November 07, 2014 - 5:02 PM
LAWYER AND COP SQUARED OFF IN COURTHOUSE
KELOWNA - A local lawyer is paying a hefty price for a heated exchange with a police officer while trying to resolve a case in the Kelowna Law Courts in 2011.
Marty Johnson, who practices criminal defence and personal injury law, was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and ordered to pay just over $10,000 in fines by the B.C. Law Society.
Johnson was arrested in the courthouse by the unidentified officer who claimed that Johnson assaulted him, but witnesses said no assault occurred. Society benchers largely ignored the officer’s claim, and focussed instead on Johnson’s language. He said “fuck you” in a heated exchange. They said the officer provoked Johnson, but more is expected of Johnson because he is a lawyer.
The society heard from only Johnson and prosecutor Duncan Campbell. According to the law society investigation, on March 9, 2011, Johnson was defending a client for spousal assault. Shortly before the trial, he made an agreement with the Crown for a peace bond. He and the prosecutor asked the RCMP officer to assist his client in getting some items from the family home.
“It’s the RCMP that will have to do it and they are not going to,” the officer said.
“On the street, the police may have the power or authority, but in the court the judge has the power,” Johnson replied.
The prosecutor said the officer, who was 30-years-old and roughly 220 pounds, raised his voice and was unyielding. The conversation got more heated “they were essentially inviting each other to ‘fuck off.’"
“Crown counsel said... an older officer might have defused the situation,” according to the decision. The prosecutor intervened, stepped between them, said “this is silly” and proposed a resolution. The conversation continued about Johnson’s client.
“Don’t for a minute think that I don’t know who you are and what you are about,” the officer said.
Johnson uttered his $10,000 words and the officer approached him “nose to nose.”
According to the prosecutor, the officer said: “You don’t scare me, you big shot lawyer.” Then the officer pointed out that Johnson’s chest was touching his.
“That’s assaulting a police officer,” the officer said.
Johnson said: “You are assaulting me.”
“You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen an RCMP (member) assaulted,” the officer said. He told Johnson he was under arrest and, grabbed his left arm, tried to spin him and pushed him against the wall. Johnson, 61, had recently had hip surgery.
A court Sheriff assisted with the arrest and Johnson was taken through the courthouse to the RCMP detachment.
The officer tried to lay charges but an independent prosecutor declined to charge Johnson with assault. The prosecutor who witnessed the events also said there was no evidence of assault and refused to make that allegation.
They said the officer’s words could be considered threats and said his action “was a serious aggravating factor... both extreme and unnecessary” however “not so aggravating or severe to excuse the conduct of (Johnson.)"
It’s unknown if the officer was disciplined by the RCMP. Calls to the Kelowna detachment were not returned before deadline.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Marshall Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-718-2724.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014