One of the four Mounties accused of lying during testimony at a public inquiry into the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski will learn his fate Monday.
Constable Bill Bentley’s trial last month was the first of four perjury cases against the officers who confronted Mr. Dziekanski at Vancouver’s airport in October, 2007, stunning him several times with a taser. He died on the floor of the terminal.
Constables Bentley, Kwesi Millington and Gerry Rundell, and former corporal Benjamin (Monty) Robinson found a distraught Mr. Dziekanski throwing furniture in the arrivals terminal. Mr. Dziekanski had been inside the terminal for 10 hours and was unable to communicate because he didn’t speak English.
Constable Bentley’s legal troubles began when he tried to explain during the 2009 Braidwood Inquiry the differences between what could be seen on amateur video and what he initially told homicide investigators.
The constable told investigators and wrote in his notes that the Polish immigrant grabbed a stapler and came at the officers screaming, was stunned and wrestled to the ground.
But a video, taken by a traveller, emerged one month later and contradicted some of Constable Bentley’s notes and statements.
Constable Bentley and the others were charged with perjury in 2011. During Constable Bentley’s trial, the Crown called several witnesses from the airport, and prosecutors relied on a comparison of the police officers’ notes and statements.
The Crown alleged Constable Bentley and the other officers colluded on their stories to homicide investigators and then lied at the inquiry to cover up the deception. The Crown tried to prove the collusion by relying on similarities in the four officers’ notes and statements.
However, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Mark McEwan heard no evidence the officers met to concoct a story, and the Crown did not specify when or where the officers allegedly co-ordinated their stories.
During final submissions, Justice McEwan interrupted the Crown several times, raising doubts about the Crown’s theory, and noting civilian witnesses made the same sort of mistakes as the Mounties.
“They don’t have the exact same stories – I’ve compared them,” Justice McEwan said. “In context, they sound like four stories told by four people who saw the same thing. There are some differences.”
The defence did not call any evidence and denied Constable Bentley colluded with the other officers. Lawyer Peter Wilson argued his client’s initial errors were honest mistakes and a product of a fast-paced incident and involvement in an in-custody death.
Lawyers argued that from the time Mr. Dziekanski was handcuffed to the point when three of the four officers were ordered to return to the RCMP detachment to wait for homicide investigators, the officers were busy with witnesses and other tasks.
Constable Bentley was the officer who called for an ambulance and alerted dispatchers about his worsening condition, the defence said.
“Here’s the youngest officer there with the least involvement – what on Earth did he have to cover up?” Mr. Wilson asked.
The remaining three officers are standing trial separately. Those trials, scheduled to be heard by juries, are set for November of this year and February, 2014.