POLITICS

Mountie in Dziekanski case gets no jail time for blocking unrelated police work

07/27/2012 01:05 EDT | Updated 09/26/2012 05:12 EDT
NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. - A disgraced former RCMP corporal who first catapulted into the public eye after Robert Dziekanski's Taser-related death in Vancouver is not getting jail time for an unrelated conviction stemming from a fatal crash.

Benjamin (Monty) Robinson was sentenced to a one-year conditional term on Friday for attempting to block the police investigation of the October 2008 collision that killed a 21-year-old motorcyclist.

It means the 42-year-old will serve only one month under house arrest.

"He's prepared to take his medicine, and he's taking it," Robinson's lawyer David Crossin said outside court after the sentence was delivered.

Robinson resigned from the RCMP last week on the same day a Crown lawyer asked for his imprisonment, ending years of frustration for B.C.'s top cop who had years earlier sought the man's suspension.

But though a judge said the man's misconduct "strikes at the heart of the justice system," she handed down a sentence more lenient than the Crown had hoped.

Robinson made the choice to use his knowledge learned as a police officer to mislead investigators, Janice Dillon said in her decision.

"His conduct discredited the police at a time when police conduct generally was under public scrutiny," she said. "He has diminished the reputation of the RCMP and his fellow officers."

Robinson has been cited as an example of the bad apples the force has been unable to fire. B.C. has taken repeated hits for cases over recent years in which Mounties have been discredited or remain accused of wrongdoing.

The highest profile case was Dziekanski's death in 2007, where the Polish immigrant was stunned repeatedly with a Taser after he picked up a stapler at Vancouver's airport. Robinson was the senior of four officers at the scene.

He had initially faced internal discipline in connection with the motorcyclist's death, including a code-of-conduct investigation, but his discharge means those actions have been halted.

Family members of victim Orion Hutchinson were not happy with the court decision.

"That sentence just felt like he's being grounded," his mother Judith Hutchinson said angrily outside the New Westminister courthouse. "It doesn't feel like a sentence to me, it feels like that's not enough."

She told reporters she had hoped for harsher punishment, which she believed would better hold Robinson accountable.

The officer was also ordered to write a letter of sympathy to the Hutchinson family, but that made the woman scoff.

"That's nothing, that's less than nothing at this point," she said.

Robinson was driving a vehicle that struck and killed Orion Hutchinson in an intersection of the Vancouver suburb of Delta, B.C., four years ago.

He was returning with his two young children from a Halloween party, where he had consumed five beers earlier in the night.

After the crash, the off-duty officer left the scene to bring his two children home. While there, he gulped two shots of vodka that he later claimed was aimed at calming his nerves.

Dillon found the move was actually a deliberate act to mislead the crash investigation, noting the veteran's extensive RCMP training had taught him that drinking booze afterwards could potentially mask the alcohol he drank earlier in the night.

At his sentencing, Dillon said the man's conduct causes one to lose faith in the "protect and serve" police mantra, particularly when he has shown no remorse for the offence or acknowledged any guilt.

The fact that Robinson fled the scene while Hutchinson lay dead at the side of the road further exacerbated the trauma and grief experienced by the young man's family, she added.

However, Robinson's status as a first-time offender, his current treatment for alcohol abuse and his First Nation heritage were factors in her decision. She noted that imprisonment would further require protective custody because he is a police officer.

Crown had asked for a sentence of between three and nine months in jail, or a conditional sentence of up to 18 months. Robinson's lawyer asked for a conditional sentence of three to six months. The maximum penalty for the offence is 10 years in prison.

Prosecutor Kris Pechet said the sentence fell within the range of what he was seeking, but whether justice was served is a different matter.

"That's for the media and the public to decide, not the prosecutor," he said.

Conditions for Robinson's sentence include 11 months of checking in with a probation officer, a $1000 victim surcharge, keeping the peace during the entire sentence and following a daily curfew.

Robinson still faces perjury charges in connection with his testimony at the public inquiry into Dziekanski's death at Vancouver's airport in 2007, where the Polish immigrant was repeatedly stunned with an RCMP Taser.

Three other Mounties directly involved in the case also face perjury charges. The trial for all four is set for next April.

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