Shannon Kari (National Post) – A stunning admission by a senior RCMP officer that he drafted a bogus memo to cover up concerns about police wiretap methods has led to the collapse of a major drug prosecution in northern Ontario and raised questions about wiretapping in at least 30 investigations.
Federal prosecutors in Sault Ste. Marie stayed trafficking charges this week in Project Omax, a long-running investigation that allegedly uncovered a “multi-kilo” cocaine ring linked to the Hells Angels in Quebec.
The decision to stay the charges comes after testimony revealed a fabricated memo about wiretapping concerns by RCMP Sergeant John Roskam, a long-time member of the force who was head of the wiretap unit in Ontario.
Sgt. Roskam, who insisted he acted on his own, revealed under cross-examination last November that there was both a fake memo and a real memo in responding to lawyers’ concerns about wiretaps and whether the force was not complying with court orders.
“I was flabbergasted that a senior police officer would fabricate disclosure in a criminal matter,” said Michael Lacy, the defence lawyer who discovered the existence of the real and fake memos last fall when he asked provincial prosecutors in an unrelated case for documents related to RCMP wiretap procedures.
“The RCMP deceived the Crown as well,” said the defence lawyer, who called for an outside police force to begin a criminal investigation.
The fabricated document was turned over to Mr. Lacy in the spring of 2009 in Project Omax, when he asked for disclosure of internal memos that discussed if the RCMP was “live monitoring” intercepted phone calls, as required by court orders.
Live monitoring means that if a phone line is wiretapped, an RCMP employee is supposed to be listening to the calls. If someone on the line is not a “named target,” then the monitor must hang up.
An earlier internal RCMP memo confirmed that court orders were not being followed properly.
The internal memo issued in April 2008 by RCMP Sergeant Gabriel DiVito, a supervisor of the “Special I” unit in Ontario, noted that “on occasion” monitors were “not adhering to the legal requirements” of the court orders.
“I cannot guess how the present case before the courts will unfold and what the consequences of our actions will be,” wrote Sgt. DiVito, who urged RCMP staff to comply with the court orders.
It was later revealed in court that the RCMP had concerns about the actions of its wiretap monitors in 30 projects involving the force.
Sgt. DiVito moved on to another position and was succeeded by Sgt. Roskam, who was in charge of supervising all RCMP “wire rooms” in Ontario.
The fabricated memo turned over by Sgt. Roskam — which was presented as evidence — did not include the concerns expressed in the real memo.
“You knew when you were creating this document that you were committing what you believed to be a criminal offence, right,” asked defence lawyer Mr. Lacy.
“Hmm, hmm,” responded Sgt. Roskam, who then answered “yes” when pressed on whether his actions may have violated the law. The senior officer described it as “bad judgment” to produce the fake memo.
Sgt. Roskam was still in charge of the wiretap unit when he testified in court last fall and also a part of the RCMP security operations at the Vancouver Olympics, court documents state.
RCMP spokesman Sergeant Marc LaPorte said yesterday only that Sgt. Roskam is facing an internal “code of conduct” investigation.
The Crown “reached the conclusion there was no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction, based on the evidence available,” said Dan Brien, a spokesman for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. The federal Crown spokesman stated that it is believed the fake memo was produced in only the Sault Ste. Marie case.
RCMP WIRETAP MEMOS: REAL VS. BOGUS
An April 30, 2008 internal memo sent by RCMP Sergeant Gabriel DiVito expressed concern about whether the “wire rooms” in Ontario were complying with the terms of court orders allowing the RCMP to intercept phone calls in several investigations. The following sentences are some of those that did not appear in a “fake” version, right letter, of the memo created and released in response to a request by the defendants in Project Omax for disclosure of any internal memos about wiretap procedures by the RCMP in Ontario.
WHAT WAS LEFT OUT
“It has come to my attention that on occasion our monitors have not been adhering to the legal requirements of this clause. I am of the opinion that we have to exercise our due diligence and ensure we intercept communications in accordance to the Judicial Orders.
I cannot guess how the present case before the courts will unfold and what the consequences of our actions will be, if any. During our briefings with investigators, we have to present to them the restrictions … and the impact on their investigations. With this in mind, we can collectively come up with a plan to address this issue. I do not believe we have the flexibility to do this any other way but to adhere to the Judicial Order.”
Q Did you take an oath as a non-commissioned
officer, an RCMP officer?
Q Does the oath include an oath to uphold the laws of Canada?
Q You knew when you were creating this document that you were committing what you believed to be a criminal offence, right?
A Hmm hmm.
Q But you did it anyway, right? You did it anyway?
A Yes, yes we created the document.