TORONTO – A lawyer for federal cabinet minister Julian Fantino says an assault complaint dating back four decades has been made against the Conservative incumbent.
Mark Sandler says Fantino will “vigorously” defend himself against what he describes as “completely spurious allegations.”
Sandler confirmed that a Toronto construction worker, John Bonnici, has pressed two private assault charges against Fantino that date back to when he was a police officer.
He says the surfacing of the complaint 42 years after the alleged incident and during an election campaign raises “obvious questions” about the Bonnici’s motivation.
“It’s a bit suspicious in terms of the timing of everything’s that taking place today,” said Randi Rahamim, a crisis communications specialist with Navigator.
“But at the same time I believe that Julian Fantino has enough of a public history and a public persona and he’s enough of a polarizing figure that those that hated him, this will be another thing to hate him about and those that liked him … this will not phase them and they will continue to like him.
“If people pay enough attention to figure out what the accusations are all about I believe that they’ll ultimately realize that this is not really a vote driver or a voting issue.”
Criminal lawyer Boris Bytensky he thought the timing of the allegations was “obviously curious.”
“The timing alone is not a basis to reject the claims although the timing speaks to the persons motivations and the ability to prosecute this case,” he said.
“Having said that there’s no absolute limit on having time to prosecute a case in Canada.”
The Toronto Sun reported that Fantino is accused of assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm against Bonnici.
“So the fact that the evidence is 40 years ago doesn’t really change the nature of the prosecution that would take place,” said Bytensky.
“But given the motivation and given the time delay its not likely that the crown will prosecute this case at least it wouldn’t in an ordinary case.”
Bonnici told the Sun he was arrested in a raid in 1973 that was overseen by Fantino, and was allegedly roughed up by officers. He also alleges an officer poured ketchup down his buttocks and further alleges Fantino spread the condiment by stroking the outside of his pants with a police baton.
None of Bonnici’s allegations have been proven in court.
Police generally lay criminal charges but anyone who has reasonable grounds to believe someone has committed an offence can go to a Justice of the Peace or provincial court judge, who determine if a summons or warrant should be issued to compel an accused person to come to court to answer the charge.
With files from Mark McAllister