Jerry Morin, Anthony Olienick, Christopher Carbert, and Christopher Lysak are political prisoners in Canada. Their wives and children are also being punished.
Five hundred and ten days ago just after midnight on February 14, 2022 – heavily armed RCMP squads raided three trailer-homes in the border town of Coutts, Alberta and started arresting people for Conspiracy to Murder Police Officers in Support of a Plot to Overthrow the Government during the Freedom Convoy protests in Alberta.
After a series of court appearances, four men remain in jail – denied bail for reasons of… well, we don’t know why they were denied bail. A court order prohibits publishing most details of the ongoing case and hearings.
Everybody makes bail in Canada
Canada is a country that releases just about any accused on bail – including Umar Zameer who is currently accused of the first degree murder of Toronto Police officer Jeffrey Northrup. Also out on bail are several persons charged with setting multiple forest fires, and probably hundreds of violent armed robbers and drive-by shooters.
Sure, the courts often require the released accused to stay in their home, wear a tracking bracelet, not contact certain persons, and comply with various other release conditions set by the courts on a case-by-case basis.
All this is in place to protect the public, and to ensure that the accused appears in court, while acknowledging that in Canada persons are ‘innocent until proven guilty’.
But no bail for the Coutts Four. Why?
I really hadn’t paid attention to the Coutts Four case until a few weeks ago. I don’t know why I didn’t notice the case, except that life is busy and each of us can only care about so many external issues before we go into overload.
I did not know that these men were still being held without bail. When I learned of their situation I was surprised and then a bit confused. Everybody makes bail in Canada.
Most Canadians don’t know that these men are being held without bail, and that by the time they go to trial they will have been sitting in remand center jails for over two years.
“No Bail? Must be Guilty!”
When we hear that the courts denied bail to the Coutts Four, our natural reaction is to believe that the evidence must be overwhelming, and that these men are evil monsters locked up to protect society.
That is what I initially believed. Hey… I’m a former Toronto Police Sergeant Detective who has spent his professional life locking up bad guys. Twice I’ve said the words “I am arresting you for murder…”
I live for evidence… and until a few years ago was an unquestioning supporter of Canadian law enforcement and intelligence organizations. For decades my natural tendency was to accept the public declarations of the police as gospel.
“As a result of examining the information and evidence available to us in the Coutts Four case, I have grave doubts about the quality of the RCMP investigation. Further, I believe that the investigation, charges, and denial of bail to the Coutts Four were motivated or impacted by a political agenda.” Donald Best
When a Staged PR Photo is More Important than Professional Evidence Handling and an Ongoing Investigation
The above photo was part of a RCMP news release on the morning of February 14, 2022 – that can still be found at the RCMP website here.
To any trained investigator the photo shows substandard, even suspect, evidence handling. It also indicates a surprising sloppiness in the investigation – especially considering the serious nature of the charges against the Coutts Four, and the fact that a conspiracy is alleged.
“In addition to the sloppy police work though, we can deduce that the staging of the photo was intended to have a political impact on public discourse about the Freedom Convoy.”
Some police officer in authority – perhaps even acting on advice or request from the government – made a decision that the political / PR use of the photo was so important that it didn’t matter if its public distribution could interfere with the ongoing investigation and also weaken the legal case against the Coutts Four.
First let’s consider the lead charge “Conspiracy to Murder”…
Conspiracy investigations and trials are among the most complex cases that police and prosecutors handle. Conspiracy charges can be difficult to prove especially if the intended ‘unlawful objective offence’ (in this case murder of police) was not actually committed.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books and papers have been written about the law of Conspiracy as it applies in the various jurisdictions, and I do not intend to explain even the basics in this article. An excellent primer on Canadian Conspiracy Law can be found at The Criminal Law Notebook here.
Why no Fingerprinting or DNA Testing of the Seized Firearms and Other Items?
Given that this is a major case involving a complex charge with multiple accused, I would expect that investigators would be meticulous in collecting evidence – especially in circumstances where if evidence is not collected, protected, and preserved immediately, it cannot be collected later.
RCMP officers briefing the news media on the morning of the raids and arrests indicated that there were other unknown members of the purported criminal organization that the accused allegedly belonged to – and that they would continue the efforts to learn the identity of the ‘other’ suspects.
In the next few days the RCMP executed additional search warrants to find weapons. The redacted ‘Informations to Obtain’ the search warrants indicated that there were other ‘unknown’ members of this group of conspirators – and thus the warrants had to be obtained and executed on an urgent basis.
Given that the RCMP appeared so concerned that there were other involved but unidentified co-conspirators – the question must be asked… Why didn’t the RCMP fingerprint and DNA test the seized firearms and other items that theoretically could have originated with ‘other unknown’ suspects?
How Do We Know the RCMP Did Not Fingerprint or DNA Test the Seized Items?
If the RCMP intended to fingerprint and DNA-test the seized items, they would have bagged each item at the scene where it was found – both to protect the item from contamination and to secure and protect the item during transport to the police facility and then to the forensic lab.
