Ighani case bogged down again with unreliable witness, fired lawyer - InfoNews

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Ighani case bogged down again with unreliable witness, fired lawyer

Afshin Ighani was back in Penticton court today at the resumption of a voir dire hearing stemming from kidnapping and weapons charges related to an incident that took place on April 22, 2017.
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May 09, 2019 - 4:42 PM

PENTICTON - There were more twists and turns in the trial of Afshin Maleki Ighani as his trial resumed in Penticton court today.

The trial has turned into a lengthy affair, after a key witness fled to the United States and the second remaining witness proved both elusive and contradictory, providing some weird testimony in proceedings that began late last year.

Ighani faces 10 charges including kidnapping and weapons offences relating to an incident that took place in and around Princeton on April 22, 2017. He's accused of forcing Jodie Walker and her boyfriend Christopher William Gliege to drive him from Okanagan Falls to the Lower Mainland. The Crown alleged he forced Gliege out of the vehicle by gunpoint on a remote road in Manning Park, firing a shot over his head at one point.

Gliege was eventually left on a logging road, while Ighani and Walker drove back to Princeton, where they were arrested by police after being located in a trailer park.

Gliege provided testimony in a preliminary hearing but has since fled to the United States, leaving Walker the only victim available to testify.

She hasn’t proven to be the most reliable witness up to this point in the proceedings, giving contradictory answers or claiming not to remember statements made to police the day of the incident. She has said she feared Ighani, who has a lengthy history of violent offences, including while in prison. 

Ighani’s trial was adjourned in early December to allow time to trace phone records after statements to police provided by Walker revealed she had been conversing regularly with Ighani since his incarceration.

In court today, May 9, for a hearing into the admissibility of Walker’s evidence, court heard more confusing statements from the witness, who defence lawyer Paul McMurray claimed was suffering from a lack of sleep and drug use prior to the April 22, 2017 incident.

Regarding the phone conversations to Ighani while in jail, McMurray said Walker claimed she had been speaking to Ry (Ighani) “all the time” while he was in jail at Okanagan Correctional Centre, according to a taped conversation she had with an RCMP officer on Oct. 18, 2018.

"No," she replied.

“Well, if you said that it wasn't true, was it?" he asked.

"I didn't say that," she said.

"Well, the truth is, you haven't spoken to Mr. Ighani since April 22 of 2017, isn't it? He hasn't called you from jail?" he asked.

"No," she replied, adding once again she never made the statement to police.

Walker also claimed under oath Ighani had paid for the trip to the Lower Mainland, had never produced a gun and had never been threatened by him, contradicting her recorded statements to police the day of the incident.

She continued to insist she recalled none of the statements she made in the police transcript, agreeing with the accuracy of some statements but not others when questioned by McMurray.

McMurray asked Walker if she was aware police were looking for Ighani the day of the incident, to which she answered "yes."

He then submitted Walker’s statements to police that day were made to prevent Gleige, who had outstanding warrants and a non-contact order with Walker, from getting into further trouble with police.

“You were trying to lie to protect your boyfriend, correct? You didn’t want to get yourself in trouble, isn't that correct?” McMurray said, Walker replying "no" and "yes."

“Whatever you said to the police on April 22, 2017, you can't say now was the truth, can you?"  he asked.

Walker agreed with the statement.

McMurray also asked if Walker was still in contact with Gliege. She said she was, adding he was still in the U.S.

Crown prosecutor John Swanson insisted Walker’s testimony to police should stand, noting the similarities between her and Gliege’s statements to police.

But McMurray said the police interview statements were not made under oath and no warning given of the consequences for lying. He said Walker's statement to police was forced, with police leading her in a “particular direction.”

He said she was motivated to lie in order to protect her boyfriend, Gliege.

McMurray said Walker and Gliege’s testimony were essentially that of two witnesses in a relationship being asked to corroborate each other.

“That casts some real serious doubt on Walker’s veracity,” he said.

Judge Nitya Iyer agreed with Crown's argument following adjournment for lunch this afternoon, saying "threshold reliability" of the evidence had been established.

However, after accepting Walker's statement to police as evidence, the judge was forced to adjourn a second time to allow McMurray an opportunity to consult with his client.

A third adjournment took place after Ighani told court in a rambling, confusing discourse the judge needed to clarify, that he wished an opportunity to seek new counsel or possibly represent himself.

Judge Iyer returned with a decision late this afternoon, granting Ighani's request for new counsel. He has a two week adjournment to make arrangements for representation, either with a new lawyer or by self-representation.

The matter returns to court on May 24. 

For more stories on the Ighani trial click this link.

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