Court Reports - Week 1 - July 8-11/96


WEEK 1: JULY 8 - 11, 1996



  Jul 8 - Powerful opening statement brings spontaneous 
  applause Jul 9 - First police testimony 
  evasive Jul 14 - Summary of Week One 


PRESS RELEASE - for immediate release
JULY 8, 1996

- posted by FreeMedia

SURREY, B.C. - The first day of the Ts'peten Defenders (Gustafsen Lake) trial started off with Defense lawyers George Wool and Don Campbell acting as agents for two clients who were not able to appear in court today. The Defenders who were in court were certain the two missing defendants would be in court on Tuesday when the first Prosecution witness takes the stand.

Judge Josephson addressed the Defense concern with a last minute disclosure from the Crown concerning an additional RCMP witness that would present an overview of the Prosecution's case from the reports he received during the 'standoff'. The Judge ruled that this would essentially be hearsay if it included any information contained in this reports as the accuracy could not be confirmed and would not be allowed.

The jury was then allowed into the court room after a regular jury member was excused and replaced by an alternate. Judge Josephson instructed the jury that the defendants are considered innocent and the Crown must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The Judge would instruct in terms of the law but the jury would decide according to fact which the judge defined as being what the jury believed to be true after deliberations.

Usually the Crown gives an opening statement but the Defense does not, but in this case, since the trial is expected to last so long, Judge Josephson decided that the Defense do so. Crown attorney Lance Bernard asked the jury to consider the trial only as a simple criminal trial and not to consider other issues. Defense lawyer Harry Rankin said that the trial was actually a historical one because of the issues to be dealt with required the jury to understand history from the native point of view. George Wool also spoke of the land issue and emphasized the historical nature of the trial. Both lawyers made it clear that the ownership of the land was in doubt. Shelagh Franklin who is unrepresented also spoke eloquently of the issue of land ownership. She explained to the jury that her only defense was based on the court having no jurisdiction over unceded native land. She explained how she got involved and gave the jury a brief overview of the legal history concerning native land issues in British Columbia. She spoke so well that the spectators in the court applauded her when she was done.

Tomorrow, the first Prosecution witness will take the stand.


JULY 9, 1996

- posted by FreeMedia

SURREY, B.C. - The Crown called its first witness to the stand today in the second day of trial for the Ts'peten (Gustafsen Lake) Defendants. RCMP Officer Ken Tassell (still a Constable after 23 years on the force) testified that he was assigned as the file co-ordinator around June 13, 1995. Since he served as the central clearing house for all RCMP reports regarding Gustafsen Lake, he could be considered an expert on the details of the RCMP case. Cst Tassell also had direct knowledge of Jo-Jo Ignace from his seven years assignment to Chase previous to his three years in the 100 Mile House RCMP Detachment.

Cst. Tassell testified that on August 17, 1995 he was asked to drive five ERT members from the Kamloops RCMP Detachment into the Gustafsen Lake area. Although he remembered the exact time (4:11 pm) when he picked up the ERT members from "a building" and the time he picked them up the next day (at 9:15 am), he could not remember who gave him the orders to drive the team to the Lake. He also had no "direct knowledge" about the information he shared with the ERT members during the hour long drive. Equally puzzling as his memory lapses, this officer, who has been on the force for 23 years, chose these two days of August 17th and 18th (1995) in particular to not take any notes.

Cst. Tassell testified that the ERT members were dressed in camouflage with painted faces and armed with assault rifles. He admitted that to the casual observer "they didn't look like RCMP officers". When Percy Rosette, the FaithKeeper at the camp, phoned to the RCMP at 6:24 am on August 18th (1995) , fearful of these armed men in the bush, Cst. Tassell admitted that he didn't call Percy back to reassure him, not did any other officers do so.

He stated that Gustafsen Lake is a popular place for fishing, camping and hunting, as well as an area used for cattle grazing, but that there were no corrals or holding pens for the cattle on the land, nor did Lyle James have a house there.

Cst. Tassell confirmed that it was a popular place for all races, that no permits were needed and that there was nothing unusual about seeing rifles in pick-up trucks there. He stated that no rifles had ever been confiscated in the area, and that no people had ever been evicted or arrested in his 3 years of service at 100 Mile House. He testified that the RCMP do not generally assist in civil matters, even though Crp. Hicks and Cpl. Bigland were assigned to help Lyle James evict Percy Rosette.

Cst. Tassell testified that he collected reports from three native officers - Cst. Andrews, who had been in 100 Mile House for 5 years, Cst. Findley, stationed in Williams Lake, but requested by the RCMP to assist at 100 Mile House in June, 1995, and Cst. Wood, stationed at 100 Mile House as First Nations Community Police.

