VANCOUVER - A British Columbia Mountie convicted of lying to a public inquiry into the death of a Polish immigrant has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
RCMP Const. Kwesi Millington was found guilty of perjury earlier this year after a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled he colluded with his fellow officers to fabricate testimony given at the inquiry looking into the death of Robert Dziekanski.
Millington jolted Dziekanski several times with a Taser after he and three other officers approached him at Vancouver's airport in October 2007. Dziekanski died on the floor of the airport.
The four officers were charged with perjury after their testimony to the inquiry and tried separately, resulting in two acquittals and two convictions.
Within hours of the sentencing on Monday, Millington's lawyer filed an appeal of the conviction.
Justice William Ehrcke said in his sentencing decision that perjury is a very serious offence that undermines the administration of justice, and Millington's lies hampered the public inquiry.
"That false explanation stood in the way of getting to a true explanation," Ehrcke told the court.
Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, wept openly in the packed gallery after the sentence was read.
Outside the court, she said that she's pleased that Millington is headed to prison.
"It's some justice, finally, after almost eight years," Cisowski said.
"I'm now shaking, but I start crying because I was waiting eight years (for) this sentence."
Dziekanski spoke no English and had been waiting at Vancouver International Airport for 10 hours. Police were called when he began throwing furniture in the international arrivals' area.
A bystander's video showed that within seconds of arriving the officers surrounded the man and then shocked him with the Taser.
The officers all told the public inquiry that Dziekanski picked up a stapler and posed a threat. They were charged two years after their testimony. Millington was found guilty in February.
Millington's lawyer had asked for a one year conditional sentence, while the Crown sought three years behind bars.
The judge said he had considered many factors in deciding the sentence, including the difficulties police officers have serving time in prison, and more than 50 letters people wrote to support the officer's character.
The sentence also needed to denounce the officer's actions and provide a deterrence, Ehrcke said.
Gordon Comer, spokesman for the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch, said Millington will begin his sentence on Monday, but can apply for bail, pending a decision on his appeal.
Millington is the first to be sentenced. The other officer found guilty of perjury, former corporal Benjamin (Monty) Robinson, will be sentenced July 24.
Const. Bill Bentley and Const. Gerry Rundel were acquitted. Earlier this month, the B.C. Court of Appeal tossed out a bid by prosecutors to have Bentley's acquittal overturned.
Comer said the four cases all had slight differences, so varying results are not unusual.
"There are subtle differences, and people would have to read the different (judge's written) reasons for each of those to get a sense of those differences," Comer added.
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