POLITICS

Latest RCMP perjury trial linked to Dziekanski's death starts in Vancouver

11/03/2014 04:18 EST | Updated 01/03/2015 05:59 EST
VANCOUVER - The RCMP officer who stunned Robert Dziekanski with a Taser at Vancouver's airport was in court Monday to face a charge of perjury, as the Crown again alleged the four Mounties involved in Dziekanski's death lied to a public inquiry.

Const. Kwesi Millington shocked Dziekanski multiple times with a Taser during a confrontation in October 2007. He was among four officers called to the airport.

The officers were forced to explain their actions at a public inquiry that was held two years later, and all four were later charged with perjury for their testimony.

Millington is the third officer to face trial. Const. Bill Bentley was acquitted of the same charge last year, while former corporal Benjamin (Monty) Robinson's trial began last week and continued Monday in another courtroom.

In each case, the Crown has advanced the same theory: that the officers lied to investigators immediately after Dziekanski's death and then again at the public inquiry as they attempted to square their earlier lies with an amateur video of the incident.

"In their testimony, each sought to explain the factual discrepancies between their statements (to homicide investigators) and the (amateur) video's depiction of actual events," Crown counsel Eric Gottardi said Monday during his opening statement.

"We argue that Const. Millington, in giving his testimony under oath, gave false testimony with intent to mislead the inquiry."

As in the other trials, the Crown intends to argue each of the officers' statements contained similar errors. For example, the officers initially said Dziekanski was wrestled to the ground, when the video clearly shows he fell after the first jolt from the Taser.

The Crown argues the officers must have colluded before speaking with investigators, though prosecutors have never said when they believe that collusion took place.

But Robinson's and Millington's trials also include a new allegation, not heard during Bentley's trial, that the officers got together shortly before the inquiry to discuss their testimony.

A witness named Janice Norgard, who is the former spouse of Bentley's cousin, testified last week at Robinson's trial that the four officers gathered at her house in Richmond, B.C., in early 2009, though she said she didn't hear what they talked about.

Norgard came forward after Bentley's acquittal.

The timing of the meeting has been a moving target. Norgard said it happened in late January or early February of 2009. During the opening statement at Robinson's trial, the Crown put the meeting in early February. And on Monday, the Crown told Millington's trial it was late February.

Robinson's defence lawyer suggested Norgard's memory is faulty and the meeting actually happened in May. Millington's lawyer has yet to address the alleged meeting.

Const. Gerry Rundel, whose perjury trial is scheduled for the new year, began his testimony on Feb. 23, 2009. Robinson was the final officer to testify, wrapping up in late March of that year.

Millington pleaded not guilty in March this year, when his trial began and was abruptly adjourned to deal with a defence application.

The officers were called to the airport after Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who spoke no English, started throwing furniture in the international terminal.

Shortly after arriving, Millington deployed his Taser, causing Dziekanski to scream and fall to the ground. The court heard Monday that the Taser was deployed five times.

Dziekanski was handcuffed and died on the airport floor.

A video, shot by another traveller, was released a month later and appeared to contradict what the RCMP had said publicly about Dziekanski's death.

The B.C. government responded by calling a public inquiry to examine the policies around Taser use and the specific circumstances of Dziekanski's death.

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