Police stole money in Toronto drug bust, judge finds
The trial of a man accused of drug trafficking has been pushed back after an Ontario judge ruled it was “reasonable” to believe Toronto police stole nearly $6,000 in cash seized during a warrant at the man’s apartment.
It Toronto police Those who searched and seized a quantity of cocaine and cash from the defendant’s Weston Road apartment claim to have found a total of $19,390, according to court documents reviewed by CTV News Toronto.
Defense attorney Kim Schofield’s split photo of drug bust money compared to a photo of Toronto police cash (Supplied).However, 36-year-old Andrew Rocha, accused in this case, claimed in court that the money taken from his apartment was actually $6,000 more.
An Superior Court of Ontario On Wednesday, a judge dismissed the case, which permanently halts the prosecution of the accused, because Rocha’s constitutional rights were violated, according to the preliminary ruling.
“In this case, the judge found out that the police stole $6,000 from my client.” Kim Schofield told CTV News Toronto on Thursday.
“A SERIES OF IRREGULARITIES”
The court found that on February 6, 2019, Toronto police officers searched Rocha’s apartment.
During the trial, officers said they seized $19,390, which was held together in shoe boxes and with colorful elastic bands in a closet, as well as half a kilogram of cocaine found in paint cans and a coffee can.
Evidence presented in court, however, showed that the actual amount seized was thousands of dollars more.
According to the report, officers took photos of merchandise and cash seized from Rocha’s apartment in February. One of those photos captured a large pile of cash sitting on an apartment table, believed to be worth $19,390 police said they took from the residence. But when compared to another photo of the cash seizure taken at the police station, the piles were of different sizes.
“It’s really a matter of comparing photos,” Schofield said.
“When you compare two piles of money, it appears […] it is significantly different from what the police seized from my client’s unit.”
During the trial, the prosecution argued that the officer responsible for handling the seized money did not steal any cash and blamed the missing $6,000 on clerical errors.
Nevertheless, Judge Andras Skrek said the officer was not a “credible witness” for a number of reasons, including but not limited to an “alternative explanation” for why any money was missing in the first place.
“There are a number of irregularities in the handling of the cash,” Schreck wrote in the preliminary ruling. “Some of those violations were explained by the officer processing the report. Some were not.’
At the same time, the judge found credible the defense’s ability to show how they raised the cash, which was lined up with police memos detailing the confiscated confessions.
A photo of money in a shoe box taken by Toronto police during a drug bust (Given). “Based on the above, on the balance of probabilities, I am satisfied that approximately $6,000 of the seized cash is missing,” the judge wrote.
Skrek emphasized that the absence of money does not automatically mean that the cash was stolen by the policeman. “However, given its inherent value, this is a reasonable conclusion,” he said.
“ACTION” WILL BE TAKEN IF NECESSARY. POLICE
When reached for comment after Skreck’s decision, a spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service said it would “review the conviction and any new evidence that may be presented in court and take appropriate action if necessary.”
Scofield expressed doubts in response to the service’s commitment to act if necessary.
In pretrial proceedings, the defense took the additional step of asking Toronto police to conduct an internal investigation into the alleged theft. It Department of Professional Standards complied with the request and investigated but found the allegations to be unfounded.
“I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that the police investigating the police is not a very viable or reliable system,” Schofield said.
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