VANCOUVER – One of four Mounties accused of lying during testimony at a public inquiry into the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski will learn his fate Monday.
Const. Bill Bentley’s trial last month was the first of four perjury cases against the officers who confronted Dziekanski at Vancouver’s airport in October 2007, stunning him several times with a Taser. He died on the floor of the terminal.
Bentley, Const. Kwesi Millington, Const. Gerry Rundell, and former corporal Benjamin (Monty) Robinson found a distraught Dziekanski throwing furniture in the arrivals terminal. Dziekanski had been inside the terminal for 10 hours and was unable to communicate because he didn’t speak English.
Bentley’s legal troubles began when he tried to explain during the 2009 Braidwood Inquiry the differences between what could be seen on amateur video and what he initially told homicide investigators.
The constable told investigators and wrote in his notes that the Polish immigrant grabbed a stapler and came at the officers screaming, was stunned and wrestled to the ground.
But a video, taken by a traveller, emerged one month later and contradicted some of Bentley’s notes and statements.
Bentley and the others were charged with perjury in 2011. During Bentley’s trial, the Crown called several witnesses from the airport and prosecutors relied on a comparison of the police officers’ notes and statements.
The Crown alleged Bentley and the other officers colluded on their stories to homicide investigators and then lied at the inquiry to cover up the deception.
The Crown tried to prove the collusion by relying on similarities in the four officers’ notes and statements.
But B.C. Supreme Court Justice Mark McEwan heard no evidence the officers met to concoct a story, and the Crown did not specify when or where the officers allegedly co-ordinated their stories.
During final submissions, McEwan interrupted the Crown several times, raising doubts about the Crown’s theory, and noting civilian witnesses made the same sort of mistakes as the Mounties.
“They don’t have the exact same stories – I’ve compared them,” said McEwan.
“In context, they sound like four stories told by four people who saw the same thing. There are some differences.”
The defence did not call any evidence and denied Bentley colluded with the other officers. Lawyer Peter Wilson argued his client’s initial errors were honest mistakes and a product of a fast-paced incident and involvement in an in-custody death.
Lawyers argued that from the time Dziekanski was handcuffed to the point when three of the four officers were ordered to return to the RCMP detachment to wait for homicide investigators, the officers were busy with witnesses and other tasks.
Bentley was the officer who called for an ambulance and alerted dispatchers about his worsening condition, the defence said.
“Here’s the youngest officer there with the least involvement – what on Earth did he have to cover up?” asked Wilson.
The remaining three officers are standing trial separately. Those trials, scheduled to be heard by juries, are set for November of this year and February 2014.
© The Canadian Press, 2013