Staff. Sgt. Sarich was in charge of these native officers who were pulled from their duties at Gustafsen Lake before the arrival of the ERT team on August 17th, 1995. It had been until then quiet at Gustafsen Lake. He had no "direct knowledge" of why the native officers were pulled or where they were re-assigned to. However, with the arrival of the ERT squad and the removal of the 3 native RCMP officers, tensions escalated dramatically at the site.

Cst. Tassell admitted that he had access to and read all reports from June 13th, (1995) onwards, including those reports from native officers who reported of the existence of native burial grounds at Gustafsen Lake and historical land rights for the Shuswap nation.

Cst. Tassell was evasive when it might have implicated his superiors, but had a good selective memory on all other events.

Shelagh Franklin, one of the defendants representing herself, asked Cst. Tassell if he had any knowledge of constitutional law and Judge Josephson interrupted his response by stating, "If he did, I wouldn't hear it."


Sunday, July 14, 1996

- posted by FreeMedia

This week it has been difficult to remember that it is the Prosecutions case that is now being presented as it seems everyday the testimony supports the idea that it was the RCMP and not the Ts'peten Defenders who were responsible for the 'standoff' and the waste of 5 million dollars of B.C. taxpayers money. Even Judge Josephson seems to accept the inevitability of an inquiry when he urged Defense Lawyer George Wool to take less time with his questions of one the RCMP witnesses. 'This is not an inquiry, though there may be one later, this is a trial. If all the witnesses are questioned this way, we will be here until Christmas.' George Wool raised his head, looked the Judge in the eye and said "Merry Christmas." Judge Josephson shot back "Don't be flippant." George Wool replied that these RCMP officers had the information as to who formulated the policy that led to such extensive weaponry and man power being used against the Defenders. As well, George Wool made it clear what many were feeling, that this trial isn't to be adjusted for the member of the court but would last as long as it was required to get the truth out.

Adjusting the trial to suit the court first happened when a break was announced for the first two weeks in August so the Judge could go on his holiday. Of course, Jones William Ignace will remain in jail during the Judges vacation. When the Prosecution failed to give full disclosure resulted in a RCMP witness having to return on Monday, the Prosecution informed the Judge that the witness was to start his vacation. Jonesy got up and said what is more important, my time in jail or his holiday? With the air of being got being too obviously self-serving, it was quickly arranged for the witness to adjust his plans and testify on Monday.

On the first day of the trial, after some housekeeping, the jury came in and was instructed by the judge. Then the lawyers and Shelagh Franklin gave opening statements. The Crown wanted the jurors to judge the case solely as a criminal trial rather than a issue of native land claims. The two Defense lawyers, George Wool and Harry Rankin insisted the trial was obviously an unusual one given the publicity and cost and would be historic in two ways: one in the effect the trial and what comes out during it have on the future; two that the jurors would have to learn history from a new perspective - from that of the native people. Both lawyers cast doubt on the land ownership even in Canadian law and also on the shooting incidents. Harry Rankin asked where the bullets and bullet torn shirts were for shooting that two officers claimed almost passed through their bullet proof vests? The Defense case was presented as dealing with mistakes in identity, excessive force by the RCMP that escalated the event into the "standoff", manipulative use of the media and uncertainty as to the claims of ownership by Lyle James.

Shelagh Franklin, doing an outstanding job of representing herself, presented her sole defense - that of jurisdiction. She is standing on only one point, that since the land is unceded, the court and RCMP have no jurisdiction over it. Her talk to the jury was intimate, clear and able to get across complicated legal issues over in an easy way. The jurisdiction argument remains at the core of the much of the Defenders argument. Their participation in the court process is voluntary and comes from a dedication to get the truth out to the people.

The second day consisted of the testimony of Cst. Ken Tassell. Suffice it to say that Cst. Tassell was the first of a line of RCMP officers who draw a blank when trying to remember who gave the orders or who was around when certain events took place.

On the third day, sadly warrants were issued for Joseph Ignace and Shadow Potlicki who had not made it to court. When the judge issued the warrant, Jonesy rose to his feet and reminded the Judge that all evidence against Jo-Jo had been disproved and he wanted compensation for every day Jo- Jo was in jail.

Shelagh asked the judge that each member of the jury be given a copy of her defense and the request was denied. When the jury was brought in they seemed very interested. They had not expected this at all judging by their expressions. They tended to doze (as did we all) when Prosecutor Lance Bernard questioned his witnesses. In fairness to him, it was partly accountable to the fact that Lance was only asking details about the arrest procedures. However when he Defense lawyers started to cross examined, very interesting things started to come out.

