Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Reveal police misdeeds, lawyers demand

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A judge will be asked as early as today to force Crown attorneys to reveal details about alleged police wrongdoing in the prosecution of five alleged Hells Angels associates.

Defence lawyers for the five accused bikers say the prosecution of their clients has been "tainted" by revelations that Winnipeg police may have engaged in criminal activity while bringing the high-profile case to court.

Jay Prober, who is representing one of the five bikers, has written a letter to senior Crown prosecutor Bob Morrison demanding more details about a mysterious letter penned by Morrison and delivered to defence lawyers Monday.

Defence lawyer Josh Weinstein began drafting a legal motion yesterday asking a judge to order full disclosure by Manitoba Justice officials of the potential police misconduct.

He expects to file it as early as today, when a bail hearing involving two of the suspects is expected to resume following an unexplained, sudden adjournment Monday that had two Crown prosecutors visibly upset.

The five defendants are charged with a string of intimidation-related offences, including the attempted firebombing of a police officer's home on Feb. 12, 2002.

Some legal observers view Morrison's three-paragraph letter as the beginning of the end of the high-profile -- and extremely costly -- prosecution, while others believe it won't affect the case against the five men.

But most agree Morrison's letter and its ramifications will, at the least, put more pressure on the justice system to release some of the five accused on bail until the allegation of police misconduct is resolved.

The accused have been in custody since their arrest nearly two years ago.

In his letter, Morrison said police officers dealing with a confidential informant "may have breached their ethical responsibilities... the Charter of Rights and Freedoms... and may have committed criminal acts".

Morrison said he was asked by the Justice Department to review "a very narrow issue" relating to the case, but wouldn't say what prompted the review.

No further details have been given to the lawyers, including the identity of the informant, the names of the officers or what they are alleged to have done.

The Crown has not volunteered more information because it is claiming "informer privilege," Prober said yesterday.

"This is likely to taint the entire prosecution," added Prober, who suggested that the only remedy might be ending the multimillion-dollar prosecution for good and setting the bikers free.

Winnipeg Police Chief Jack Ewatski told the Free Press yesterday he was given a copy of Morrison's letter before it was delivered to defence lawyers.

Ewatski said he could not comment on the disclosure because the case is still before the courts.

Justice and street sources speculated yesterday that the informant mentioned in Morrison's letter is likely someone other than Robert Coquette, who is expected to be Crown's main witness against the five accused bikers.

Coquette is a former Hells Angels associate who agreed to turn informant after his arrest in Calgary on April 6, 2002. He has been placed in the witness protection program.

The sources noted that Coquette's identity is no longer confidential.

The Crown has not completed its witness list, and defence lawyers have no idea how many informants might be used during the trial.

"It's plain to see they are talking about a major player here," a justice source surmised yesterday. "You know very well it is a key cog in their case, otherwise they would have just got rid of the person and be done with it."

Another source closely connected to the case told the Free Press yesterday he fears the informer risks suffering the same fate as Kevin Tokarchuk, who was gunned down last May 12 outside his Charleswood home in an apparent act of retribution.

Tokarchuk's brother, Daniel, was charged exactly one year earlier with killing an associate of the Hells Angels.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca
bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 18, 2004 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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