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January 17, 2012

Five Dirty Cops on trial, Biggest Police Corruption trial in Toronto history

CANADA - It is largest and one of the longest awaited police corruption trials in Toronto history. Five former police officers from the drug squad, collectively charged with assault, threatening, theft, extortion, corruption, conspiracy and obstruction of justice, amongst other charges.

Nebojsa (Ned) Maodus and 4 other cops are on trial. Backing them up are the creamiest defense lawyers they can find. Against them is a team of crown attorneys tasked with bringing the 5 of them to justice.

The trial is 14 years in coming.

The corruption investigation began 11 years ago. Its difficult to get the ball rolling. They only got formally charged 8 years ago. 4 years ago they had the preliminary hearing. The charges were stayed after "glacial delays", but the decision to stay the charges was overturned by the Ontario Court of Appeal and a new trial was ordered.

Yesterday the opening statements began, giving a broad outline of the case, five different complainants, five separate episodes of alleged police larceny and lying dating back to 1997 and 1998.

The first complainant took the stand, accompanied by photographs of the severe beating he had received while in police custody. The footage is raw and shows purple bruising across his ribs and waist, lacerations over the forehead, abrasions around the eye, redness around the lips, a deep bloodied gash on the elbow.

Former detective Maodus and his colleagues at 53 Division, in the common room on the station's 3rd floor, on the afternoon of April 30th, 1998 were looking for drugs and money.

One of the officers was John Schertzer, head of Team 3, Central Field Command Drug Squad, the one they called “the boss.”

Schertzer, Maodus, Steven Correia, Joseph Miched, Raymond Pollard were once part of an elite team. Now all face a slew of assault, extortion, attempt to obstruct justice, conspiracy and perjury charges. The photographic evidence and missing drugs / money removed from evidence betrays a group of cops who became addicted to the very substances they were supposed to be fighting.

In one incident $31,000 went missing. No pocket change on a detective's salary.

“They engaged in unjustified acts of physical violence against people in their custody,” says Crown Attorney John Pearson of the defendants, drawing a vivid picture not just of rogue cops, but a gang of punks with badges and guns who went after cash and drugs for their own illicit purposes. They helped themselves to whatever they could get.

Then they tried to cover their tracks by falsifying notes, disguising illegal searches, withholding vital information from both prosecutors and defence lawyers, and fabricating tales in court. Conspiracy, obstruction of justice, tampering.

In one incident a complainant was sitting in a car with a friend when the friend handed him a bag containing a pair of sunglasses. Suddenly the car was swarmed by men, 6 of them wearing civilian clothes. “I didn’t even realize they were officers. They were screaming and yelling at me — get out of the car!” says the complainant.

One of the cops grabbed the bag, looked inside and said: “They’re eff-ing sunglasses!”

The police arrested them anyway, not even showing their badges or bothering to identify themselves as police. They searched the car and found nothing. They took them to the station.

The complainant was not permitted to call a lawyer. “We’ll get to that later,” one of the officers told him. They hounded him with questions of drugs and money. They threatened to tear apart his apartment and break all his belongings. They knew he was in the jewelry business and wanted his cash.

Then the beating began.

He was taken into an interrogation room. They threatened to search his mother's home and break all her belongings too. He was moved again to an interview room at the back.

Then the testifying stopped for the day, but the crown had already revealed the order of events in their opening statement. Schertzer “watched” as two drug squad officers delivered a “serious beating” to the complainant.

Two search warrants were obtained. They searched the complainant's home and his mother's. They found a single bag of marijuana at the complainant's apartment, an amount so tiny the officers became frustrated.

Under threats the mother of the complainant revealed she had a safety deposit box where her son's savings were kept from his jewelry business. Feeling intimidated, she gave the officers the key to it. The complainant meanwhile was given over to regular police officers who sent him to the hospital due to the severe beating he had been given.

The complainant was charged with assaulting police. The officers lied on documents claiming he had fought with them and the beating had been necessary to subdue him.

The following morning Schertzer and Correia went to the bank, where there had been $54,000 in the safety deposit box. Schertzer only documented $22,850. $31,150 went missing, presumably into the pockets of the officers.

The trial continues today.

What is truly despicable is how the 5 dirty cops behave in court. They swagger and sneer. They don't even seem to be taking the charges seriously, confident in their highly paid lawyers. Their faces are smug satisfaction, like a bunch of cats who ran loose in a canary store and have been caught the next morning with fat bellies and feathers still stuck to them. Smug, defiant, even though they are obviously guilty.

The conviction rate for dirty cops is below 50% in Canada.

When cops go bad, they go really bad.

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