Earlier when the jury had still not arrived, the Defense had lost a motion to excluded a book of photos showing each of the Defenders in handcuffs. The Defense called it prejudicial, more demonization of the Defenders on the RCMP's part. For some of the Defenders, one of the six shots would be of just their handcuffed hands. When questioned if it was normal procedure to arrest people, stop half-way to the station and photograph them, the answer was always no. The usual procedure was to take them directly to the station and process them there. The Defenders, particularly on September 12, 1995 were 'detained' by the ERT and then passed on to the RCMP during the photo shoot stopover. Some the Defenders were roughed up by the ERT teams and all were wearing very uncomfortable plastic handcuffs which are very binding. Although all the officers could remember the people they arrested in detail (it turned out that they all looked at the binder of photos a few days before testifying) they were very vague about other things like who their superiors were or what the person they arrested was alleged to have done or even if they changed the plastic handcuffs to metal ones!

The first to testify was Sgt. Grey who arrested Glen Deneault and Edward Dick when they left the camp in the company of Marlo Sam on September 11, 1995. Glen Deneault after being told he could have the lawyer of his choice said, "I need to talk to Bruce Clark". On September 12, 1995, Sgt. Grey arrested Ron Dionne (Paintball) and Sheila Ignace. On September 13, 1995 Shadow Potlicki was arrested by Sgt. Grey. Sgt. Grey did not take any notes about clothing or appearance - his notes only had name and birthdate. When he asked how he could describe the people he arrested so exactly, he said that he had viewed video tapes before testifying. None of the officers had any idea who they would be arresting or if they were charged with specific crimes. All were arrested for mischief and investigation for attempted murder. Two of the charges against the Defenders were dropped just before the trial started - those pertaining to forcible detainer. The arresting officers all said that the Defenders were co- operative and easy to deal with.

The second and last witness for the day was Cpl. Kiloh who testified about arresting Stuart Dick and Francis Dick who although undercover RCMP plants were placed in their jail cells gave the plants no answers. Cpl. Kiloh was part of the search team that went into the camp after the 'standoff' ended. When Defense Lawyer asked him if Sgt. Montague (the RCMP press liaison) or the media or any politicians were present during the search, Cpl. Kiloh said "Not that I am aware of."

Cpl. Kiloh looked fixedly at the Judge, the floor or a point over the jurors heads as he answered, never at the Defense lawyer questioning him. It gave an odd evasive air to his testimony. He too got vague when asked about superiors or who was present at the many briefings he attended. The fourth day, Thursday was the last day for the week. It was a confusing day because the first witness, Cst. Flemming was on the stand first in the morning to discuss Pitawanakwat's (O.J.) arrest when the Defense discovered the meager nature of the disclosures from the Prosecution. They had only received notes for the day of the arrest although the some of the officers had had important roles in the implementation of the RCMP policy during the "standoff.". Cst. Flemming was asked to return in the afternoon when the Defense had a chance to look over the new notes the Prosecution made available. Each lawyer was given 40 copied pages comprising the entire contents (it is hoped) of the RCMP notebooks for these particular witnesses.

But before Cst. Flemming who was with the undercover serious crimes division of the RCMP left the stand, he made a startling statement that he had gone to Alberta to see Doc Hill in Hinton on September 3, 1995 ostensibly to see if Doc could help with end the "standoff". At that point there were no serious shooting incidents. Doc claims that the visit was less than friendly in that Cst. Flemming arrived with two very large RCMP officers who arrived without warning. Doc co-operated and told them to get in touch with the spiritual leader John Stevens and retired RCMP Staff Sgt. Jim Potts. When asked if he took this information down in his notes, Cst. Flemming said no. When Wool asked if he got in touch with John Stevens or passed his name on to his superiors, Flemming replied no. Wool said then that John Stevens was the man who went into the camp and brought the Defenders out, that John Stevens essentially brought about a peaceful settlement. And Flemming agreed with him. It was clear that if Cst. Flemming had gotten in touch with John Stevens when Doc Hill told him to, the 'standoff' would have been prevented entirely. Doc also explained to him the constitutional aspects and the need for a third party tribunal. He reassured the RCMP agent that the Defenders in the camp wanted a peaceful resolution and only had the usual arms found in rural areas.

Cst. Flemming returned and couldn't remember who he reported "lots of people" to but he did remember not telling anyone about John Stevens and RCMP Staff Sgt. Potts. He did name Insp. Bass and Olfert as being around.

