POLITICS

Ex-Montreal cop going straight to trial on gangsterism-related charges

02/19/2014 10:46 EST | Updated 04/21/2014 05:59 EDT
MONTREAL - An ex-Montreal police investigator facing gangsterism-related charges for allegedly selling sensitive information to criminal bikers has decided to go straight to trial.

It's the latest twist in the saga of Benoit Roberge, whose preliminary hearing was set to begin Wednesday.

After a brief delay and a meeting with his lawyer, Roberge elected to waive his right to the hearing with the Crown's consent.

The hearing would have served to determine if there was sufficient cause to send him to trial. Roberge is facing four charges —one of obstructing justice, one of breach of trust and two related to gangsterism.

"We were ready to proceed this morning, but it's the privilege of the accused if he wants to waive this important step in the criminal process," said Jean-Pascal Boucher, a spokesman for the Crown's office.

"He was sent to trial and we will be ready for the trial."

The case has been complex.

The defence has said getting full disclosure of the evidence has been complicated because it is deemed to be sensitive material. While preliminary hearings usually proceed under a publication ban on the evidence, another one was ordered on the identities of witnesses who had been scheduled to testify Wednesday.

His lawyer, Richard Perras, also decided to change the format of the future trial to one before a judge alone. The former cop had initially chosen trial by judge and jury.

Perras didn't speak to reporters on his way out of the courthouse.

The case returns to court on March 13 before Quebec court Judge Robert Marchi.

It's not clear yet when a judge could be available to hear the trial.

Roberge, 50, has been detained since his arrest last October. He went through a succession of lawyers before finally hiring Perras. Some lawyers had to recuse themselves due to conflict of interest.

Roberge is a former organized crime investigator who frequently testified as an expert on the Hells Angels at their criminal trials.

His spouse is a Crown prosecutor who deals in organized crime cases. As a result, the director of criminal prosecutions has assigned a pair of prosecutors from Quebec City to handle the case.

In January, Roberge's lawyer put off a scheduled bail hearing until after a preliminary inquiry. Perras said at the time he wanted a better idea of the Crown's case against his client.

Roberge retired from the Montreal police in August and had been working briefly as an investigator with the province's tax agency since March 2013.

He was fired from the government job following his arrest.