Senior OPP charged with Obstructing Justice

by Gary McHale - The Regional

March 24, 2010

On March 16, 2010 Justice Lillian Ross issued a criminal charge of obstructing justice against Deputy OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis and Superintendent Ron Gentle for their actions in early Dec. 2007.

Obstructing justice is considered a serious offence and is described in the criminal code as anyone who wilfully attempts in any manner to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice and if convicted is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.

The charge is a result of private information regarding Doug Fleming's Illegal Smoke Shop protest on Dec. 1, 2007. I filed a private information based on email evidence provided to me through disclosure which the Crown had to turn over. In a series of emails between senior OPP officers it became clear that the OPP was well aware they had virtually no evidence to lay a criminal charge against me but investigating officers were ordered to arrest me in order to avoid any backlash by Six Nations.

When you consider the charge is directly due to the Crown disclosing emails then the remarks by Deputy Commissioner Lewis in one email is quite prophetic when he stated, "I realize that there may be disclosure issues as a result of such communications, but we'll deal with those hurdles as they arise."

While the OPP has publicly claimed they were investigating everything that occurred on Dec. 1, 2007 emails reveal that senior OPP officers called it the "McHale Investigation". Prior to the allegation that I committed a crime there were numerous emails from Commissioner Fantino telling his officers not to be "sidetracked by Crown lawyers" because the OPP are "constantly frustrated by timid Crowns".

By Dec. 3, 2007 Mr. Fantino was frustrated by the failure of his junior officers at finding some way to arrest me. At dinner time Deputy Commissioner Lewis sent Supt. Gentle an email stating, "Ron: Confidential please. I'm with the boss at a dinner tonight and we're discussing McHale. He's enquiring about the timing of the charges. Is there any way that charges could be laid sooner than later?"

Two hours later Supt. Gentle sends Deputy Commissioner Lewis the email that the court just ruled was evidence of obstructing justice. The email stated, "I spoke to Bill Renton around 1630 and he has a couple of issues. First, the assault of McHale by Bullet [Clyde Powless] was caught on all kinds of video as people turned the cameras on when the action happened. Unfortunately, the alleged assault committed by McHale, to this point, is not on video. The best we have is the victim claiming verbally to have been assaulted... We want to ensure, when we arrest and charge Bullet we do the same with McHale to eliminate any of the usual issues. There are those who fear charging Bullet will be counterproductive - I disagree."

OPP Insp. Bill Renton was the senior investigator in the "McHale investigation" and is the officer who testified that it was his decision to arrest me on the charge that I am still being prosecuted for. What this shows is that senior OPP officers directly contacted the investigating officer to ensure that they would arrest me regardless of the limited evidence in order to "eliminate any of the usual issues."

There you have it folks, I wasn't arrested because the OPP had reasonable and probable grounds that I had committed a crime but rather to "eliminate any of the usual issues". In fact, as was pointed out to the court the wording from Supt. Ron Gentle clearly demonstrates that he didn't believe I had committed a crime.

In dealing with the two allegations of assault the Superintendent called one an "assault of McHale by Bullet" while the other was called "alleged assault committed by McHale". This demonstrated doubt in his mind that I had committed an assault, but he still told Insp. Renton that he was to arrest me whenever they arrested Clyde Powless.

This email by Supt. Gentle was sent to Deputy Commissioner Lewis who responded to this logic saying, "Thanks Ron. Makes sense and much appreciated. I'll pass on info to the boss. See you tomorrow."

Five days later on Dec. 8 we get a glimpse of what the 'usual issues' were when Officer McMenemy reported, "Meeting last night on SN. Men are upset about charges laid and not laid. SN not talking to ART MELT or any police."

Additional emails and officers' notes reveal that on the day Clyde Powless was arrested he had a meeting with Supt. Cain and was informed that Commissioner Fantino would meet with him the following week. The public should be reminded that Commissioner Fantino provided the court with a character reference letter in support of Clyde Powless even though the Commissioner knew Mr. Powless had assaulted at least one police officer.

Furthermore, Camille Powless, Clyde's sister, has sent testified in a courthouse in Welland that she only filed a criminal allegation against me because the OPP ART Officer had promised a deal for her brother.

This is not the only time during the "McHale Investigation" that senior officers attempted to mislead the investigators. Deputy Commissioner Lewis sent out an email stating, "if we aren't going to arrest the likes of McHale for blocking off the road on a Saturday before Christmas and causing total chaos that results in violence, we're going to lose all credibility."

The problem with this email is that the officers at the scene had already text messaged senior officers stating it was someone else who blocked the road.

It is not possible in one story to cover the details found in the 2000+ emails I received through disclosure. However, the evidence is now very strong that senior OPP officers conspired to ensure that I was arrested regardless of the evidence in order to appease native protesters.

While Deputy Commissioner Lewis and Supt. Gentle are the first to be charged with obstructing justice, they certainly will not be the last. However, the public is reminded that people are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.