March 26, 2019

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Cop asked Mountie for ride home during DUI stop

Winnipeg Free Press Files</p>

Winnipeg Free Press Files

A Winnipeg Police Service officer asked his arresting officer for a ride home as an officer-to-officer courtesy before he was charged with impaired driving last year, a provincial court judge was told Thursday.

Leslie McRae, 42, pleaded not guilty as his trial began in front of Winnipeg Judge Robin Finlayson.

The Crown’s sole witness, RCMP Const. Marcello Oddo, testified he arrested McRae on Nov. 20, 2017, after finding him in the driver’s seat of a parked black Ford hatchback, which was running, on the eastbound shoulder of the Trans-Canada Highway outside Headingley.

When Oddo asked him for his licence and registration, McRae fumbled and told him he was a police officer, Oddo testified.

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A Winnipeg Police Service officer asked his arresting officer for a ride home as an officer-to-officer courtesy before he was charged with impaired driving last year, a provincial court judge was told Thursday.

Leslie McRae, 42, pleaded not guilty as his trial began in front of Winnipeg Judge Robin Finlayson.

The Crown’s sole witness, RCMP Const. Marcello Oddo, testified he arrested McRae on Nov. 20, 2017, after finding him in the driver’s seat of a parked black Ford hatchback, which was running, on the eastbound shoulder of the Trans-Canada Highway outside Headingley.

When Oddo asked him for his licence and registration, McRae fumbled and told him he was a police officer, Oddo testified.

"He indicated to me that he was a WPS police officer and he has 12 years of service, and he indicated to me that it would be common courtesy to drive him home," Oddo testified.

Instead, Oddo said he "guided" McRae to the RCMP vehicle and arrested him.

During cross-examination, defence lawyer Evan Roitenberg suggested McRae was telling the other officer he was not impaired, but if Oddo were concerned, he should drive him home. Oddo maintained that McRae never said he was not impaired.

Oddo, a 12-year member of the RCMP, was driving westbound on general patrol for the Headingley detachment when he drove by the other vehicle on a narrow stretch of highway and saw someone reclined in the driver’s seat, raising up a can, as if to drink from it.

During cross-examination, Oddo said he didn’t see the person’s head, only the "drinking motion" of a hand holding a can. He said he made a U-Turn and pulled up behind the hatchback. He testified he knocked on the window before opening the driver’s door, which he said was unlocked, and noticed McRae struggled to sit up from his reclined position.

"Once I opened the door, there was this overwhelming smell of liquor coming from the vehicle," Oddo testified.

He said McRae told him he’d had a couple of beers, and he "formed the grounds" to arrest McRae for impaired driving because he seemed disoriented and had bloodshot, watery eyes, and slurred speech, in addition to believing he’d seen him drink from a can.

Roitenberg questioned the quality of Oddo’s notes, pointing out parts of his testimony he didn’t write down at the time of the arrest. Oddo didn’t include in his notes he smelled liquor on McRae and didn’t note exactly when McRae admitted to drinking beer, and he agreed during cross-examination he hadn’t seen McRae drinking.

He had written as part of the grounds for arrest he "observed drinking a can prior to stop."

"I saw the drinking motion, that’s what I mean by that," he said in response to Roitenberg’s questions. "If you’re saying can-to-mouth, I didn’t fully see that."

The trial had been delayed for nearly two months, so the Crown could request a judge from outside Winnipeg.

Defence lawyer Evan Roitenberg said he and Brandon Crown attorney Brett Rach were surprised to find out Thursday the request hadn’t been granted, because it wasn’t considered necessary to bring in a judge from elsewhere.

McRae is set to testify in his defence when the trial continues at a later date. He was initially also charged with refusing to give a breath sample, but that charge was stayed Sept. 20 because there was no video footage available from the RCMP when McRae was asked for a sample at the Headingley detachment.

Oddo testified Headingley’s "breath tech" room was equipped with a camera but there is no video available. When he was asked about availability of a video afterward, Oddo said, it was the first time the possibility had been brought up to him in an impaired driving case.

katie.may@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @thatkatiemay

Katie May

Katie May
Justice reporter

Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.

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