Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Former police chief Bakema acquitted

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The former police chief accused of deliberately botching a high-profile probe into a deadly car crash has been found not guilty of all charges.

Harry Bakema was acquitted on charges of breach of trust, obstructing justice and perjury.

Judge Kelly Moar said while he believed Bakema was ultimately responsible for the botched investigation, his actions were not criminal in nature.

Crystal Taman, 40, a married mother of three, was killed in 2005 after her car was rear-ended by Derek Harvey-Zenk while she waited at a red light near Lagimodiere Boulevard and the Perimeter Highway. Harvey-Zenk, now 39, was heading home from a night of drinking with fellow Winnipeg police officers.

He pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of dangerous driving causing death and was given a conditional sentence.

Bakema, the former East St. Paul police chief, was stoic for most of the morning as the judge took well over an hour going through the evidence from the crash.

But he broke into tears when the verdict was finally read.

Members of the Taman family were also in the courtroom this morning.

Outside the courthouse, Robert Taman, Crystal's husband, called the not-guilty verdict for Bakema, 'two steps back for justice.'

Bakema, 62, had been waiting nearly 18 months for his verdict. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Crown and defence lawyers made their closing arguments on May 17, 2012. Moar then reserved his decision. Since then, the case has repeatedly been remanded in what justice officials told the Free Press is a nearly unprecedented delay.

The case dates back to 2005 when the tragic crash occurred. A public inquiry was also held in 2008, which ultimately led to the charges being laid against Bakema.

Crown attorney Ashley Finlayson argued last year there is no doubt Bakema deliberately overlooked compelling evidence that suggested his former police colleague, Derek Harvey-Zenk, was drunk at the time of the deadly 2005 fatality.

The failure of East St. Paul police to properly document signs Harvey-Zenk was impaired is one reason alcohol-related charges were dropped. That issue was the primary focus of a 2008 inquiry that led to Bakema's arrest and the disbanding of the East St. Paul police service.

Bakema's lawyer, Hymie Weinstein, argued last year the Crown failed to prove Bakema had criminal intent while acting as chief of East St. Paul police.

Weinstein suggested several former police officers who testified at the two-week trial were either mistaken or misrepresenting the truth about what happened. At worst, Bakema is guilty of making unintentional errors, he said.

He also took issue with the testimony of several witnesses who painted an ugly picture of Bakema's role in the investigation. Corrine Scott, a retired superintendent of the Winnipeg Police Service, told court Bakema called her from the crash scene, warning her an officer was involved.

Winnipeg police patrol Sgt. Cecil Sveinson testified Bakema told him at the crash scene Harvey-Zenk was "pissed." Sveinson, who was Taman's cousin, went to the scene to perform an aboriginal ceremony. He said Bakema added they had to get Harvey-Zenk "out of there right away."

Jason Woychuk, a former East St. Paul constable, told court a paramedic said Harvey-Zenk may have been intoxicated, but Bakema ordered him to keep that detail out of his report.

www.mikeoncrime.com

History

Updated on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 12:44 PM CDT: Switched picture.

12:47 PM: Adds Robert Taman quote.

1:21 PM: Adds video

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