He made headlines in 2007 when he was one of four RCMP officers involved in the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski – an incident for which Corporal Benjamin Monty Robinson still faces a perjury charge.
On Friday, Cpl. Robinson was convicted of obstruction of justice in an unrelated case for trying to hinder the investigation into the death of motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson. The judge ruled Cpl. Robinson’s version of events in the fatal-collision case was not credible.
“This was a serious situation that resulted in a fatality. A veteran off-duty police officer acting reasonably would not have behaved as Robinson did. This was not a simple error of judgment, mistake, or inadvertence,” Madam Justice Janice Dillon said in delivering the verdict inside B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.
Cpl. Robinson first said he had two beers at a Halloween party the evening of the crash. When the party’s hostess testified that wasn’t true, Cpl. Robinson admitted he drank five beers. Immediately after the collision, Cpl. Robinson left his driver’s licence with a passerby, took his two children home and had two shots of vodka, which he claimed was to calm his nerves.
The Crown, however, said Cpl. Robinson took a class years before the accident in which he learned a person could escape a drunk-driving charge by consuming alcohol immediately after a crash, but before a breathalyzer test. By leaving a driver’s licence behind, the person also couldn’t be accused of fleeing the scene.
The judge ruled Cpl. Robinson consumed the vodka because he knew that would make it impossible for police to tell his blood-alcohol level at the time of impact.
“Robinson’s act of drinking the vodka was, I conclude, willfully designed to set up the defence that he had learned during his police training,” the judge said.
Cpl. Robinson will be back in court April 4 to fix a date for sentencing. He is not being held in custody. Neither he nor his lawyer spoke with reporters after the decision.
After the crash, Cpl. Robinson was suspended with pay by the RCMP. Assistant Commissioner Norm Lipinski said Friday the force will seek Cpl. Robinson’s dismissal.
“Everyone, including a police officer, is entitled to due process. Cpl. Robinson has had his trial and the court has convicted him,” he said. “To be found guilty of obstructing justice is a very serious matter for a police officer.”
When the verdict was delivered, there were gasps, then sobs inside the courtroom.
Judith Hutchinson, the mother of Orion, who was 21 when he died, said outside court that she felt a sense of satisfaction and relief when she heard the word “guilty.”
“If he had walked away and the verdict had been not guilty, in terms of just emotional survival, I don’t know if I could keep going,” she told reporters, her voice breaking at times.
“It’s a very emotional day. Nothing can change the grief and the loss we feel. I have to be so clear about that: This doesn’t bring my son back.”
Prosecutor Kris Pechet said the Crown is still formulating its position on sentencing. He said the maximum penalty for the count is 10 years.
The crash occurred in Delta, B.C., and police there originally recommended Cpl. Robinson also face a charge of impaired driving causing death. The Crown, however, said the evidence was not strong enough to support that count.
Judge Dillon didn’t mince words in issuing her decision, at one point calling it “inexplicable perversion” for Cpl. Robinson to say he left the accident scene to protect his children, when he was driving them home after having had drinks. Cpl. Robinson had told the court he felt fit to drive and was not worried about leaving his 12- and seven-year-old at home alone when he eventually returned to the accident scene.
Cpl. Robinson and three other officers are facing perjury charges following Mr. Dziekanski’s death at Vancouver airport. Cpl. Robinson’s trial is expected to begin in April.
The four officers were called to the airport after Mr. Dziekanski started throwing furniture. He had been lost for about 10 hours, unable to find his mother. One of the officers, Constable Kwesi Millington, deployed the taser within seconds of the RCMP’s arrival.