5-year prison term upheld for ‘vigilante’ Hamilton cop over gun planting plan
A rogue Hamilton police officer who plotted to have a gun planted at a suspect’s home had his perjury and obstruction of justice convictions upheld Monday along with his five-year prison sentence.
In dismissing an appeal from former det.-const. Robert Hansen, Ontario’s top court found his crimes deserved “substantial” punishment.
“Police officers occupy a special position of trust in the community,” the Appeal Court said.
“They owe a duty to the public to uphold the values of the criminal justice system.”
The case arose in 2012 when confidential informants tipped Hansen, then a member of the gangs and weapons unit, to a suspected drug dealer named Darren Mork. The informants were unhappy Mork was allegedly fooling around with one of their girlfriends, court records show.
According to text messages entered as evidence, one informant proposed setting up Mork by planting a gun used in a previous shooting in his home in exchange for cash from the cops. Hansen encouraged the tipster to carry out the plan to ensure Mork would be “put away” for some time, according to court documents.
The informant alerted Hansen via text to having hidden the weapon. When he fretted his fingerprints might be on the gun, Hansen told him not to worry, records show.
Shortly after the text exchange, Hansen obtained a search warrant for Mork’s home by claiming to a justice of peace in part that a source had reported seeing a handgun hidden in cushions in a sofa in the basement.
“Disturbing information is included that a handgun is being stored in the basement and there was a suggestion it has already been used at least once in a local shooting,” Hansen claimed in documents used to obtain the warrant.
However, Hansen failed to mention how the gun might have come to be in the sofa, his role in the plant, or the issues the confidential informant might have had with Mork.
Police searched the home but found no gun.
At trial, Hansen claimed among other things that his failure to mention the relevant facts in obtaining the warrant was an innocent mistake made in a rush. He also claimed he was trying to protect the confidentiality of his source.
Superior Court Justice Catrina Braid would have none of it. She convicted Hansen in January 2016, saying the officer had undertaken a form of “vigilante justice.”
Hansen, who left the police force after his conviction, argued Braid’s verdict was unreasonable. The Court of Appeal, however, called the prosecution’s case “overwhelming.”
“In her lengthy and thoughtful reasons, the trial judge identified 10 aspects of (Hansen’s) testimony that she found troubling and cumulatively warranted its rejection,” the Appeal Court said. “Each of the reasons were firmly rooted in the evidence.”
The evidence clearly showed, the court found, that Hansen knew his source would plant a gun, and deliberately provided false information to get the warrant — leading to the perjury conviction. In turn, the perjury was committed to “obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice,” the upper court found.
Hansen also tried to argue no evidence existed to show he planned to use the gun in criminal proceedings against Mork, but rather that his aim was simply to get the weapon off the streets. The Appeal Court said text exchanges put the lie to that argument.
The appellate court also rejected Hansen’s argument that his five-year sentence was unduly harsh.
“The offence of perjury, for that matter, the crime of attempting to obstruct justice, strike at the very soul of the judicial system,” the Appeal Court ruled. “Each rends the fibre of the intricate scheme that we as a society have designed to determine whether the guilt of one accused of crime has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Ten other drugs and weapons cases Hansen was involved in were either stayed or withdrawn as a result of his prosecution.
Mork later sued the disgraced officer and the police service for $1.5 million.
© 2018 The Canadian Press