One of the Mounties accused of lying during testimony at a public inquiry into the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski has been found not guilty of perjury.
Const. Bill Bentley was one of four RCMP officers who confronted Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007, stunning him several times with a Taser, before Dziekanski died on the floor of the terminal.
After the judge handed down the decision on Monday afternoon in Vancouver Supreme Court, Bentley doubled over in tears.
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.
He and Const. Kwesi Millington, Const. Gerry Rundel, and former corporal Benjamin (Monty) Robinson were charged with perjury in 2011.
Crown failed to prove collusion
In his ruling Justice Mark McEwan wrote that the Crown prosecutors "advanced a suspicion based largely on circumstantial evidence," but failed to prove that Bentley had colluded with the other officers to knowingly make a false statement intended to mislead the inquiry.
McEwan concluded that although Bentley and the other officers made similar statements in their testimony that were ultimately shown to be wrong by a bystander's video of the incident, other independent witnesses also made similar mistakes in their statements.
"The [officers'] statements are not 'uniform' as the Crown submits, and some are more detailed and emphatic and touch on different things.… Three describe aspects of the event for which there is some basis in the facts, and similarity might be expected," wrote the judge.
During the trial 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.
Bentley 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.
At Bentley's trial, his lawyer, Peter Wilson, did not call any evidence. Instead, Wilson denied Bentley colluded with the other officers and argued his client's initial errors were honest mistakes and a product of a fast-paced incident and involvement in an in-custody death.
- Watch bystander's video of Robert Dziekanski
- Dziekanski officer pleads not guilty in perjury trial
- Judge disagrees video proves Mounties colluded
- Lawyer says perjury case may be difficult to prove
Bentley was the officer who called for an ambulance and alerted dispatchers about Dziekanski's 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.
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