Friday, November 23, 2007

 

Courtroom 55 is a large room ... the setting for a historic pretrial BC Rail Hearing

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Pretrial Hearing Basi, Virk, and Basi, Friday, November 23

By Robin Mathews

A major explosion occurred today, and minor ones could be heard underground. Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett worked scrupulously to line up scheduling for December 3 and after. Involved in some sort of sequence are many parts - B.C. Rail materials, Justice Department materials, further disclosure materials, boxes seized at the original legislature (search warrant) raids, third party materials, the Bornmann e-mails: some crossing over, some related, some possessing irrelevant material. 30,000 new pages of disclosure material was received in the last month, Michael Bolton, Defence lawyer said.

Two key matters emerged, to be dealt with a little later. In the meantime:

Defence hinted - but only hinted - that the Special Crown Prosecutor, William Berardino is [still] providing material inadequately and in a way that might be construed as deliberately obstructive.

Delays which are laid at the feet of the Crown (while probably possessing substance) are - I believe - largely the result of a presiding judge who has failed (a) to call early for disclosure material, (b) to prepare the way (with competent homework) to have materials in her care that obviously will be needed in the process, (c) to insist upon prompt, fully annotated, disclosure, attached to real deadline dates, and (d) seriously, meaningfully to rap knuckles for failure to comply. Behind all the wrangles that occur and have occurred in the case, is the judge who acts more as a referee than the key person "seized" with the matter.

In that regard the fact that January is out for movement on the case because of the prior commitments of actors involved seems to this ordinary Canadian a little outrageous. That fact, too, probably has to be placed at the door of the judge presiding.

As I have said before, this is not a case about break and entry into a warehouse. It is a case bearing significantly on the legitimacy of the government in power in the act of legislating for the people of British Columbia. And if there is the slightest question (and there is) that there may be or have been criminals among those who legislate in the present government, all slates should be kept clear, all attention should concentrate on the case, and pursuit of the issue should not be delayed for any reason.

Those things explain, in large part, why the role of Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett must be figured in.

For people who only hear about the matter from some kind of media source, it might be interesting to know that courtroom 55 is a large room. Into it came 10 lawyers - Defence and the Crown huddling for minutes before the opening of the session, obviously trying to work out some agreements about process. In the large gallery sat about eight people to begin. No representative from the Attorney General's office, no lawyer for ex-minister Collins, no NDP justice critic. Madam Justice Bennett entered the courtroom at ten minutes past nine - and the hour was taken up with the scheduling problems, mostly, to which I have referred.

The two key matters: the first was almost incidental to the discussion, but it was thrust into play. In the Bornmann e-mails, in the B.C. Rail materials a shape of things (that should have been plain much, much earlier) involving "the inner circle", cabinet-connected figures, the "conduits" for information flow is beginning to be seen. That may open matters of involvement by the the directors of Basi, Virk, and Basi that the public has long wanted to know about. Whether it will mean further charges must be laid is quite another question. At this time.

The other key matter is the information the Special Crown Prosecutor provided that he will be asking for an in camera meeting with the judge - excluding not only press and public but also the lawyers for the Defence. A most rare request.

Historically, such a request is only made if the personal safety of a person or of persons is at threat. One must stretch one's imagination hard to think who might be physically endangered by information that the Defence, at least, shares, in relation to the Basi, Virk, and Basi matters.

To this observer, moreover, a side aspect of the issue threw into highlight, once again what I am led to feel frequently is the court's contempt for average Canadians. Asked outside the courtroom about the nature of the in camera application and whether the public and press would be able to hear the argument of the Defence against being excluded, Mr. Berardino (quite rightly) would not be drawn. The judge had said, "say nothing". He was obeying. Asked how press and public could learn whether they could be at the argument, Mr. Berardino said they should consult counsel (hire a lawyer to make representation for them.) Doubtless CanWest Monopoly Press and Media has counsel. But what about you and me?

I said that I believe the judge has an obligation (not a choice) to inform the public well before the event whether they may be present when the Defence presents its arguments against an in camera meeting that excludes it.

In normal circumstances, in a flourishing democracy, ordinary Canadians would know that their champion and informant would be the judge presiding who would aggressively care for their interests in the matter. The judge would "represent" you and me, and think about the exclusion from the point of view of our interest in being in the courtroom, particularly, and from the point of view of the interests of Canadians at large. She would hasten to tell the public if it is to be admitted or not.

This long process has made very clear to me that we will be very lucky if Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett weighs our role in any serious way. The courts in Canada are increasingly a playground for the rich who play their games before judges; and the 'people' get in the way of the games the rich play.


