News Item: (CAN) Charges stayed against farmer who spent more than three years in jail
(Category: General News)
Posted by ace
Saturday 28 June 2014 - 02:53:14

A judge has stayed charges against a dairy farmer who spent more than three years behind bars insisting he was innocent of allegations he conspired with a senior member of the Hells Angels to traffic cocaine.

The stay came after a more than four-year legal odyssey that saw 49-year-old Ian Conklin charged along with Ontario Nomads member Mario “Five Cent” Sincennes and several others in January 2010 as part of a large-scale covert police operation dubbed Project Beckenham.

The investigation by the Biker Enforcement Unit of the Ontario Provincial Police resulted in the seizure of a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of drugs, a machine gun and silencer, multiple handguns and tens of thousands of dollars in cash and property. It resulted in lengthy prison sentences for Sincennes and his top lieutenants after they pleaded guilty.

But Conklin steadfastly refused to plead out to charges of conspiracy, possessing property for benefit of a criminal organization and possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.

And on Friday, after more than three years in the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre and another nine months under house arrest while on bail, Conklin’s determination was rewarded when the federal Crown abandoned the prosecution just three months before Conklin was finally set to stand trial.

Prosecutor Bill Boutzouvis didn’t say why the charges were being stayed, although Conklin had alleged an abuse of process stemming from police conduct during the investigation. A police interview with Conklin had earlier been tossed out of evidence after police failed to record at least 16 minutes of the interrogation.

Despite his joy that the criminal charges are gone, Conklin was disappointed he didn’t get to tell a jury his side of what happened.

Conklin, who said he was shot during a 2007 home invasion and had his barns burned down, said he was targeted by the drug traffickers.

“I just can’t believe I’ve been denied the trial to prove I’m not guilty,” said Conklin.

“It’s like, ‘You’re guilty, you do your time and we’re sorry, maybe you didn’t do it,’ ” he said. “You know you are automatically convicted when you are charged, in a sense. People say, ‘Yeah, he’s guilty, he’s a big bad biker,’ and all this stuff and they don’t even know me. It’s just crazy.”

A father of seven children ranging in age from 13 to 26 years old, Conklin said he lost his 500-acre farm between Prescott and Brockville, a herd of cattle and his houses during his lengthy battle with prosecutors. In court on Friday, he asked the judge whether the Crown would be returning $50,000 in proceeds from the sale of property that he says was seized and sold after he was charged.

“I’ve lost everything. I’ve got to start life over again,” he said. “I got a pair of boots and jeans and here I go.”

Conklin said his time in jail was awful. He lost two teeth, knocked out when he was attacked in a holding cell at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre minutes before he was to be interrogated by police. Conklin said his damaged teeth were never treated properly at the jail, leading to a serious infection that shut down his pancreas and sent him on a stretcher to a hospital intensive care unit. He was in hospital for a week.

Conklin was also the victim of bad luck. The judge who was originally supposed to hear his case in April 2013 fell ill and could no longer hear the case, resulting in a mistrial. Months of pre-trial motions had to be argued a second time in front of a new judge before a new trial date could be set.

Conklin’s lawyer, Leo Russomanno of Abergel, Goldstein and Partners, called the stay of the charges “bittersweet” since Conklin never got a chance to truly clear his name.

This news item is from White Trash Networks
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