Thursday, June 10, 2010
Robin Mathews: The Day in Courtroom 54. The Basi, Virk, and Basi trial.
Nine lawyers in Court. 30 to 40 in the gallery over the day.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
The day was long. Twelve jurors appeared and committed themselves to the long trial. Everyone sighed with relief, though whether the trial should be proceeding is another matter - which I will write about when the court stops for the week.
Dressed nattily in a grey suit, Martyn Brown - Gordon Campbell's Chief of Staff - grey haired, grey short-bearded, slender, took the witness stand to be cross-examined by Defence counsel Kevin McCullough.
A few objections were raised by William Berardino during the event, but matters went more-or-less smoothly forward .. more or less ....
The jury listened intently. Some took notes. In the glass box in which the accused sit, looks of incredulity appeared on faces at times of Mr. Brown's most intense denial of allegations about his activities or at times when his memory was the most tested and - always - always - found wanting.
The remarkable thing about the questioning was Mr. Brown's memory. He recognized no documents, he remembered no telephone calls, he remembered no conversations - about matters of the first importance. [If I were Gordon Campbell, I would be very uneasy having Martyn Brown as Chief of Staff. He might forget who I am! Overnight. ]
While Mr. Brown didn't remember some key events, he didn't deny they might indeed have happened. Since he didn't remember making or receiving telephone calls or having conversations, he could hardly answer questions about them. But since he didn't deny they might indeed have happened, if some other witness DOES remember one of them clearly - Mr. Brown has not lied. He hasn't said they didn't happen, just that he doesn't remember them happening.
Mr. Brown, Gordon Campbell's chief of Staff, didn't know that Jamie Elmhirst, who was a ministerial assistant left government in July of 2003 and was in Pilothouse Lobby group a month later. Pilothouse was important in the BC Rail Scandal. Some time ... later ... Mr. Brown knew.
Mr. Brown didn't remember if he was ever in meetings with Mr. Virk , one of the accused, over matters concerning BC Rail.
He knew nothing about anything to do with donations (from people appointed), or from corporations to the Liberal Party. He knew nothing about severance packages (and apparently, padded, and layered severance packages) for BC Rail executives.
Mr. Brown knew nothing about the large, untendered contract with CIBC World Markets to give financial, etc. advice on the BC Rail transfer to CN Rail. He knew nothing about people close to government who were critical of the contract. He did not remember being allegedly approached himself by Bobby Virk more than once about the matter.
Asked if he ever sat in the CIBC World Markets box at GM place, Mr. Brown couldn't remember.
Some wrangling ... or ... failure to understand occurred when Mr. McCullough referred to the "Shippers Report" (2003). Campbell government had a survey of enterprises which shipped by rail along the line that was served by BC Rail. What did they foresee, what did they think, etc? The report came back that the majority preferred a sale to CPR rather than CNR. Did Mr. Brown know about all that? He, apparently, didn't even get what was meant by the 'shippers report'. He didn't recall that two consultants had been set the task of finding out opinion. He didn't recall he had allegedly been informed and told the report could cause trouble for the intention to transfer BC Rail to CNR.
And when asked if he remembered telling Bobby Virk to leak 'the shippers' report - who allegedly refused because of his oath of confidentiality - Mr.Brown could recall no such thing. And he assured Mr. McCullough and the jury he would never counsel Mr. Virk to do such a thing.
If the day revealed information, it did so inside-out.
[Thurs., June 10] cross examination of Martyn Brown, Gordon Campbell's Chief of Staff and top political advisor continued.
[Robin will have a new column up soon.
[Next session: Monday, June 14, 2010.]
Government staff used private computers for some files, corruption trial told
By Mark Hume
The Globe and Mail - June 10, 2010Mark Hume's column is HERE.
By Neal Hall
Vancouver Sun - June 9, 2010
This is the Premier's right hand man for political affairs. The suggestion he is not cognizant of all the matters he now makes the pretense of having forgotten is bogus - and, as Robin reports, the dynamics in the courtroom make this clear.
He hired Campbell's people: These people (with the exception of Dave Basi who, I seem to recall, was actually picked by Gary Farrell Collins) were chosen at the behest and under the direction of the Premier - he performed political 'wet work' functions in a previous Socred government...he was at the heart of the POLITICAL action of the Gordon Campbell Government - HE STILL IS FOR GOD'S SAKE!
This is not some minor functionary who can now claim he 'remembers nothing'; recalls nothing; knows nothing.
He cannot sustain this impression AND retain his central role in the Campbell Government with any kind of believability.
As Robin points out parenthetically... "If I were Gordon Campbell, I would be very uneasy having Martyn Brown as Chief of Staff. He might forget who I am! Overnight."
The man has NO credibility - he cannot have been in the position he holds and NOT HAVE KNOWN these things.
Mark Hume to the contrary...
Again, we learn more from the unaccredited Professor Mathews - about the actual trial and its characters - than we do from all the 'working journalists' in Vancouver.
Thank you Robin - and thank you Mary.
Maybe it's his conscience he's really forgot, really, though.....
Even a fly on the wall would have heard, and remembered, more. Perhaps one will turn up...with flypaper memory. And who knows, maybe there'll turn out to be a canary or two...or someone else will barter for amnesty, official or otherwise, in exchange for not just the smoking gun, but where the bullets were kept....
sorry to jumble metaphors....but what if we discover that the whole pack of Crown witnesses have poor memories like Mr. Brown's? I'm not just buying popcorn for when the railway CEOs hit the stand, I think I might buy some steaks and a fifth of Jack, an d have myself a chow-down...."I'm sorry, I don't remember my railway making major campaign donations to the BC Liberal Party" or "Party at Savary Island? Where's that?" There's gonna be a whole lot of not-remembering going on, as I think we'll learn.
How do people with bad memories, then, become CEOs of anything. Maybe it's like the Ministry of Funny Walks?....combine that with the idea from the Peter Principle that those in power rise to the position of their maximum inadequacy.
The following passage is purely fictional and speculative, and concerns answers to questions that may or may not get asked. Resemblance to creatures living or dead is not intentional.
"Well, we had this dinner where it was explained to us that if we stayed in the bidding process we could have that spur line, y'know, down by the border?" "Yes, we were assured the offer had the Premier's blessing" "we didn't offer cash to anyone; it was solicited from us by that young consultant fellow. He made it clear to us that this was "how things were done" in BC and "encouragements" in the form or private payments and/or campaign donations could smooth things over" "I don't recall ever having had much to do with the defendants, only with the Premier and cabinet and Mr Brown and - what's her name again? Lara?"
Hmmm. Interesting script, would make a good movie. But what I don't understand is why somebody they were trying to keep in the process be the one expected for offer the incentive, and not the other way around?
He has sworn to tell the truth, "the whole truth, and nothing but the truth", right?
He isn't doing that.
So, in my view, Martyn is skating pretty darn close to being called "in contempt of court".
It's outrageous that all 40 witnesses might sit there, hour after hour, proclaiming their ignorance.
Unless the JUDGE has her orders and is following them obediently!
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