d-day for ocap threelawyer peter rosenthal, who led the legal team defending Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) activists in a controversial case that ended in a mistrial last month, has written Attorney General Norm Sterling urging him to drop charges against John Clarke, Gaetan Héroux and Stefan Pilipa. The three are supposed to find out June 18 if they'll be hauled back into court for their role in an anti-poverty action at Queen's Park three years ago that ended in a melee.
In a six-page missive dated May 30, Rosenthal writes that "there are many arguments in favour of withdrawing the charges" against Clarke, including a "highly unusual" letter that turned up in police headquarters.
In it, Rosenthal states, "a senior assistant Crown attorney assured the police that Mr. Clarke would be tried by indictment... a month before Mr. Clarke was even arrested."
Even more unusual, argues Rosenthal, was the addition of a counselling-to-assault-police-officers charge against Clarke after his preliminary hearing was over. Clarke was initially charged with counselling to riot.
Rosenthal says in his letter that all three OCAP members accused have been punished enough by stringent bail conditions. He says Clarke in particular was "unreasonably detained" - strip-searched three times in a period of less than 30 hours and held in custody (as a result of his presence at another demo) for 25 days before being released.
"Given... the Charter remedy he is owed as a result of his arbitrary detention and the illegal strip searches, and the pretrial custody he has already served, it is very unlikely that he would receive additional punishment even if he was convicted of these charges," Rosenthal suggests.
Lawyers for all three men have said that they were targeted only for their leadership role in OCAP rather than what they did at the demonstration.
Police involved in the arrests could not be reached for comment, and lead prosecutor Vincent Paris would not comment on the case or respond to Rosenthal's letter. "The announcement (on whether there will be a retrial) will be made at 9 am, June 18," he says.
There's no question that a lot of people will be watching. The case may have far-reaching implications for those who organize demonstrations and who can be held responsible when