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British Columbia Ex-Mountie convicted of perjury after Vancouver airport taser-death inquiry

Former RCMP Cpl. Benjamin Robinson was charged along with three other officers for lying at a public inquiry that examined what happened when Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007.

DARRYL DYCK/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

A former Mountie who was involved in Robert Dziekanski's death and was later held up by the force as an example of a bad apple within its ranks was convicted on Friday of perjury for his testimony at a public inquiry.

Former corporal Benjamin (Monty) Robinson was charged along with three other officers for their testimony at hearings that examined what happened when Mr. Dziekanski was stunned with a taser at Vancouver's airport and died in October, 2007.

He is the second of the officers to be convicted of perjury. One officer was acquitted and another is awaiting a verdict.

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Mr. Robinson's case had the most notoriety. He was the senior officer on the scene at the airport and was later convicted of obstruction of justice in an unrelated case involving a fatal vehicle accident.

The four officers were summoned to Vancouver's airport in the early morning of Oct. 14, 2007, after Mr. Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who spoke no English, started throwing furniture in the international terminal. Within seconds of the officers' arrival, one of them stunned Mr. Dziekanski repeatedly with a taser.

The Crown alleged the four officers colluded on a story to tell homicide investigators and then lied at the public inquiry to explain why their initial accounts contradicted an amateur video.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Nathan Smith said the officers all made similar mistakes, notably their incorrect assertion that Mr. Dziekanski had to be wrestled to the ground, and the only explanation was that they worked together.

"I simply do not believe that a police officer of his experience could make such a crucial mistake in these circumstances," Justice Smith said as Robinson listened from the prisoner's dock.

"I agree with the Crown that he had a direct motive to exaggerate the threat posed by Mr. Dziekanski and to justify the response to that threat."

Mr. Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, sat in court wiping her eyes as the judge read the verdict.

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"A small amount of justice has happened today and I'm shaking because I'm so excited," Ms. Cisowski said outside court.

"That is a long time to wait, and they probably will appeal. For me, it's never finished."

The Crown also alleged the officers met in the Vancouver area in the days or weeks before testifying at the inquiry in early 2009 to plan their testimony, but the judge said he wasn't convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that such a meeting took place.

The Crown has not explained how the public should reconcile the differing verdicts, especially since the prosecutors' theory was that all four officers worked together to tell the same lies.

Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie said judges can come to different conclusion in cases that involve somewhat different evidence.

Mr. Robinson, who is in his mid-40s, left the RCMP in 2012. Earlier that year, he was convicted of obstruction of justice in an unrelated case. Mr. Robinson was behind the wheel in October, 2008, when his vehicle struck and killed a 21-year-old motorcyclist in Delta, south of Vancouver. He told his trial that immediately after the crash he went home and drank two shots of vodka to "calm his nerves."

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A judge concluded Mr. Robinson had used his RCMP training in an attempt to fend off accusations of impaired driving. He was given a conditional sentence of 12 months.

The RCMP's top officer in British Columbia, Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens, held up the case as an example of the challenges facing the force when it wants to deal with problem officers.

Const. Bill Bentley was acquitted of the perjury charge in 2013, though the Crown is appealing the verdict. Const. Kwesi Millington was convicted last month and is awaiting a sentencing hearing. Const. Gerry Rundel's trial has finished and he is waiting for a verdict.

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