Gadhia’s client acquitted, spared deportation

A landed immigrant has been acquitted of a serious drug charge and spared deportation after “shoddy” police work became the focus of the defence cross-examination of Crown witnesses, Toronto criminal lawyer Roots Gadhia tells

After just three days of trial and four witnesses, the prosecutor asked Ontario Superior Court Justice John Sproat to dismiss the jury and acquit Gadhia’s client of possession of drugs for the purposes of trafficking.

“It was a very courageous decision by the Crown,” Gadhia says of the recent case.

In November 2010, Peel Regional Police arrived at a Mississauga high-rise condominium unit after a confidential informant told them a man and woman were using it to deal drugs, Gadhia says.

As officers approached, they saw Gadhia’s client, in his early 30s, and another man leaving the building, though not the unit. They arrested Gadhia’s client, but the other man bolted, and officers gave chase.

They caught the other man 20 minutes later. Alleging they found cellphones on him that he could have used to warn an accomplice to destroy drugs inside the unit, police cited “exigent circumstances” and entered without a warrant. They found 430 grams of crack cocaine with an estimated street value of $42,000.

The unit was leased for a time by a former girlfriend of Gadhia’s client, but police provided inadequate proof that he lived there, the lawyer says.

“My position is the police failed to establish that my client was the resident in the unit during that particular time,” she says.

The only evidence linking him to the apartment was a sticky note attached to a “tenant information sheet” filled out by his former girlfriend, the lawyer says.

But by the time the document was provided to the defence as part of the Crown’s disclosure of police evidence, her client’s name had been written into the document without explanation, Gadhia says.

So, all of a sudden, this nefarious taint attached itself to all of the evidence,” she says. “It almost seemed as if his name had been planted on the document.”

Her client’s passport, which he always kept on him to serve as ID, mysteriously appeared in an evidence bag of items seized from the apartment, although police had taken it from his person after his arrest, she said.

The police investigation proved to be sloppy in many ways, as the judge himself noted, Gadhia says.

For instance, officers never kept the unit under surveillance to establish whether her client actually lived there, Gadhia says. Nor did they show the condominium concierge a photo of her client to confirm or deny his residency.

Police did not test the drug baggies or the boxes containing the crack cocaine for fingerprints to see who had been touching them, Gadhia says.

Nor did officers wear gloves when collecting evidence, she says.

They found the crack cocaine in a walk-in closet containing mostly men’s clothes, but never established whether the clothes belonged to her client, she says.

The livingroom contained a trophy cabinet, but officers did not check whose name appeared on the awards, she says.

“Nothing that could have assisted in securing the concept of knowledge and control of the unit was done by the police,” Gadhia says.

Police claimed they saw mail addressed to her client at the unit, but they never seized the mail. Her client’s ex-girlfriend testified that all the mail came in her name.

The ex-girlfriend claimed she leased the unit to serve as their love nest but that she left when their relationship ended. She said she assumed her ex-boyfriend would remain or would sub-lease the unit.

Police did not charge her, although both she and Gadhia’s client were implicated by the confidential informant. Instead, she became a Crown witness against her ex-boyfriend. Police didn’t charge the man who ran from them either. They only charged Gadhia’s client.

Had the police done their job properly, her client would never have been charged, Gadhia says.

If convicted, he faced a possible five years in prison and deportation because he is not a citizen but is a permanent resident.

“It was a huge deal for him,” Gadhia says.

Most people expect police to investigate properly and preserve evidence, she says, but in this case, “they failed to do so.”

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