Cop challenges constitutionality of Police Act hearings

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Cop challenges constitutionality of Police Act hearings

Postby Thomas » Fri Dec 04, 2015 4:59 am

'It's a doozy of a case:' Suspended cop challenges constitutionality of Police Act hearings

An OPP officer charged with discreditable conduct after a failed used car fraud investigation has been granted a temporary stay of his disciplinary hearing.

OPP Det.-Const. Salvatore (Sam) Amormino is challenging the constitutionality of his Police Act hearing, calling such proceedings inherently unfair because the OPP both investigates and prosecutes cases against its officers. Even the adjudicator is an OPP superintendent and therefore not impartial, Amormino’s lawyer argues.

A Toronto Divisional Court judge has ordered Amormino’s disciplinary hearing be put on hold until the courts hear his challenge. It will be a precedent-setting case, said Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati, who is launching Amormino’s challenge.

“It’s a doozy of a case.”

Amormino, 63, was the lead investigator into Big 3 Pre-Owned Auto Sales. According to the synopsis of the case found in the Divisional Court decision, Amormino’s 18-month investigation showed “vehicles were being fraudulently delivered to the Congo and that approximately $300,000 per month was being laundered and sent there for eventual use by a listed terrorist group.”

Sahbi (Alex) Bakir, Jamal (Jay) Hazime and Souheil (Daniel) Yazbek were charged with a raft of charges, including forgery and other fraud-related offences.

But the charges were dropped by local prosecutors in 2012 before the case ever went to trial. In a pair of $4-million lawsuits, Bakir and his family are suing police for malicious investigation. Hazime also filed a lawsuit, but abandonned it.

Galati said Amormino was never consulted before the charges were dropped and complained in writing about how the case was handled. He alleged misconduct by the prosecutors, claiming assistant Crown attorney Renee Puskas, then a Deputy Crown attorney for the region, shared information about the case with her defence lawyer husband John Liddle, who represented one of the accused men.

Amormino alleges Puskas and other prosecutors in her office — Walter Costa and Elizabeth Brown — filed “internal complaints” about him to the OPP’s professional standards bureau to discredit him before he went higher up with his allegation of misconduct in the local Crown’s office.

He also complained about Marc Garson, now a Superior Court judge, but at the time, director of the criminal division in the regional Crown’s office.

“The Crown took a pre-emptive strike,” Galati said. “He’s being scapegoated. There’s no question.”

Liddle could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

A spokesman for the Ministry of the Attorney General, who speaks on behalf of the local Crown attorney’s office, declined to comment on Amormino’s allegations.

“As this matter remains before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment,” said Brendan Crawley.

None of Amormino’s allegations have been proven in court.

According to the Divisional Court decision, the OPP presents “a very different version,” of what occurred. The OPP alleges Amormino was secretly involved in a bailiff business and conducted police database searches for his personal benefit.

Furthermore, the OPP alleges Amormino “acted deceitfully” by giving false evidence at a judicial hearing where the regulatory body for car dealers in the province sought to revoke the licences of two of the men charged in the Big 3 investigation.

The adjudicator in that hearing was highly critical of Amormino and other officers involved in the Big 3 case, saying they conducted a police “campaign” rather than an investigation. The adjudicator found that Amormino had a personal connection to some of the complainants in the investigation and hid the fact that he had a side business with a bailiff where he offered loans against vehicle titles.

One complainant was the bailiff’s father-in-law. Another was the owner of a Lamborghini the bailiff repossessed.

Amormino was suspended in 2013 when the OPP began investigating him, according to the Divisional Court decision. No criminal charges were ever laid against him.

According to the Divisional Court, Amormino is charged under the Police Act with deceit, neglect of duty, insubordination and two counts of discreditable conduct.

The OPP has remained tight-lipped about the Amormino case. OPP spokespeople did not respond to interview requests Wednesday.

After the Big 3 charges were dropped and the accused men were exonerated at the licensing tribunal, the OPP would only say there was an investigation into the “circumstances” surrounding the Big 3 investigation.

The OPP did not disclose the results of its investigation, nor make public the fact that Amormino was charged under the Police Services Act.

Amormino’s constitutional challenge will be heard in Superior Court in Toronto next week. ... t-hearings
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