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News stories on the Klasssen case

Klassen update running on Fifth Estate

The Scandal of the Century will be repeated and updated on The Fifth Estate, this Wednesday at 9 p.m.

The Jan. 23 show will be the third airing of the story of Saskatoon's Klassen family, the way they were wrongly villified as child abusers not only by lying children but by the Saskatoon police and the government of Saskatchewan.

Richard Klassen, who for 10 years protested the innocence of his extended family, moved to the Altona area in 1999 where he continued his fight in the Saskatchewan courts and the court of public opinion.

CBC's prestigious public affairs program, The Fifth Estate, devoted an hour to the case. Its rebroadcast, with updates, in November 2000 and January 2001 drew record numbers of viewers. CBC stared down the threat of a lawsuit for showing it and the last show won four major awards including the Justicia award from the federal Justice department.

Meanwhile, Klassen located the three young adults who had once been his brother's foster children. One by one, they admitted to lying when they accused nearly a dozen members of the extended Klassen family of despicable physical, sexual and mental abuse.

But Klassen's battle was not over, as he fought to have the police department and governments which had aided, abetted and promulgated these lies retract them, apologize and pay compensation.

The story is long, complex and painful, and now there are new facts which have been added to Jan. 23 update on The Fifth Estate.

"There will be a smoking gun in this show," says Klassen, who moved back to Saskatchewan last summer. Using hundreds of documents which he says the Crown should have provided but which he had to have copied at the family's expense,

Klassen uncovered more evidence that social services workers knew the two girls were being raped by their brother but continued to scapegoat the Klassen family while leaving the girls under the same roof (not the Klassens') with their brother.

Klassen told The Echo the Fifth Estate will show the the Crown had serious doubts about the case but went ahead anyway. He's hoping the show will help the family finally win an apology and payment of compensation after over a decade of pure hell.

More information on this and other cases of justice gone awry is available on the website founded by Klassen and a friend,

Injured by injustice: Fake claims of sex abuse drive him to fight back

A man falsely accused in a notorious Saskatchewan child sex abuse case is fighting back from his home near Altona where he's trying to rebuild his life.

Rick Klassen, 39, was one of 16 people charged with 60 counts of sexually molesting three foster children in Warman, Sask., in 1991. The charges were stayed after the children admitted their stories of ritual abuse and molestation were made up for the benefit of police and social workers.

Klassen, who is married with three children, has moved his family to just outside Altona, where he defies a court order by operating a Web site revealing sealed court documents about the case. The information, he says, proves his innocence and the justice system's guilt.

"It's a case of how bad the justice system screwed up," said Klassen.

Comparing his plight to David Milgaard's, he says the man who did time for a murder he did not commit would still be in prison today if it wasn't for his mother Joyce Milgaard, who refused to stay quiet.

Klassen is one of 12 people originally charged who are suing Saskatoon police and prosecutors for $10 million for malicious prosecution. Last week a judge issued a gag order to stop the plaintiffs from discussing the case publicly.

"They're not going to be able to shut me down," said Klassen, whose Web site's headings flash "We practice justice without a licence" and "we name public officials who break the law" and "experts in defamation".

At a hearing in January, lawyers for the Saskatoon police and the province asked Justice J Zarzeczny to force to stop what they called the libel and harassment of police officers and other justice officials.

Zarzeczny imposed the gag order, saying the plaintiffs who launched the lawsuit agreed to have their dispute settled in the courts. He warned publishers that other material on the Web site "could be found to constitute defamation, harassment or intimidation of the other defendants sufficient to warrant further orders."

Klassen maintains that he has never published any material from the civil suit on his Web site. All of the information comes from the original prosecutions in the early 1990s.

As of Monday, all three of the foster children at the heart of the case, who are now adults, have gone public with stories of being cajoled by a social worker and a police officer into making up the allegations, said Klassen.

After being run out of Harris, Sask., a small town west Saskatoon, his family has started over again in southern Manitoba where Klassen has a large extended family. "I sold my house for next to nothing," he said. "We had no choice. We had lived there for four years. It was a horrible situation."

They moved near Altona and lived in relative obscurity until the case was featured on CBC TV's Fifth Estate last fall and people in the area began to recognize him, he said.

"It's incredible how supportive people have been," he said. "I walked into a Letellier cafe and people were shaking my hand," he said.

"We're getting sympathy."

Judge denies gov't bid to toss Popowich claim

Saskatoon police officer John Popowich's claim of malicious prosecution against the provincial government in the Martensville sexual assault investigation will go to trial in Court of Queen's Bench in one year, Chief Justice Frank Gerein ruled Monday.

In a 26-page judgment, Gerein dismissed a motion to toss out the civil suit launched by Popowich in September 1994.

Popowich initiated the lawsuit after the Crown entered a stay of proceedings on sexual assault charges against the veteran police officer on June 8, 1993. It's the first of a handful of civil suits initiated after the high-profile case to reach the trial stage.

The investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse at a private unlicensed day care in the community north of Saskatoon led to some 180 charges laid against nine people in late 1991 and early 1992. Only one conviction stood.

Popowich is alleging malicious prosecution, negligence, breach of charter rights and conspiracy.

The motion to dismiss Popowich's suit came from the Government of Saskatchewan, the Attorney General of Saskatchewan, director of prosecutions Richard Quinney, Crown prosecutors Leslie Sullivan and Bruce Bauer, the Martensville board of police commissioners, former Martensville police officer Claudia Bryden, Corman Park police service chief Wayne McGillivray, former Martensville police chief Michael Johnston and former Saskatoon police officer Rodney Moor.

The government had applied to have the lawsuit dismissed, in part because Popowich filed it outside the one-year limitation period.

Popowich maintained he failed to file his suit within that period because he feared reprisals.

Although his sexual assault charges were stayed, the matter could have returned to court had the Crown felt it warranted in the year following the Crown's decision.

"He discloses how the trial and the events leading up to it had an adverse effect on him emotionally and mentally, even to the extent of major episodes of depression. Those events had a negative impact on the whole of his life. All of that remained with him even after the stay of proceedings was entered," Gerein wrote.

"While in that state he was reluctant to commence an action for fear it would trigger a recommencement of the criminal proceeding.

"I cannot say that this fear was justified, but I am satisfied that it was real." The civil trial is scheduled to begin March 18, 2002 in Saskatoon, and is booked for three months. It will be heard before a jury in Court of Queen's Bench.

Popowich's lawyer, Geoff Dufour, said he is pleased with the ruling. He declined further comment.