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‘Blatant and serious’ cop misconduct tanks drug case

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Manitoba judge has blasted the actions of two Winnipeg cops, saying they illegally walked into and searched a reputed Hells Angels associate's business and flagrantly breached his rights by handcuffing and searching him without cause. The drug-trafficking case against Alejandro Chung, 45, collapsed Friday after Court of Queen's Bench Justice Doug Abra refused to allow into evidence the cocaine and marijuana cops found during their search of La Mota on Portage Avenue on Oct. 27, 2009. After Abra threw out the drug evidence, the Crown closed its case. This prompted defence lawyer Roberta Campbell to ask for and quickly receive acquittals on the drug charges Chung faced. In his 25-page written ruling, Abra said he was well aware the Crown would likely have no case if the drug evidence was lost. But the level of police misconduct was too great to allow the evidence in, he said. "If I permit the drugs, the paraphernalia and other seized items into evidence, I will be condoning willful and flagrant breaches of (Chung's) rights," Abra said, adding it would also bring the administration of justice into disrepute. Abra slammed Winnipeg police Consts. Brian Boyd and John Tokariwski for forcing Chung to the ground, handcuffing and searching him after "unlawfully" entering the Portage Avenue shop through its slightly ajar back door. Abra called the cops "trespassers" whose actions were "overzealous, highhanded and unjustified." Boyd previously testified he strongly suspected La Mota was being burglarized and felt duty-bound to follow up by going inside the business without a warrant. One of his main reasons for thinking so, he said, was because Chung's truck was parked and running outside the back of La Mota for more than 15 minutes. As well, a check on the vehicle's plate brought up a number of red flags relating to gang membership and violence. Moments after going inside, Chung was cuffed after being wrestled to the ground. Boyd said Chung refused to take his hand out of his pocket and presented an officer safety risk. He was then searched despite Chung angrily protesting he never invited police inside. The police actions "resulted in a serious deprivation of (Chung's) right to liberty and an egregious breach of (his) right to privacy," Abra said. "The police misconduct was blatant and serious. The two officers flagrantly disregarded (Chung's) rights." Boyd later searched the business and located drugs in the basement, leading to Chung's arrest. Boyd testified he was sweeping the business for other potential B and E suspects. It wasn't until hours later police were granted a warrant and went back to seize the drugs. Boyd took no efforts to confirm Chung's claims he was the owner of the business prior to searching it, the judge said. "I can only conclude from this that Constable Boyd did not want confirmation," Abra said. Federal Crown attorney Mark Lafreniere said he respected Abra's ruling. "The Crown felt we had a case to present to the court and we did so," he said in an e-mail, adding the decision will be reviewed by senior lawyers. "The decision was appropriate in the circumstances," Campbell said after court.

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A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty

A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty

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