G20 Lawsuit Emerges Following Largest Mass Arrest in Canadian History

Update: see previous posts – December 22, 2011 G20 Activist Unapologetic As She Receives a Sentence of 10 Months, December 10, 2011 McGuinty to Declare the1939 Public Works Protection Act Null & Void in the New Year, November 23, 2011 11 G20 Defendants Set Free, 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

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Sean Salvati — the paralegal who was arrested prior to the G20 summit and allegedly strip searched, assaulted and held naked in a jail cell for nearly an hour — was “the author of his own misfortune,” according to a statement of defence by Toronto police.

The statement was issued in response to a lawsuit by Salvati, who accuses Toronto police of falsely imprisoning him and violating his Charter rights in June 2010 when they arrested him for public intoxication, a charge he contends was bogus.

G20 - Toronto Police enforced a "five metre law" that did not exist

Salvati, 33, claims he was also subjected to “cruel and unusual treatment or punishment” while in police custody. But according to Toronto police, Salvati’s arrest and treatment was justified because he was “inebriated” and acted “abusive, obstructive and aggressive in his interactions with officers.”

“He was very belligerent and was kicking, spitting, yelling and screaming at (two constables),” reads the statement of defence, filed in October. “The plaintiff also attempted to bite at the officers.”

The statement alleges it was necessary for police to forcibly strip search Salvati because he was uncooperative, aggressive and could potentially “come into contact with other prisoners” while in custody.

VIDEO: Man paraded naked through station

As for why he was left naked in a jail cell for 48 minutes? According to police, it was because Salvati “refused to allow the officers to put his clothes back on him.”

Salvati scoffs at these claims.

“Obviously it’s a defence,” he said in an interview Friday. “I’m looking forward to getting them on the stand and having them say the same things.”

In an amended statement of claim, Salvati points out that despite police’s assertions he was drunk, resisting arrest and tried to “bite” officers, he was never charged with resisting arrest or assaulting police. The charge that landed him in jail in the first place, public intoxication, was never filed in court.

“They have an excuse for everything that happened off camera,” Salvati said. “But they don’t have an excuse for everything that happened on camera.”

Last June, the Star reported on the 11-hour ordeal that followed Salvati’s arrest on June 23, 2010, just three days before the G20 summit that saw the largest mass arrest in Canadian history.

Salvati’s claim that he was held naked in a cell for 48 minutes is corroborated by security camera footage from inside the police station. Hours of video footage have been obtained by Salvati’s lawyers through freedom of information requests.

On Jan. 4, Salvati’s lawyers obtained additional footage that shows an officer placing Salvati’s clothes in a crumpled heap outside his cell, plainly within view but out of his reach.

The police officer, identified in the lawsuit as Const. Nick Guastadisegni, can be seen gesturing and speaking outside Salvati’s cell. He then appears to kick the pile of clothes before walking away

“You have this man kicking my clothes against the wall. It’s so humiliating,” Salvati said. “It’s sexual degradation.”

On the night of his arrest, Salvati had just finished watching a Blue Jays game when police officers allegedly pulled him from a cab and charged him with public intoxication.

According to his statement of claim, Salvati admits to drinking that night but says he was in “full control of his faculties,” having consumed less than four glasses of beer in five and a half hours.

Salvati believes he was targeted that night because he made a cheeky remark about the upcoming G20 summit, telling two RCMP officers “Well, good luck with Saturday.” (He was referring to the first day of the G20 summit, which took place on Saturday, June 26, 2010.)

He claims police brought him to a downtown police station and violently strip searched and assaulted him, refusing him access to a lawyer. He claims he was also interrogated by two plain clothes men who would only identify themselves as “Officer C” and “Officer SIS.”

Through freedom of information requests and multiple appeals to the Information and Privacy Commissioner, Salvati’s lawyers have since identified the men as Sajeev Nair and Nelson Barreira, both Toronto constables. In their statement of defence, the Toronto police deny the officers implied to Salvati they were CSIS agents.

In his lawsuit, Salvati is suing the Toronto Police Services Board and four Toronto police officers: Consts. Jeffrey Dyrkawec, Deepak Bakshi, Nick Guastadisegni and Sgt. Heather Nichols. He also names the Attorney General of Canada as a defendant and will be seeking at least $75,000 in damages.

The Toronto police deny the bulk of Salvati’s allegations, including that he was assaulted and that an officer threatened to rip out his nipple ring.

They say Salvati’s arrest was justified because he had been seen stumbling, acting “unruly,” and officers detected “a strong odour of alcohol” on his breath.

According to the defence statement, Salvati caught police officers’ attention when he yelled out “you f—ers wait till Saturday, we’re going to f— you guys up.”

But for Salvati, even if he had behaved as police claim, it would not justify his treatment.

Police spokesman Mark Pugash said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the lawsuit, or why the police officer left Salvati’s clothes outside his cell.

“I’m not prepared to argue the case in the pages of the Star,” he said. “This case is going to court and this issue will be before the court.”

Persistence required

Sean Salvati and his lawyers have finally learned the identities of the two plain clothes officers who interrogated him in detention — but only after nine months of freedom of information requests and appeals to the Information and Privacy Commissioner:

March 22, 2011 — Salvati’s lawyer, Paul Quick, submits an FOI request for all records — including videos — of the two men who interrogated his client.

May 20 — Katie Watts, a coordinator with the Toronto police’s Access and Privacy Section, denies the request. She said “no such records exist” because police officers reviewed video footage of Salvati’s cell and were unable to identify the two men.

June 14 — Quick appeals Watts’ decision.

Aug. 24 — Watts responds that the footage cannot be released because it is currently a “focal point” of a professional standards investigation, thus exempting it from the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Sept. 20 — Quick issues another appeal.

Oct. 4 — Watts writes that “a more in-depth search was conducted” and identifies the two men. However, she fails to provide any other records, including the video footage that was requested.

Oct. 14 — Quick issues another appeal.

Nov. 17 — Watts provides the two officers’ book notes but fails to provide the requested video footage.

Nov. 28 — Quick issues another appeal.

Jan. 4, 2012 — Salvati and his lawyers finally receive the video footage.

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