Update: see previous posts – November 3, 2011 G20 – Chair of Toronto Police Services Board concerned about G20 Photo’s (June, 2010), October 27, 2011 G20 Arrest for Weapons Charge Results in Acquittal, October 5, 2011 G20 Review by Toronto Police Services Board is Expected to Conclude by March, 2012, August 12, 2011 Toronto Deputy Police Chief Tony Warr Defends Actions of Police During G20 (June, 2010), July 29, 2011 Judge Rules that Man Arrested at G20 Should Have Been Provided Counsel, July 23, 2011 Twenty One (21) Month Sentence for Man Who Set G20 Police Vehicle Ablaze, July 22, 2011 G20 Investigator Wants Law to Ban Disguises After 17 Suspects Unidentified, July 21, 2011 Toronto Police Chief Blair’s Report on the G20 is Deferred, June 25, 2011 G20 Summit Toronto – First Anniversary (June 26 & 27, 2011), June 18, 2011 Harper Falls Short on Toronto Businesses’ G20 Claims, June 10, 2011 G20 – Final Public Hearing for the Toronto Police’s Civilian Review, June 10, 2011 G20 – Another Arrest, June 7, 2011 G20 Update – Who Assaulted Adam? Nooobody!, June 1, 2011 Ottawa Police Enjoy Their Share of the G20 Money Pie, McGuinty to Scrap the Secret G20 Law (1939 Public Works Protection Act), March 31, 2011 The “G20 Bump” Translates into a 60% Increase of Toronto Police Making the 2010 Sunshine List, March 19, 2011 Harper Screws Toronto’s Businesses, March 18, 2011 New G20 Lawsuits Launched Against Toronto Police Board, December 7, 2010 Ontario Umbudsman André Marin Delivers Report on G20 “Caught in the Act”, August 8, 2010 G20 Litigation, August 1, 2010 Damage$ Flowing from Charter Breaches
The effort to catch the ringleaders responsible for plotting G20 mayhem has involved two undercover officers, eight police services, millions of dollars and more than two years of investigation and prosecution.
But on Tuesday, it all came to an abrupt halt with a plea deal between the Crown and 17 people charged with conspiracy during the June 2010 summit. As a result, 11 defendants are walking free and the six others have pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. The longest jail sentence will be 16 months.
So how did this happen?
Talks of a plea deal were set in motion by just one of the defendants, according to a source familiar with the case.
On Sept. 12, the group began an 11-week preliminary hearing. According to the source, during the first week, the defendant asked his lawyer to float a plea deal with the Crown.
“There was one individual who really was just testing the market,” said the source, who asked not to be named. “He says, ‘Look, I only want my lawyer to throw it out and see what they’d say about me.’
“The Crown says, ‘Well, if you want to talk resolution, let’s talk about everybody.’ ”
Preliminary hearings were suspended so the group could talk about a possible plea deal. The first hurdle was the simple matter of scheduling a meeting — due to their bail restrictions, the 17 could only communicate in the presence of their lawyers.
They met for the first time on Sept. 21 at a downtown law firm. As people trickled into the boardroom, they noticed sheets of paper on the walls. Each had a defendant’s name, along with what the Crown was asking for them.
Amanda Hiscocks’ sheet said 24 to 28 months in jail. She balked — not because her deal meant jail time, but because the 37-year-old activist wanted to go to trial.
“I was like, ‘Screw that,’ ” Hiscocks said. “I felt a little bit stunned at the first meeting. Kind of like, ‘Why are we even talking about this?’ ”
Hiscocks said the Crown wanted 12 of the 17 to plead guilty in his initial proposal.
One was Joanna Adamiak. For the 30-year-old York University student, the Crown initially wanted a conditional sentence of between six and 12 months, essentially a sentence that could be served in the community, Adamiak said.
Unlike Hiscocks, Adamiak’s initial reaction was a mixture of trepidation and muted relief.
“There was this first feeling of, ‘This could actually be over soon,’ ” Adamiak said. “But also, when I heard what the offer was, I thought that this wasn’t good enough.”
Nonetheless, everyone agreed it would be a good idea to explore the possibilities. The 17 eventually sent a counterproposal back to the Crown, according to Hiscocks — one that excluded herself and co-accused Alex Hundert from the deal so they could still proceed to trial.
Hiscocks said the Crown agreed, but with one caveat: if she and Hundert were severed from the deal, he would only offer his original proposal. This meant 10 people would still have to plead guilty — an outcome deemed unacceptable by the group, Hiscocks said.
It was back to the boardroom. The group would meet six more times over the next few weeks. Many meetings were emotionally fraught, some up to seven hours long. Out-of-town defendants unable to attend participated via teleconference.
The group had agreed upfront that any decision would have to be unanimous and reached through consensus. This meant the final decision would have the approval of all 17 — but it also meant all 17 were given space to voice their opinions on every issue.
And the issues raised were many: What are people’s individual goals? What are the collective goals? Who is most at risk of being convicted in a trial? Will a plea bargain jeopardize the group’s political message?
“There’s been tears, there’s been frustration, there’s been anger, there’s been laughter,” Hiscocks said. “It’s a really horrible situation to be in — to sit around a table to decide who’s going to go to jail and for how long.”
Hiscocks said the group finally agreed on a second counterproposal that they sent to the Crown: six would plead guilty to counselling to commit mischief over $5,000, with Hundert and Hiscocks pleading guilty to the additional charge of counselling to obstruct police. For the other 11 defendants, all charges would be withdrawn.
On Oct. 18, the Crown accepted the offer, Adamiak said. Three weeks earlier, the Crown had wanted her to plead guilty; with the final deal, her charges were withdrawn.
Attorney general’s ministry spokesman Brendan Crawley said the plea deal “was handled appropriately and expeditiously by the Crown at all stages of the prosecution.”
“While this matter was in the midst of a preliminary hearing, the parties were able to reach a resolution in advance, saving considerable time and resources while at the same time ensuring that those responsible are held accountable,” he wrote in an email.
The 17 defendants’ commitment to consensus-based decision-making slowed down negotiations considerably but it was also the governing principle that allowed the group to reach a deal at all, said Adamiak’s lawyer, Howard Morton.
“I was astounded at the dynamic,” Morton said. “Nobody speaking over anybody else, people giving their opinion, people saying, ‘I’ll take more but I want this person’s (charges) to be withdrawn for these reasons.’
“It was quite amazing, because usually when you have groups of people charged with criminal offences, by the time you get to that point they hate each other.”