Mountie found guilty of obstruction of justice in motorcyclist death
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, March 23, 2012 10:24PM EDT
NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. - The RCMP is seeking to dismiss a Mountie after a judge ruled Friday the officer was wilful and deliberate in his attempt to cover up his actions in connection to the death of a young motorcyclist.
Cpl. Monty Robinson's cool and calm behaviour did not square with the veteran's claim he unthinkingly gulped vodka to soothe his nerves following the October 2008 accident, the B.C. Supreme Court judge said in ruling him guilty of obstructing justice.
Robinson is same man who was the senior officer in charge during a deadly confrontation with Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver's airport. Dziekanski died when was jolted several times with an RCMP Taser.
Judge Janice Dillon said Robinson was well-trained in the measures that could skew a drunk driving investigation and he executed those steps when he found himself amidst the wreck.
She found no credibility in the defence case that Robinson had developed a dependency on alcohol as a result of traumatic incidents on the job, including the Dziekanski incident a year earlier.
"A veteran off-duty police officer acting reasonably would not have behaved as Robinson did. This was not a simple error of judgment, mistake or inadvertence," Dillon said in her judgment from the bench.
"Robinson's act of drinking the vodka was, I conclude, wilfully designed to set up the defence that he had learned during his police training."
Hours after the decision, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Norm Lipinski said the force is ordering an internal code of conduct investigation for obstructing justice with the aim of terminating Robinson's position.
"This case highlights that police officers, like everyone else, are held to account for their actions," Lipinski said.
The officer is currently suspended with pay.
Robinson was driving his children home from a Halloween party in October 2008 when he struck and killed motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson, 21, at a Delta, B.C., intersection, south of Vancouver.
The trial heard Robinson yelled for someone to call 911, gave his driver's licence to a bystander and hurried his children two blocks home. The children brushed their teeth, settled into bed and then Robinson stopped at his bar to down two shots of booze.
Vodka was less than his favourite drink and he knew it has a less pungent odour, the judge said.
Robinson ran back to the scene, told an officer he was the driver she was seeking and reported consuming "a couple" beers earlier in the night as well as the more recent vodka.
"Which he knew was what he had to do," Dillon said. "Robinson did not suggest that he was horrified by the event, overcome with high emotion or brutally stressed."
At trial, the officer admitted he actually drank five beers at the party. He nonetheless said he was not concerned about getting behind the wheel with the kids in his Jeep.
He explained his swift departure from the scene as wanting to get his children away from it as soon as possible.
"His explanation of prioritization of his children is an inexplicable perversion in the circumstances," Dillon said.
Court heard Robinson was an experienced officer who not only had dozens of extra courses under his belt, but was certified as an undercover agent and had passed multiple mental stress tests.
He was qualified to give breathalyzer exams.
The investigating officer had intended to recommend a charge of drunk driving but went with the obstruction charge instead.
Outside court, the mother of the victim called for Robinson's immediate firing and an internal investigation.
Judith Hutchinson said she is satisfied with the judge's "strongly-worded" ruling.
"The thing that has disturbed me all the way along ... is the calculating nature of this person, who definitely thought things through that always helped him to escape consequences of his lack of morals," she told reporters.
Prosecution lawyer Kris Pechet said Robinson proved the heart of the Crown's theory when he took the stand and showed his true intentions.
"By virtue of his specialized knowledge, which was proven, he must have known various information," Pechet said.
"He had ... no choice but to confirm that, because it was obvious from him having taken so much training and his experience as a police officer that he knew that information. It was pretty difficult for him to deny."
Despite the conviction, Hutchinson said her grief and loss remain unchanged.
"This doesn't bring my son back, but there is definitely a sense of satisfaction," she said. "At this point forward we can go ahead knowing that he will be held accountable for his actions."
Robinson still faces a perjury charge in connection to his testimony about the incident at the public inquiry looking into Dziekanski's death.
He is also the subject of another code of conduct investigation facing allegations of disgraceful conduct for operating a motor vehicle while impaired, failing to remain at the scene and failing to render assistance.
A date for sentencing on the obstruction conviction is set to be fixed on April 4.