Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Dziekanski Taserman beats a rap

RCMP Cpl. Benjamin "Monty" Robinson, the man who Tasered Robert Dziekanski, will not stand trial for DUI after running into and killing a BC motorcyclist with his Jeep in October, 2008.

There was a kind of Greek inevitability to this outcome.

After the accident, according to one bystander, Robinson didn't bother checking on the man he had hit. Instead he left his licence with someone and ran home with his two children, returning to the scene a little later. He subsequently failed two breathalyzer tests. A helpful colleague began to lay down the framework of an alibi:

Delta Const. Paul Eisenzimmer said that, in general, anyone who leaves the scene could be charged under the Criminal Code.

"Leaving the scene means avoiding responsibility," Eisenzimmer said. "If someone left their identification there it is hard to say the person is avoiding responsibility.

"But if someone leaves their identification and then leaves the scene the issue is why leave and what have they done in the interim -- have they gone and drank some more?"[emphasis added]

I picked up on that at the time. But Robinson's licence was suspended for three months anyway, for impaired driving, and the local police recommended that he be criminally charged, a decision that in BC belongs to the Crown.

Lo and behold, Robinson made the very claim suggested, and fought the suspension all the way to the BC Supreme Court. He had been so shaken by the crash, he said, that he had downed two shots of vodka at home to steady his nerves.

But the BC Supreme Court wasn't buying it:

“(The) officer noted her personal observations that the petitioner had a strong odour of liquor on his breath and on his person, that his face was pale, his eyes were bloodshot and his pupils were dilated, and his speech was slurred,” said the judgment by Justice Mark McEwan.

It said Robinson told the officer he had two beers at a party at 5:30 p.m. and then took two shots of vodka after the collision during a 10-minute period in which he left the scene, walked home, and returned.

The officer didn’t believe him, noting “symptoms far more set than two shots in that time period should indicate.”

Robinson was given a 90-day driving prohibition, but he asked for a judicial review of the prohibition because his “evidence” about the vodka shots wasn’t considered.

McEwan dismissed the petition, and commented on the “inherent inconsistency” of Robinson’s statement at the scene, saying the pattern of drinking he described did not seem to account for the blood-alcohol readings.

Robinson, who was off-duty at the time of the incident, faces charges of impaired driving causing death and exceeding the legal limit. He was suspended with pay after the crash.

Those criminal charges were the ones that the BC Ministry of the Attorney-General, overriding the recommendations of the local police, dropped yesterday. Robinson will face but a single charge, "attempting to obstruct justice." A spokesperson for the ministry's criminal justice branch would say only that the charge was due to the "alleged actions" of Cpl. Robinson after the collision.

My prediction? He'll walk. Police, generally unaccountable to anyone but themselves, are veritable Houdinis when it comes to extricating themselves from a jam, as we have seen in the appalling case of Ian Bush. But in BC they do have plenty of help from the Crown as well, as indicated, for example, by the reluctance, pre-Braidwood at least, to prosecute the officers involved in the death of Robert Dziekanski

Is the Robinson case the latest dismal instance of police impunity? Or can civilians now beat a drunk driving charge if given the opportunity to run home and gulp down a few shots? Indeed, why not carry an open bottle of liquor in your vehicle--a far lesser offence than impaired driving causing death--to keep handy for just such "emergencies?"

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