The name of Ernie Archie was raised several times in the context of paid agents. When asked if either Doc or Ernie had been paid any money, Cst. Flemming answered no. When he was asked if he knew anything about the Sundance, he said no, but when he was up north, the natives up there didn't do it. Defense Lawyer George Wool looked flabbergasted at his answer and was about to point out that the cultures were quite different when he realized that it was no use, this witness was too ignorant to understand at that time. During Flemming's visit to Alberta, Doc had tried to tell him about the Sundance and its importance but like all the other information Doc gave him, he didn't get it.

Cst. Flemming when asked if he had heard any reports of shooting incidents on Sept. 3 or 4, 1995 (on Sept. 4 was the bogus shooting incident when the RCMP had a huge press conference claiming that camp members had attacked a bison and pursued and stalked the fleeing officers - this incident was used as an excuse to bring in the military even though it never happened, the ERT members ran their vehicle into a tree branch and got scared.). Cst. Flemming claimed he heard nothing about the incident even though it was highly publicized. At this point Judge Josephson asked Wool to speed it up and mentioned the possible future inquiry.

Cst. Flemming then stood down and after the break Cpl. Smith took the stand. During the descriptions of the various arrests, the testimony of all the RCMP witnesses had been littered with quasi military terms like 'Checkpoint Zulu', 'Checkpoint Delta', 'Operation Wallaby' and the 'Command Centre.' This was all set up before any serious shooting incidents. The Zulu nation was decimated during a colonial war, you hunt wallabies by turning on your floodlights on your car and killing anything that moves.

The arrest point where the photos, videos and sound recordings were taken of the Defenders was called Checkpoint Zulu, Checkpoint Delta was closer to 100 Mile House and the Command Center was in 100 Mile House.

Cst. Smith testified about the arrest of Rob Flemming on September 17,1995, the date that John Stevens brought the people out of the camp. Shortly after Rob was arrested, at 16:48, Jones William Ignace (Jonsey) was arrested. During this rather dry exchange, something remarkable happened. When Cst. Smith was asked to point out Jonesy in order to officially identify him, he began to smile because Jonesy was grinning away looking at his bright orange prison garb which made it pretty easy for anyone to pick him out. Cst. Smith looked like he liked Jonesy and everyone in the court (except poor Lance Bernard, the Crown prosecutor) was smiling and feeling good. That was how Jonesy was introduced to the court with everyone smiling and liking him.

When Rankin got up to cross-examine Cpr. Smith he went through the newly received notes page by page as though to point out to the Crown that this is what would happen if the disclosures were with-held again.

After lunch Cst. Flemming took the stand and it was decided that he would be asked to come back on Monday once the Defense had had a chance to look over the notes. It was at this point that Lance Bernard, the Crown Prosecutor mentioned that the witness's vacation started on Monday and Jonesy had to rise to put things back in perspective.

Then Cpl. Smith was back on the stand and admitted that he told Lyle James to clear cut the crime scene. When it was suggested that this was to hide the fact that the trees were riddled with bullets and would be evidence of the thousands of rounds of fire that the RCMP fired at the camp, Flemming said no, but he never came up with any other reason.

Cpl. Smith also testified concerning Jonesy's arrest. It seemed he had forgotten to write it in his notes. Rankin had some concern that he was actually arrested by the ERT and possibly were the others and that the stopover for photos was really a publicity stunt.

While Rankin went through Cpl. Smith's notebook day by day, he kept asking him what the undercover men were doing. Cpl. Smith's answer was always that they were in the bars in 100 Mile House gathering information. "Did they find out anything useful?" "No" was Smith's reply. After this exchange happened several times covering several days Rankin said, "Lets leave them in the bars and move on."

Rankin also established that Cpl. Smith never saw a deed to the land showing that Lyle James owned the area of the 'standoff'. Cpl. Smith did however admit hearing about the Sept. 4, 1995 'shooting incident'.

The info below is from a phone conversation with someone who was in court. The questioning centered around an event when Suniva Bronson was told to come to Kamloops to pick up her driver's license. When she arrived they took her and her mother into a private room and showed them a video tape of the land mine incident in which a dog was killed by the RCMP. It was a terrifying thing to watch and was supposed to make Suniva break down and blurt out something incriminating which she did not. When Cpl. Smith was asked whether he thought showing someone a film of a dog being killed was somewhat gruesome, he replied that he considered the dog's death insignificant.

The jury has been faced with a trial it did not expect. It thought the defense would be a form of land claims issue, instead they are seeing the RCMP put on trial in the first week.