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Sincere thanks to you, Robin, for being our eyes and ears in Courtroom 55, and for connecting the elements into something coherent. Distresssing, but coherent. A very large virtual bouquet to you, once again. - BC Mary.

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Comments:
In this double incamera tete a tete....
Perhaps there will be something like a national security agrument trotted out (like they do in the US to hide executive wrongdoing). Perhaps there will be an attack on defence council or worse, prejudicial comments about the accused...or way worse yet, perhaps a request to have the whole thing thrown out by the judge....What if the judge is threatened or offered something or encouraged to keep more information away from the public???

There cannot be such a meeting. I am starting to think about rallies and demonstrations now.
 
Firstly, a heartfelt "Thank you" to both BC Mary & Robin for sharing this stunning scenario with all of us. You are both to be admired & commended for being solid British Columbians holding all British Columbians' best interests high above the rot & the corrupt circle that has been allowed to operate for too long. There is a pattern to the suppression we are witnessing in this highly political trial.

How many other political trials involved with high profile misconduct of individuals have been swept under the rug with the evidence deep-sixed through manipulation of the justice system? We must all ask the hard questions & speak up wherever possible.

solocanoe you ask: "What if the judge is threatened or offered something or encouraged to keep more information away from the public???"

. . . . If one follows the history of promotions & 'events' involved with the court/justice system in recent years, it is very telling to see WHO gets promoted WHEN & in what context of evidence/Judgments rendered/'Reports' written for Govt. etc. There is a much bigger pattern to ALL of these events - there is a bigger picture.

The only reason this trial might just proceed is ONLY because a few good people like Mary, Bill T, Robin et al have through hours of diligence communicated the TRUTH to the public. I am grateful.

solocanoe, you are right: if the game playing persists, visible/vocal PEOPLE POWER is the ultimate weapon to fight corruption coupled with the truth.
 
'PEOPLE POWER', should have started years ago! POWER TO THE PEOPLE, lets get all them bastards out! Lets bring back integrity and security to the future, our children, and give respect to the elders!
 
If the case that Bill Teilmann has alluded to on his blog is in fact what we are looking at, then the three paragraphs (45,46,and 47) are telling us about a confidential police informant. The decision only points to confidential police informants. Therefore it is my belief that only that condition (of a confidential police informant) can be used with this decision. It does not extend to any other persons such as government employees. So it remains to ask what situation in this complex case would a confidential informant be used. My guess, the original drug case. Operation everywhichway.
That would rule out the premier, but not Bornmann.Was he involved in the drug case. There is no evidence that he was. Yet. Could this be a way for the government to not have him testify? Not testifying brings up the problem of not being cross-examined. No crossexamination means a lot of questions go unanswered.
 
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Gary E,

Here's my guess, which I left on Bill Tieleman's web-site yesterday:


BC Mary said...

OK, I'll go back to one of the original guesses: one of the Secret Witnesses is Jasmohan Bains who comes up for trial in 2008.

It's possible, isn't it? that he has agreed to provide testimony in return for some sort of leniency later on?

And he's in a position to give evidence about his cousin, Dave Basi, who he (Jas) phoned 26 times at the Ministry of Finance during the summer of 2003.

It was Jasmohan Bains -- thought to be the new Mr Big on Vancouver Island -- that the RCMP were tracking, wasn't it? when they wanted to raid Basi's office?

I hope that, by outing the secret witnesses, Citizens may make it unnecessary for secret testimony and we may all get to hear what they have to say.

Next.

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But then Anonymous said...

Mary, the secret witness isn't jasmohan bains. It's two high ranking government officials who are afraid to tell their side of the story in public. why else would defence lawyers be opposed to such a ban.

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Secondlook:

One other trial that went through agonies of public and government distress before finally bursting out into the open, was the criminal trial of a B.C. Minister of Forests charged with accepting bribes for transferring huge blocks of forest lands to MacMillan Blodel (I think).

It was early days for W.A.C. Bennett's new-fangled Social Credit government, elected on his promise of "Trust me, I'm a Christian," and this bribery-thingy was not helping him establish a new regime. So, for years, he defended Robert Sommers until the old Bull o'the Woods, Gordon Gibson Sr. outed Sommers beyond question.

With that, Mr Bennett threw Mr Sommers overboard and sailed his ship of state safely on ... and on ... and on ... creating, among other things, B.C. Rail.

I should go back and read up on that case, or at least Google Robert E. Sommers + bribery + Clayoquot and see if I can figure things in Judge Bennett's court out a bit better.

But it's beginning to look like time when somebody gets thrown to the sharks again.

