KELOWNA – Donald Brodie’s lawyer says Kelowna RCMP intimidated and misled the well-known criminal to confess to a series of crimes that almost killed a disabled newspaper delivery man in 2013, and he wants his admissions of guilt tossed out of court.
Brodie pleaded not guilty to charges relating to a midnight run from a police roadblock that ended when the driver of the Eagle Talon lost control, ran over Steve Kania and sheared off a fire hydrant just after midnight on Dec. 6, 2013.
Kania was knocked unconscious and while under water from the ruptured hydrant, nearly drowned. His injuries were not released at the time but RCMP called them "serious."
Const. T.A. Lange wasn’t at the check stop but he was called to the intersection of Dundas Street and Dundee Road in Rutland. He arrived to find police officers with guns drawn on a black Eagle Talon that had jumped a curb and was stalled out on a patch of grass. Water from the broken hydrant was spraying into the air and an unmoving man was face down in the freezing water.
Donald Brodie, 37, and Nathan Fahl, 27, were arrested as well as a woman who was not charged.
Const. Lange testified in Kelowna Supreme Court today, May 3, that when he arrested Brodie he thought Kania was either dead or dying, and told him so. This was just the first of several tactics Brodie's lawyer John Gustafson says were used to coerce a confession.
Crown lawyer Dave Grabavac says Brodie, whose face, head and neck are covered in distinctive tattoos, was well-known to police but not yet suspected of being the driver.
Lange said in court today, May 3, that he only mentioned Kania's condition because Brodie seemed genuinely concerned.
“I saw him dragged out of the water,” Lange told Justice Marsha Devlin. “I’ve been to an awful lot of horrific crashes. I’ve seen a lot of dead bodies. I’ve seen people laying limp like that and I knew it was bad.”
Lange testified that Brodie was “worried about the victim” and also told police Fahl was not the driver.
“He said a number of times… that (Fahl) wasn’t driving, that he wanted out. He said the door wouldn’t open. He said this a number of times.”
Despite this, Fahl was arrested and charged with six offences, including dangerous and impaired driving causing bodily harm, failing to stop at an accident and carrying or threatening to use a weapon. He has an extensive record and has been sentenced to jail at least four times previously.
From the beginning he maintained his innocence, however, and Donald Brodie sent a letter to Global Okanagan in June 2014 claiming responsibility but blaming police for the accident.
Soon after, charges against Fahl were dropped and Brodie was charged with several offences, including criminal negligence causing bodily harm and resisting arrest.
While out on bail, a warrant was issued for an unrelated breach of probation and police arrested him in Ben Lee Park Dec. 20.
Gustafson says Brodie was strip-searched in an improper way without cause, questioned without legal representation and intimidated by police.
Gustafson says when police brought Brodie to the detachment, an officer was waiting to speak to him “to try and run him out of town.” What transpired in the detachment is the subject of a voire dire trial currently underway to determine if confessions Brodie gave are admissible.
Gustafson says in order to get Brodie to confess he was strip searched by several officers at once, not properly informed of his right to legal representation and that police used the chaos of the situation to get him to confess.
Deciding to “run him out of town," Gustafson said, is itself a breach of his Charter Rights.
He also says one of the officers tossed a tennis ball in Brodie’s direction while he was in custody and whistled “I’ll be home for Christmas.”
“They were using techniques not all officers use,” he said.
The voire dire is anticipated to conclude early next week after Gustafson calls several more members of Kelowna RCMP.
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