courtroom that had been asked by Mr. Justice Archie Campbell to refrain from any sign of emotion when the verdicts were read. He said any outbursts would be difficult for the eight men and four women of the jury to deal with.

As the foreman spoke, some jurors kept their eyes averted from the accused, and one had a slight smile as she glanced at the officers.

Despite the judge's instruction, several family members of York Region's Constable Martin uttered an audible "Ah" when the foreman said "not guilty" to the charge of second-degree murder.

When he heard the verdict, Constable Robins, from Durham Region Police, bowed his head as if in prayer. The other two showed no emotion at that point.

Once the jury left the room, members of the families of the three officers hugged each other and cried, the officers hugged their lawyers, and the lawyers offered each other congratulatory handshakes.

The Romagnuolo family, including Tony's widow Linda, and her three sons, Lorenzo, 22, Rocco, 20, and Michael, 16, left the courtroom quietly after the judge dismissed the jury.

The verdict brought to an end a trial that garnered broad attention and focused on various stakeholders, including the Crown and the Special Investigations Unit, the provincial civilian oversight agency that laid the charges.

Unless the Crown decides to appeal the outcome, the story of what transpired that cold, snowy night moves to two new venues.

One is the civil court. The Romagnuolo family has filed a $40-million lawsuit against Constables Martin and Hoskin and the York police force.

The other is the SIU, which investigates all incidents in which police cause serious injury or death.

The agency has been under attack by police and the public since it was formed in 1990. Police say it charges too many officers and takes too long to investigate an incident. Some taxpayers criticize it for not laying more charges against police.

The defence lawyers were reluctant to censor the SIU Tuesday, other than to say their clients should never have been charged.

However, David Humphrey, who defended Constable Martin, said the SIU should consult the Crown before charging any officer to determine if, based on the evidence, there is a reasonable prospect of a conviction.

Mr. Humphrey said that the Attorney-General has a guideline to the effect that the Crown is not to proceed with a charge if that prospect does not exist.

"This is one of those cases where consideration should have been given to withdrawing the charges after the preliminary hearing when it was recognized that the Crown had real problems with its case," he said in an interview.

The chiefs of the York and Durham police forces also refused to criticize the SIU after the verdict. However, York Police Chief Robert Middaugh suggested that the provincial agency should share its information with the police force affected as it proceeds in its investigation, currently not a SIU practice.

Lawyer Harry Black said he hopes his client Constable Robins will be able to return to work full-time. He has been severely traumatized by the events and has been working only part-time, Mr. Black said. "I hope he comes back. This will be a huge step along the way."

None of the officers spoke with the media Tuesday, but Scott Fenton said his client, Constable Hoskin, was relieved the ordeal was finally over. "He was confident the jury would make the right decision," Mr. Fenton said in an interview.

It was a long two days for the jury and those waiting for the outcome. Court was reconvened briefly Tuesday morning after the jurors asked to see the gun Constable Hoskin fired at Lorenzo, who was not injured.

The Romagnuolo family spent some of the time outside the courthouse smoking and talking, and just before the verdict they passed the time playing the game "I spy with my little eye."

The Crown and the family refused to comment after the verdicts and left the courthouse through a back door.

If cops in Toronto can say "We're sorry," why can't cops in Saskatoon?

In the news from Ontario, a nice cash settlement and police apology to Jane Doe, victim of a serial rapist. The police had used her as bait and not informed the public he was at large. We reprint Toronto Police Chief David Boothby's apology.

. . .I am a father, I am a husband, I am a chief of police who is responsible, and take that responsibility seriously, for the protection of all people. . .

I also regret the further stress the twelve years of litigation must have caused you. I want to assure that the Toronto Police Service remains committed to continually reviewing it approach in the investigation of crimes against women.

August, 1998: inJusticebusters say: Pass the word on to Saskatoon Police Chief David Scott and his predecessor, Owen MaGuire. Maybe they could show some class and take responsibility for their officers' behavior. (Update 2000 : Dave Scott has promoted Dueck to Superintendent)

Perhaps injusticebusters! will hear such words from Sgt. Brian Dueck. It shouldn't take twelve years, though (it's already been six years since he manufactured the cases against the Foster and Birth Families, using Michael as his tool and creating a monster at the same time.)

