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Kamloops News

What's in a name? Two days' worth of debate

The Facebook profile of James Rocky Whitford which has come up in court proceedings. Whitford is actually Eric Charlie
Image Credit: Facebook.com


KAMLOOPS — The ‘what’s in a name’ case is taking longer than expected as lawyers continue to argue in Kamloops Supreme Court if a homeless man committed an illegal act when he gave police doing a street check a different name than his legal birth name and continued with it after his arrest. 

Eric Bradley Charlie, 33, was homeless in 2013 when police stopped him for two separate routine street checks. During the checks, Charlie told officers his name was James Rocky Whitford and the name was entered into an RCMP database. Charlie was then arrested for charges including assault and when police took him into custody, he once again gave the moniker.

After arrest, charges, conviction and sentences under Whitford, Charlie is now before the courts in a trial which will determine if he obstructed justice by keeping up with a different name.

Charlie’s lawyer, Ken Walker argued police already had the tools to figure out who they were dealing with by way of fingerprints and photographs, which suspects are required to provide under arrest. The fingerprints for James Whitford matched Eric Charlie’s, but that was not brought forward to the court before he was sentenced as Whitford.

“The police and the institution had all the necessary information to associate the fingerprints with this man and they didn’t do it. It’s not (Charlie’s) fault,” Walker said in court today, Aug. 27.

Justice Mark McEwan acknowledged there was a mishandling of information by RCMP.

“When he is arrested, he gives that name but by then it’s the street checks that added up. Even if they have no identification, they don’t bother to run it and see. They took his word for it. From that point, he’s Mr. Whitford,” McEwan said. 

Walker said his client is First Nations and as part of his culture could identify himself with many different names.

“Mr. Charlie has a known persona of using many names,” Walker said adding Charlie was known to use up to ten different names.

He noted the accused didn't stray from the name Whitford throughout the entire course of court proceedings and even created a Facebook profile under the name. 

“It’s like a boy named Sue,” Justice Mark McEwan said.

“John Wayne is John Wayne. Marilyn Monroe is Marilyn Monroe,” Walker said.

“Well, John Wayne was Marion something,” McEwan replied.

Crown prosecutor Frank Caputo said giving a different identity to the judicial system differs greatly from someone using a fake name at the bar. He accused Charlie of using the name as a way to get a lighter sentence as he had a long list of criminal convictions whereas Whitford had no criminal record.

“This really builds on itself. He goes and he’s James Rocky Whitford once. It’s this one continuous act that just builds and builds and builds,” he said.

McEwan explored both sides of the debate and put it to Caputo if he would take the same stance if both Whitford and Charlie had clean records.

"We track people based on their names and birthdates,” Caputo said. “The system has to work, the system has to run and the system has to track who we’re dealing with. If the whole point of that is to say 'I’m somebody else,' that does defeat or pervert the course of justice."

McEwan said he wasn't ready to deliver a decision today as he wanted to take more time to think about the complexities of the case. He is expected to give a decision on the case Wednesday, September 2.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Glynn Brothen at gbrothen@infonews.ca, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

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