Friday, March 26, 2010
Officer cleared of criminal harassment against Crown attorney
THE criminal trial may be over, but the former romance between a Manitoba RCMP officer and a Crown attorney remains under a judicial microscope.
Provincial justice officials announced an independent review in January of a deadly driving case Cpl. Jeff Moyse investigated and Debbie Buors prosecuted last year.
In the case, all impaired driving charges were dropped despite strong evidence the driver had been drinking when he struck and killed a 12-year-old boy on a darkened highway near Sagkeeng First Nation in 2006.
Moyse was the on-duty breath technician and has publicly questioned why Buors never called him to testify at the preliminary hearing.
The trial judge cited problems with the way another RCMP officer questioned the driver at the scene of the fatal crash -- and his lack of detailed notes -- as grounds for an illegal breathalyzer demand.
Moyse believes he may have been able to salvage the case if put on the witness stand. Buors, and senior management in the justice department, have told the Free Press her relationship with Moyse played no role in how she handled the case. Moyse also has an outstanding civil lawsuit against Buors for nearly $4,000 in cash and property he claims she owes him. His mother has also filed for a protection order against Buors, claiming she threatened her last spring. Court hearings are set for both matters later this year.
Judge rules no crime committed despite actions against Crown lawyer
SELKIRK -- He filled her voice mail with angry rants, flooded her computer and cellphone with profane messages and ignored her requests to stay out of her life.
Yet a Manitoba RCMP officer committed no crime by the "irritating, unwelcome" way he handled the end of his rocky relationship with provincial Crown attorney Debbie Buors, a judge ruled Thursday.
Cpl. Jeff Moyse was found not guilty of criminal harassment in a high-profile case that put their brief romance -- and its possible impact on the administration of justice -- on trial.
"I am not convinced Ms. Buors was either criminally harassed or afraid for her personal safety," said provincial court Judge Christine Harapiak in summarizing a week of evidence heard earlier this month. "In this case, where communication between the parties is only partially reproduced for the court, and there is some evidence that the mean, petty and unco-operative conduct was two-sided, I am not prepared to find threatening conduct on the basis of the evidence before me."
The judge had strong words for both Moyse and Buors in allowing their personal troubles to be put on public display. That included an embarrassing March 2009 incident at the Powerview RCMP detachment in which Buors showed up to interview two victims for upcoming trials and Moyse refused to allow her into the building.
"It is not unusual, in the busy lives of professionals, to date someone you meet at work. The impact of your personal relationship on your professional life must be considered, of course, and adjustments made," Harapiak said Thursday. "Any breakdown in the relationship must be managed with a high degree of personal discretion and care; even more so when the parties are primary actors in the criminal justice system. That care does not seem to have been taken here."
Harapiak said Moyse had good reason to be defensive during the police station incident, considering Buors had sent him an email the previous day saying she was putting Moyse "on notice" she would seek a restraining order and/or criminal charges if he had any contact with her.
Criminal harassment is one of the most difficult Criminal Code offences to prove because it is usually not about a single act or incident. In this case, Moyse was not accused of actually threatening, following or stalking Buors. Buors testified Moyse wouldn't accept the end of their eight-month relationship in December 2008 and flooded her with hundreds of unwanted phone calls, emails and text messages. Many of the communications were read in court, including the transcript of two obscenity-filled phone messages he allegedly left for Buors two days after her father died suddenly. In a text message, Moyse allegedly told Buors she had pushed him as far as she could and "I hope you get everything you deserve." In another, Moyse is accused of telling Buors "Careful how you treat me. Think hard about what I know. Watch your tone." He also tells Buors to "quit hiding in your cyberworld. Just wait until we meet face to face."
Moyse testified in his own defence and accused Buors of trying to goad him into a confrontation. Defence lawyer Gene Zazelenchuk accused Buors of frequently sending "mixed messages" to Moyse by contacting him days after claiming she didn't want to speak with him again.
Buors sister, Catherine, testified how Moyse called her in December 2008, claiming Buors was a "crazy lady" who might harm herself following an argument with her teenaged son. Buors then phoned her sister an hour later, screaming Moyse had broken into her house and was holding her arms behind her back. Moyse told court he used a key to get into the home because he was concerned for Buors. He said he found her hiding under her covers following an argument with her teenaged son. He said Buors screamed at him when he offered to help.
Police were never called and no charges filed for that incident. The couple then spoke for seven hours on the phone the next day, with both telling court it was "pleasant."
"People occasionally behave badly when relationships break down. The Crown has asked that I infer threatening conduct from some of the language that Moyse used in text and email messaging. I am not prepared to do that," said Harapiak. "Moyse behaved badly, was rude and nasty and petulant. He threw virtual temper tantrums by emails and text message when he was ignored. Buors, however, was ignoring him. He has a legitimate reason to contact her for return of his goods and she was being unco-operative with him, and that left him feeling 'frustrated and exasperated,' as he so often noted during his testimony."
I agree with the Judge and Moyse's lawyer in this case. There is not enough evidence to prove that she felt afraid or threatened. I think it was the right decision to acquit the officer. She was also sending him mixed messages.
Great article by Mike McIntyre, once again though. Enjoyed the quotes and use of language. :)