June 20, 2008
Police hoped to keep Brant behind bars: defence lawyer
Trial continues today
Posted By BY JEREMY ASHLEY, THE INTELLIGENCER
Provincial police wanted to pin criminal charges on Shawn Brant in order to keep the well-known protester behind bars during this year's aboriginal Day of Action, his lawyer charged Monday.
The allegation was levelled by defence lawyer Howard Morton during the opening day of a trial into a number of charges against Brant including assault with a weapon, mischief, breach of recognizance, possession of a controlled substance and carrying weapons dangerous to the public peace.
The majority of the criminal counts stem from an alleged incident that occurred just north of Deseronto on April 21 involving a confrontation between native protesters -- including Brant -- and nearby residents.
On that date, there were a number of native protests and road blockades in and around Deseronto after a developer promised to forge ahead with a plan to build on disputed native land.
Consequently, the majority of the trial's inaugural day didn't dwell on specific details of the incident, but rather was spent setting the context in which the occurrence took place such as issues surrounding the Culbertson Land claim, a tract of disputed piece of land that encompasses a large portion of Deseronto.
However, during cross-examination of the lead investigator of the incident, OPP Staff Sgt. Robert Hagerman, Morton charged the officer was selective in who he interviewed regarding the incident involving the confrontation.
The officer's goal, suggested Morton, was to "make sure he (Brant) was behind bars" during the aboriginal Day of Action in May.
Further, Morton questioned why provincial police were involved in a dispute that occurred on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, especially considering protesters had already contacted members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory Police (TPS) to look into the incident.
"If this is a TPS investigation occurring in their jurisdiction, why would the OPP get involved in that investigation and exclude the TPS from that investigation?" Morton asked.
Hagerman said the two police agencies agreed to work together to probe the incident -- essentially, OPP would look into allegations made by non-native residents, while members of the Tyendinaga police would investigate any complaints made by protesters.
To complicate matters further, Hagerman said the complainant -- who lives in nearby Deseronto -- didn't want to be involved with anyone from the Tyendinaga Territory Police Service.
Morton, however, said police took "unprecedented steps" to ensure a connection between Shawn Brant and the incident was made.
For instance, a fishing spear seized by police when Brant was arrested was sent to the Centre for Forensic Sciences in Toronto for examination.
"This was sent to the Centre for
Forensic Sciences for an assault with a weapon case -- have you ever done that before?"
"No," replied Hagerman.
Morton wondered why provincial police, during the course of an investigation, would send a fishing spear for forensic examination but not look into allegations by protesters that the complainant was armed with a club or had struck a woman at the scene with his vehicle.
"Wouldn't you consider it an assault if someone were to be struck by a car (intentionally)?" Morton asked.
"In some circumstances, yes it is -- in this circumstance, no," replied the officer.
Later in the day's proceedings, Hagerman's comments were supported by Tyendinaga Police officer Nathan Leland.
During his testimony, Leland said the protester who was "nudged" by the vehicle didn't sustain any noticeable injury and that only one of the protesters would give a formal statement to police about the incident.
"I wanted to make sure everything was credible ... but I came to learn later that Mr. Shawn Brant was at the scene as well," which wasn't mentioned by any of the protesters at the time, Leland said.
"So the information I received didn't come together, more or less," the constable said.
The trial continues today in Napanee.