The RCMP is denying it did anything wrong in a case of a Metis man who was convicted of a drug crime he didn’t commit despite already disciplining a senior officer for neglect of duty, APTN News has confirmed.
An internal investigation into Cpl. Daniel Fenton found he neglected his duty by not confirming laboratory test results on powder seized by the RCMP had come back negative for crack cocaine, or any illegal drug.
The results sat, untouched, in an exhibit folder for 42 days before the Crown was alerted of the results, according to RCMP documents.
Crown prosecutor Erwin Schulz has said he made repeated attempts to learn of the results during those 42 days but was always told by the RCMP they weren’t back yet from Health Canada.
It wasn’t until May 3, 2017 that the RCMP alerted Schulz of the negative results and by that time Clayton Boucher had been detained in the Edmonton Remand Centre since Jan. 22, 2017 on charges of drug trafficking in Lac La Biche, Alberta.
Boucher ended up pleading guilty to simple drug possession and was released May 30, 2017 for time served without ever seeing the test results. He had maintained the powder wasn’t drugs but took the plea deal to get out of jail following the death of his common-law wife.
His lawyer, Leighton Grey, previously told APTN he was told by the Crown traces of cocaine was found in the results, which is why he supported the plea arrangement.
Boucher’s conviction was overturned on consent of the Crown after he appealed to the Alberta court of appeal in July.
Boucher then sued the Mounties, Schulz, Grey and Canada for over a $1 million in damages this past May.
In a statement of defence, filed by Justice Canada, the RCMP denied any wrongdoing on Aug. 23.
“There is no basis for any claim for malicious prosecution, abuse of process, misfeasance, intentional infliction of mental suffering, harassment, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence or discrimination,” the statement of defence says.
Once Boucher was released from jail he also filed a complaint against the RCMP that took over a year to be completed.
It is in that internal investigation that the RCMP found there was evidence against Fenton for neglect of duty.
Fenton was the senior exhibit custodian and the supervisor on the file that was being handled by Const. Allison Moore before she went on extended leave.
Moore informed Fenton “about some drug exhibits that had been received and that she was not able to look at them. You did not recall this conversation and I do not feel that it is a relevant piece of information,” said Supt. Mark Hancock in his disciplinary decision dated Aug. 13 and provided to APTN.
Despite being alerted, Fenton didn’t check the file while the Crown was calling for results.
“Your role as a supervisor and as the senior exhibit custodian should have lent you to actioning the exhibits during the extended absence of Constable Moore,” said Hancock. “Had that occurred, you would have undoubtedly discovered the Certificates of Analysis on this file and that the material seized was confirmed not to be drugs.”
According to the decision, Fenton had several disciplinary matters dealt with at the same time that were not explained. In total, he got docked two days’ pay, forfeited 64 hours of vacation, can’t be promoted for a year and had to complete various training.
Despite denying every allegation of misconduct in Boucher’s lawsuit, the RCMP does state in its statement of defence Boucher’s detainment was reasonable up until at least March 20 when the results came back.
It also mentions the “tragic” death of his common-law wife who died in a car collision on April 30, 2017. Boucher attended the funeral shackled in restraints and in an orange jumpsuit.
Not being with his wife at the time is part of the pain and suffering he alleges in his lawsuit.
But he also alleges the Crown knew the test results came back negative when he was allowed to take a plea deal to drug possession.
Hancock noted this as well.
“While I am satisfied that you neglected your duties on this file, I would comment that Mr. Boucher remained in custody for nearly a full month after the Crown was notified of the analysis results and even after defence had been advised of same,” said Hancock. “In fact, I note that even after that information was shared with both counsel representatives, a guilty plea was still agreed upon for simple possession.”
The RCMP members, five in total, including Fenton, and Schulz are being represented by the same lawyer with Justice Canada, Barry Benkendorf, however just one statement of defence was filed.
Grey has also denied allegations he did anything wrong in a statement of defence. He previously told APTN Boucher “was wronged, but not by me.”
“(Boucher) has already brought a complaint against Grey and a subsequent appeal of that complaint to the Law Society of Alberta, which complaint and appeal were both dismissed,” Grey said in the statement.
The statement of defence by Justice Canada doesn’t mention what the result was of Boucher’s complaint against Schulz with the same law society.