Police would NEVER have placed and displayed the items together on a table without individual protection. They would NEVER have placed items touching each other or in proximity so that hairs, skin flakes, or other DNA bearing evidence could be transferred from one item to another.
Had this been a competent investigation into the serious crime of Conspiracy to Murder Police Officers – seized evidence would have been professionally collected, protected, preserved, and forensically examined.
Forensic Examination of the Seized Firearms Could Also Have Produced Exculpatory Evidence – supporting the innocence of one or more of the Coutts Four.
Failure of police officers to adhere to the fundamentals of exhibits collection and protection doesn’t just potentially weaken the prosecution’s case – it can also deny important exculpatory evidence to the defense.
Many times I have seen otherwise good officers get ‘tunnel vision’ about a suspect or an investigation, and begin to pay attention only to evidence that supports their theory of the case and the crime. These officers become so focused that they will even deliberately exclude evidence that doesn’t support their vision of events.
‘Tunnel Vision’ police officers sometimes get blindsided at trial because they assume that they have ‘enough evidence’ and fail to take simple steps that would have solidified their case.
For instance, when a ‘tunnel vision’ officer discovers drugs or stolen goods in the trunk of a suspect’s car, they assume they have a solid case and don’t fingerprint the contraband or otherwise attempt to connect it to the suspect.
Then in court when some friend of the accused testifies that he borrowed the car from the accused – and the accused knew nothing of the drugs – the police have no contrary evidence. I have seen that exact scenario happen.
A Photo Created and Used for Propaganda and Political Purposes
It is undeniable that the photo of seized firearms included in the RCMP’s February 14, 2022 morning Press Release was staged for the primary purpose of propaganda – and not as evidence for use in court.
The tables are set up on a diagonal in what appears to be a police garage or prisoner receiving area – not in a secure evidence room or office for processing.
A marked RCMP patrol vehicle is staged at an angle behind the tables to let the audience know which policing organization achieved this magnificent result. Items have been arranged on the floor with five of the long-guns rather precariously leaning against the table for display. No person would normally position or store firearms in such a manner where a bump of the table might cause them to fall.
The vests have been arranged standing up, with the grey vest on the table having a box placed inside to keep the vest standing for display. The other vests are similarly standing in positions indicating that they may have unseen internal supports. The ammunition boxes are open to display the contents, with the large box on the table staged at an unnatural angle.
This display of seized weapons and equipment was intended, designed, and staged as a propaganda photo to be distributed to the press in the morning of February 14, 2022 just a few hours after the raids.
The photo and press release were also used in negotiations with protestors to convince them to leave the area. The photo had a national impact and was used by both the news media and the government as a justification for the invoking of the Emergencies Act and the police operations to arrest and clear Freedom Convoy protestors in Ottawa.
The RCMP Compromised Their Ongoing Investigation By Releasing The Photo
The RCMP’s almost immediate release of the propaganda photo on the morning of February 14, 2022 was a decision that placed RCMP public relations and Federal Politics ahead of professional investigation procedures.
The investigation of Conspiracy to Murder Police Officers was ongoing on the morning of February 14, 2022. The RCMP was purportedly looking for other yet-to-be-identified co-conspirators.
Despite this ongoing investigation, the RCMP released a large-size detailed photo of the seized firearms and other items that would have allowed the ‘unidentified suspects’ to know if any of the firearms or equipment they supplied had been seized. This photo could have alerted suspects that the police were coming for them and that they should dispose of any other evidence before the police arrived.
The decisions to publish the photograph and to not perform forensic investigations of the firearms put politics before professional policing.
When Political Agendas Enter Police Investigations – Justice Suffers
My examination of the information we have access to thus far convinces me that politics played a major role:
- in the conduct of the police investigation,
- in the less than professional handling of evidence,
- in the staging and release of the photo on February 14, 2022, and,
- in the denial of bail to the Coutts Four.
Given all of the above circumstances, I now believe that the decision to lay criminal charges against all or some of the Coutts Four was also politically motivated.
Don’t get me wrong here… I’m not saying that each of the Coutts Four is innocent of every charge. We won’t know that until we hear the evidence at trial.
What I am saying is that in context, the denial of bail is a political decision and act – intended to achieve three purposes…
1/ To act as public ‘evidence’ that the accused persons were so dangerous that it justified the use of the Emergencies Act,
2/ To influence potential jury members to be more likely to convict the accused,
3/ To deter other protesters and protests by teaching all Canadians a good lesson about what happens to people and families who oppose the Liberal Government.
Additional Information about the Coutts Four and the case against them
Independent Federal Candidate Jason Lavigne has been following the Coutts Four case on his morning show – where I sometimes appear as a guest.
Margaret ‘Granny’ Mackay
‘Granny’ Mackay has been fundraising for the Coutts Four and their families, and working to tirelessly to raise awareness that the four are being held without bail.