(Calgary Herald) – Three men and a boy who previously were charged with killing a pregnant wild horse near Sundre, Alta., are suing the RCMP for malicious prosecution and negligent investigation.
Jason Nixon, the former general manager of Mountain Aire Lodge, the boy, who cannot be named, and two other men, Earl Anderson and Gary Cape, are seeking $1 million each in general damages as well as other costs from the Alberta RCMP in general and from six individual officers: David Heaslip, Percy Leipritz, Wes Bensmiller, Donna Lissel and two unnamed officers, known only as John Doe and Richard Roe.
Nixon and the others had said the animal was dead when they happened upon it in April 2009.
Last April 27, all charges against the four were dropped by the Crown just before the case was to go to trial when a group of hunters came forward and said it had found the carcass first and took pictures showing the horse had not been shot, but had died accidentally — likely from a fall.
Their evidence contradicted the statements of David Goertz, who told police he was present when the accused shot the mare.
With two wildly divergent stories, the Crown withdrew all charges, concluding there was little likelihood of a conviction.
An eight-page statement of claim filed by attorney William Klym in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary on Dec. 23, states “the charges were baseless and without any foundation,” and that “the effect of the said charges was that the Plaintiffs were vilified in the community and their reputations ruined,” as well as losing their employment with Mountain Aire Lodge, an addictions treatment facility near Sundre, 130 kilometres west of Calgary.
Klym said the Supreme Court of Canada recently broadened the definition of a negligent investigation.
“In the past, you had to prove malice, which is very difficult to do,” said Klym. “But that’s no longer the case. We think we can prove negligent investigation. In fact, it’s difficult to find a more clear-cut case of negligent investigation than this one.”
Nixon, Anderson, Cape and the youth were arrested in January 2010 and charged with wilfully killing cattle and careless use of a firearm based on the allegations by Goertz. The statement of claim alleges he was motivated by a $25,000 reward leading to a conviction of those responsible for the shootings of wild horses in the Sundre area.
“The defendants (RCMP) questioned the plaintiffs about the shootings of other wild horses, but never questioned the plaintiffs about the mare and the foal prior to the laying of the charges, an inquiry, which if it had been made, would have elicited evidence which would have exonerated the Plaintiffs,” says the statement of claim.
“The charges were laid based entirely upon the false allegations of Goertz . . . whose reputation as a drug addict and generally unreliable person was known at the time to the Defendants,” says the court document, adding that the Mounties “were aware or should have been aware that the Informants fabricated the complaint for the purposes of collecting the reward.”
The RCMP later disposed of the carcass without first giving the accused access to it. The Mounties have stated the carcass was too badly decomposed to provide any evidence.
The RCMP has not yet filed its statement of defence.