Perjury conviction upheld for former Mountie linked to Dziekanski case
RCMP Cpl. Benjamin "Monty" Robinson is shown arriving at the Braidwood inquiry in Vancouver Monday, March 23, 2009. Robinson, a former Mountie who was the senior officer in charge the night Robert Dziekanski was jolted with a Taser and died, has been given a two-year jail term for lying to an inquiry into the death. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Former Mountie Benjamin (Monty) Robinson has lost his appeal of his perjury conviction in connection with the case of a Polish man who died after being Tasered by RCMP at Vancouver International Airport in 2007.
Two members of a three-judge panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal on Wednesday rejected the appeal by Robinson, who was initially found guilty by former judge Thomas Braidwood of lying at the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Robert Dziekanski’s death.
The fact there was a split decision on Wednesday paves the way for Robinson to take his case to the Supreme Court of Canada without having to seek leave to appeal.
David Crossin, a lawyer for Robinson, said outside court that he would be seeking to have his client — who was required to surrender himself into custody for the ruling — re-released on bail pending an anticipated appeal to Canada’s highest court.
At trial, the Crown alleged that Robinson, one of four RCMP officers charged with perjury and the senior member on the scene at the airport, and his fellow Mounties set out to mislead investigators with exaggerated accounts of Dziekanski’s actions in a bid to maximize the threat he posed.
At the inquiry, when faced with a video that showed the inaccuracy of the accounts, the prosecutors alleged Robinson lied to justify his use of force and to explain the strikingly similar but inaccurate versions of events the officers initially provided.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Nathan Smith concluded that Robinson lied in his explanation for having initially told police investigators that Dziekanski had to be wrestled to the ground after the first Taser firing by Const. Kwesi Millington. The video showed Dziekanski collapsing in pain after being Tasered and was not wrestled to the ground.
On appeal, Robinson argued the trial judge’s verdict was unreasonable because guilt was not the only reasonable inference available on the evidence and that the judge had “misapprehended” the evidence about Dziekanski being wrestled to the ground or taken to the ground and whether the victim was swinging a stapler at the time.
But in her written reasons, B.C. Court of Appeal Justice Mary Newbury found that Smith’s findings were not unreasonable.
The fact that judges hearing the case of two of the other Mounties — Const. Bill Bentley and Const. Gerry Rundel — drew different inferences and acquitted them does not justify overturning the judge’s ruling in Robinson’s case, the court concluded.
Smith was bound to consider only the evidence and the accused before him, was entitled to give weight to the evidence of the witnesses he believed and was not bound to try to reconcile the four cases, said Newbury in her ruling.
Regarding Smith’s finding that Robinson had a motive to lie, Newbury concluded the finding was based at least in part in the fact the accused knew the police would potentially face some form of consequence.
“This finding was open to the trial judge to make: Cpl. Robinson and his colleagues had fired a Taser five times into an unarmed and agitated man in a public place,” said Newbury. “The judge took a realistic view of the pressure the appellant likely felt to provide an explanation for the incident that would not detract from his conduct as a ‘trained and experienced police officer.’ ”
Justice Richard Goepel agreed with Newbury’s ruling but Justice Peter Willcock dissented, finding that Smith had “misapprehended” the evidence concerning one of the false statements he found the police officers made to police investigators initially. Willcock said he would allow the appeal and order a new trial.
Before the ruling being released, Robinson issued a statement critical of the RCMP, saying the force had accepted Braidwood’s finding knowing they were false.
“The brass scapegoated us and interfered with my trials,” Robinson said in an email that he said was “on the record. With little or no oversight or accountability of the decision makers, politically manufactured crimes are common.”
In an email, an RCMP spokeswoman said it would be inappropriate to comment on Robinson’s statements as there is an ongoing legal process.
Const. Kwesi Millington, who fired the Taser and was also convicted of perjury, is appealing his conviction to the Supreme Court of Canada.