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Mary
You could possibly be right on with Bains. I couldn't connect Bornmann except with the government not wanting his testimony under cross. With all the things he does (name spelling changes, skipping around the continent trying to be a lawyer etc) It wouldn't surprise me that he was trying to get out of testifying in open court to save his legal butt.
But Bains is a very good choice. If anyone was suspected of being deep undercover and were discovered I'm sure their lives would be forfeit.
Which brings me back to my statement that it would have to be a police informant and not a member of the government. Only police informants are covered under the decision.
But I still wouldn't put anything past Campbell to cover his political ass. And these thoughts with me go back to when he was in opposition and almost every statement he made was on defeating the NDP. Watching his body language made it seem that he was obsessed only with this one purpose. Of course he has since proved that he can't govern for the people.
 
I guess the judge will make the decision one way or the other. Anything else is pure speculation.

The lady has spent a long time on the bench and knows any decision she makes is subject to review. WE will soon know her decision .
 
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Pure speculation, Anonymous 2:30, is what healthy minds do when confronted with enigmas and dilemmas.

I wish I had your faith that "WE will soon know [Judge Bennett's] decision."

4 years has been a long, painful wait. And if you ask me (I know that you didn't ask me), I do believe that Madam Justice could have issued an order to the Special Prosecutor to damn well produce the necessary documents by a certain date or suffer the penalty of her displeasure. Ol' Bill would be in contempt of court right this minute, as we speak.

It would have served Defence, the public, and JUSTICE well, if she had ordered/demanded full disclosure ... long ago.

Care to speculate as to why she has not done that, so far?


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Mary this info is stunning re: Bain's link to Basi you posted:

"OK, I'll go back to one of the original guesses: one of the Secret Witnesses is Jasm
ohan Bains who comes up for trial in 2008 . . . .

And he's in a position to give evidence about his cousin, Dave Basi, who he (Jas) phoned 26 times at the Ministry of Finance during the summer of 2003.


I think you could very well have hit the nail on the head re: one of the secret witnesses - it begs the question who else in Govt. was involved in the drug Raid.

Min. Collins immediately resigned & landed at the now defunct Harmony Airways owned by Ho. Hmmmm wasn't he the guy caught with prostitutes & cocaine in his car a little while later?

Seems Collins then jumped to Belkin Industries didn't he?

. . . also, we must not forget about Min. Clark & Min. Reid all leaving the Govt. benches - is this a coincidence???
 
There are several people in the Federal Liberal party who were closely connected to the Elmhirst/ Bornman/Clark/Marissen inner circle who are still very active than Federal Liberal party activities today. If I were to hazzard a guess, I would say the mystery witness(s) is one or more of those people. None of these people's names have ever been associated publicly in connection with this trial.
 
Mary,

I think that the defense objecting to the informant/secret witness application is telling.

Why would they oppose the Special Prosecutor immediately? Why didn't they wait to hear more details on the 3rd?

Kneejerk reaction or do they know more than the Special Prosecutor?

One week and we will see what happens. I wonder if the MSM will get on board.
 
MSM, Pleeaassee get on board! Take back, Freedom of the Press! The media fuels, the Power to the People! I purpose peacefully rallies and demos. Lead by the Military! (HEY, Peter Mackay to the rescue!)After all, isn't it the Military that intervines in authority, and domestic terror/abuses?
 
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Just guessing, Anon 10:03, but my guess is that the defense was objecting on general principle.

I don't think there really is a good reason (other than threats of physical injury) to have secret testimony if we're still going to call ours an open court in a functioning democracy.

That defence lawyer imo was demanding to be allowed to do his job -- and not to be ordered to stand out in the corridor where he had no chance to defend his client.

Don't you think so?


Anonymous 10:26, you're saying much the same thing: that persons in high public positions might also give evidence if only they can persuade the Supreme Court judge to provide them with iron-clad immunity.

Just as a f'rinstance: suppose Gordon Campbell and Paul Martin decided that they would tell every rotten thing they knew about every politician or CEO in the country, but only if nobody ever finds out who testified or what they said or, in fact, that they ever said anything at all. Like, buying a bit of secret sabotage.

But if Paul Martin had been promising Gordon Campbell a duel at daybreak at 10 paces with grenade launchers if Gordo divulged any alleged campaign secrets ... then, well, just maybe we could feel OK about blanket secrecy for the witnesses.

Bill Tieleman's Legi-gate story in today's The Tyee, provides a plausible explanation for when secrecy becomes necessary under specific dangerous conditions, such as Air India witnesses faced.

Thankfully, none of the participants in the Basi Virk Basi BCRail Case have been threatened with physical violence, so far as we know. So the appeal for the Air India type of protection doesn't appear to apply.

But cripes, if we knew all we should know about this issue, we wouldn't still be trying to figure these things out after 4 years.

That's where the secrecy becomes outrageous.


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