Lawyers for five former Toronto drug squad officers on trial for corruption began an aggressive cross-examination Wednesday of Christopher Quigley, a pot dealer who claims he was savagely beaten and robbed by drug officers back in 1998.
John Rosen represents now retired Det. John Schertzer, who led Team 3 of the Toronto Police central field command drug squad. Five members of that team are now on trial accused of a conspiracy to obstruct justice, assault, perjury and extortion related to a series of busts in which drug dealers claim they were assaulted, robbed or illegally searched.
Rosen questioned Quigley at length Wednesday about his pot dealing, his high flying life style and his troubled youth growing up in the early 1970s in north Toronto, living with his mother after his parents separated.
Quigley admitted to a criminal record beginning when he was 17.
After one run-in, officers escorted Quigley back to his mother’s custody. Police searched his home and charged him with possession of a nunchaku — a Japanese martial arts instrument which is a prohibited weapon.
Quigley acknowledged he also had a stash of other prohibited weapons for which he wasn’t charged —including brass knuckles, batons, mace and other martial arts-style banned weapons.
“These [prohibited weapons] could be used to break someone’s arm, or knee cap or injure their back, for someone to collect money you were owed,” Rosen challenged. “Already at 17 you were in the drug business taking steps to protect yourself from people taking drugs and money?”
“Totally untrue," Quigley shot back. “That was much later. I had nothing to do with drugs as a youth, at all.”
Quigley conceded he had other run-ins with police and was convicted of theft and possession of stolen property in the 1980s.
Quigley also admitted to lying to police and presenting false identification to a police officer after getting pulled over on his Kawasaki personal watercraft at Wasaga Beach in 1996. He was eventually convicted of obstructing a police officer.
“So you looked at the OPP officer squarely in the eye and lied to him?" Rosen asked.
“It was an unfortunate incident involving alcohol,” Quigley responded.
The defence lawyer drilled Quigley on his business dealings selling gem stones and pot, never filing tax returns and keeping no records of his income.
When police arrested Quigley on April 30, 1998, they later found almost two kilograms of marijuana stashed in a dog food bag in his apartment.
The Crown alleges that officers extorted Quigley through repeated beatings, demanding information about cash and drugs. The Crown also says officers went to Quigley’s mother’s house and eventually used a bank safe deposit box key to empty a box of tens of thousands of dollars in cash.
Quigley contends there was $54,000 in the safety deposit box, and that officers recorded and returned only $22,850.
Quigley admitted to having a $40,000 Land Rover, Armani suits worth $1,000, alligator skin boots worth $7,500, and ownership papers for a boat in the Bahamas worth $140,000.
The defence disparaged Quigley’s claims, arguing he could provide no proof of his sources of income given the illegal nature of his marijuana sales and that there’s no way for anyone to know precisely how much cash was seized from his mother’s safe deposit box or how much was kept in a second box Quigley himself kept. That second box was never searched by police. Both boxes were located at a CIBC branch.
“Because police never got a warrant for that particular box…no one will ever know how much money was in that box on Apr 30, 1998?” Rosen demanded. “ You can’t provide any copy of notes of how much money you made? “
“My computer didn’t work when police returned it,” Quigley replied. “It was damaged… it was wiped.”
The cross-examination is expected to last for at least another day.