Thursday, March 25, 2010
Two Winnipeg Police Officers set to stand trial on perjury charges
A judge has ordered that two Winnipeg police officers stand trial on charges of perjury and being unlawfully in a dwelling house.
Provincial court Judge Marvin Garfinkel delivered his ruling Wednesday afternoon before a courtroom packed with police officers.
Constables Peter John O'Kane, 39, and Jess John Zebrun, 32, are accused of illegally entering a hotel room at The Fairmont, where they discovered drugs and cash before they obtained a search warrant.
They are also accused of lying under oath about the drug bust at a subsequent court hearing.
Charges against two men arrested in connection with the drug bust were stayed in November 2006, the same month the police service's professional standards unit began its investigation into the handling of the search and testimony provided at a preliminary hearing.
Once the professional standards unit finished its probe, the file was forwarded to Manitoba Justice. It was then reviewed by independent counsel, which recommended criminal charges against the officers.
TWO Winnipeg police officers have been ordered to stand trial on perjury charges stemming from an allegedly improper search of a downtown hotel room and the seizure of two pounds of cocaine.
A provincial court judge ruled Wednesday there was sufficient evidence to proceed with the case against Const. Peter O'Kane and Const. Jess Zebrun, who is the stepson of retired police chief Jack Ewatski.
A court-ordered ban prevents specific details of the preliminary hearing from being published. No trial dates have been set.
O'Kane, 39, and Zebrun, 32, were arrested in January 2008 after they allegedly took an illegal shortcut to arrest a known drug dealer. The internal investigation against the officers started in November 2006 after the Crown stayed drug-trafficking charges against the suspect and an accomplice after questions were raised during a preliminary hearing over the validity of a police search warrant.
O'Kane and Zebrun are alleged to have lied under oath as to how they obtained the search warrant, which was used to enter a room at the Fairmont hotel, and seize the cocaine and $30,000 cash.
When they testified at the accused drug dealer's preliminary hearing, O'Kane and Zebrun claimed their suspicions about the hotel room weren't based on an illegal "sneak-and-peek" but rather on the information of a mysterious informant. The pair told a judge they never entered Room 1707 at the Fairmont until after they had obtained a search warrant. They also gave different accounts in court of when they first went to the hotel the day of the July 2005 arrests.
This is completely unacceptable for police to search a dwelling without a warrant. Horrible!