We'd like to see the Saskatoon Police clean up their act and take some responsibility for their misdeeds, going right back to David Milgaard. They have got into such a rut, sending their complaints off to the Complaints commission in Regina, which usually whitewashes anything they do, and sometimes bullies the persons making the complaints.

Those are Police State tactics and we really don't need them here!

Union pressured SIU, court hears

Former SIU director Andre Marin today lashed out at police union critics, saying they threatened to have him fired when he didn't bow to their wishes.

"I found that pressure was being applied by police associations," Marin told Ontario Superior Court.

"They told me to my face that they got (former director) Howard Morton fired and . . . the same would happen to me," if they did not get the kinds of results they wanted, Marin testified.

While Marin stressed that ordinary officers were often very supportive, he singled out militant police unions as being the SIU's harshest critics, specifying the Toronto, Peel, York unions and the Police Association of Ontario.

Marin was testifying in a $30 million malicious prosecution lawsuit launched by Detective Robert Wiche, 42, against the SIU - which probes police incidents causing serious injury or death - and the provincial government. Marin is also named in the suit.

Wiche shot 16-year-old Faraz Suleman while the fugitive was driving a stolen Jeep on a dark Markham residential street after a brief police pursuit in June, 1996.

The SIU charged him with manslaughter in 1997 and he was cleared in a preliminary hearing.

The trial continues.

Toronto: Chief's exit a victory for Bromell

IT DOESN'T MATTER, in the end, whether police Chief David Boothby jumped or was pushed.

There was a narrow window of opportunity there and Boothby took it. Picking his own time and place was likely the only gesture of self-determination he had left.

This is merely a matter of image control. The chief's term expires at the end of his contract, next February. The fact he will continue in his position until then makes him no more or less effective than he has been in the previous four years.

Boothby was always a compromise candidate, on a police services board that was, at the time of his appointment, ideologically split between Deputy Chief Bob Kerr and Julian Fantino, who's now chief of York Region. If Boothby's timing has accomplished anything, it's probably to leave Fantino in the lurch as his successor in Toronto. Fantino assumed the York job only last August. It would be unseemly for him to pursue the Toronto post after less than a year.

But ambition can be a perverse thing. And the political subtext of this situation may provoke all sorts of bizarre developments.

It seems obvious that Boothby lacked the political support on the board to continue as chief beyond the usual term. How ironic that it was former board chair Susan Eng, viewed (mistakenly) as a cop-basher, who essentially assured Boothby got the job over Fantino in the first place, when she made him her second-choice candidate over Kerr.

As things stand , it's the board's rah-rah faction that, apparently, has doubts about Boothby's leadership, his ability to inspire the troops. Or maybe it's fitting. It was Boothby's antagonism to the last chair, the underestimated Maureen Prinsloo, that contributed to an end run that got Prinsloo bounced and replaced by the perennial Norm Gardner.

Most Torontonians probably have difficulty understanding the machinations of the board, and no wonder. I fear this administrative cabal deliberately renders itself unfathomable to the public. The police board has been absurdly Machiavellian for as long as I can remember.

But there are a couple of key developments here that should be made clear to everyone who cares about the quality of policing in the city, and the very basic tenet of civilian accountability.

Boothby was not a vigorous police chief. He was caught on a few occasions providing both his overseers and the media - by extension, the public - something other than the palpable truth about significant matters, such as the investigation into the car-accident death of Constable Jennifer Barbetta, killed when driving home after a shift wherein she was posing as a prostitute, and where alcohol was consumed in the company of senior (to her) officers.

On too many occasions, Boothby was simply not there. Not for a comment, not for direction, and not to defend the moral imperatives of Toronto's police force.

In retrospect, the tone for Boothby's regime was set in the first few days, when he was still chief-elect, confronted with a disgraceful, wildcat strike by union radicals at 51 Division. That incident ensured a corrosive relationship with division rabble-rouser Craig Bromell, who went on to become head of the police association.

Bromell is a thug but he's been working the political channels on the board (and council) with some effectiveness. Perhaps his threats of action against politicians he views as insufficiently pro-cop have frightened board members into submission, or coziness.

How else to explain that Bromell was told Councillor Olivia Chow would be nominated to the police board, while nobody bothered to inform Boothby?

It's Bromell who took out the police chief. And I'm sure he'd take a bow.