Monday, July 22, 2024

Canadian Justice Scandal: Deleted Emails by Toronto Police in Fraud Trial Suggest Prosecutor Repressed Evidence for a Conviction

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I told you some time ago about former music business manager Steven Nowack, of Toronto. In the spring of 2019, he stood trial in the equivalent of federal court in the U.S., which in Canada, is called the Ontario Superior Court of Justice,  accused of fraud. He wound up being convicted and going to jail. He’s finally out now.

To make matters worse, Justice Robert F. Goldstein– who presided over the trial– revoked his bail and Nowack was held in custody at the extremely unpleasant Toronto East Detention Centre. I visited him there in September 2019 before he was moved punitively to a medium to maximum security prison called Joyceville, in Kingston, Ontario. Nowack, I believe, is innocent and was wrongfully convicted by a jury of 12 counts of fraud over $5,000 in what the government alleged was a $15 million dollar case.

Nowack’s stay in prison was miserable and unnecessary. It turns out that during his trial — according to transcripts — he was not only verbally abused but also lied to by the judge and the prosecutor. Goldstein sent  the jury out of the courtroom a total of 126 times in 60 days.  There were certain things he didn’t want them to hear. And he made sure they didn’t. When the jury ultimately rendered its decision — conviction — they had no idea the subject of missing evidence had been discussed without them.

What Goldstein didn’t want the jury to know is that four days into the trial, the Toronto Police, had given prosecutor Renna Weinberg an email confirming that its computer system, had “systematically deleted” three and half years of email evidence related to Nowack’s case. The emails dated back to the the very first day of the case.

Nowack’s defense attorney, Paul Slansky asked Goldstein to conduct a voire dire (a trial within the trial) to determine the truth of the facts, as to what exactly had happened to these “systematically deleted” emails. Justice Goldstein refused, and strangely blamed the loss of the emails on Nowack. He said that none of the missing emails would assist Nowack with his defense. Goldstein denied Nowack his statutory and constitutional right to make full answer and defense.  .

Goldstein almost certainly knew this revelation of the deleted emails was a smoking gun that could damage the prosecution’s case.  Goldstein said that if the jury found out about the missing emails, it would, in his words, “derail the trial.”  At the start of the trial he’d begun to hear a disclosure motion before the jury was seated. But he abruptly adjourned it after two days and let the trial begin without it– something that never happens.

The judge also issued a ruling preventing Slansky and  Nowack from telling the jury about the deleted emails. Goldstein threatened Nowack throughout the trial with incarceration, if he dared to attempt to make the jury aware of the deleted emails. It wasn’t until after the trial and conviction that Slansky was able to get a disclosure hearing, and the government’s heretofore unknown activities were exposed.

We now know this:  in February 2019,  during  the trial, prosecutor Weinberg confirmed for herself that three and half  years of the Toronto Police emails about the Nowack case had been “systematically deleted” from the Toronto Police computer system. Valerie Dahan, Detective in the Financial Crimes department of the Toronto Police, had responded to an email about the missing evidence from Weinberg on February 14, 2019: “Throughout the Steven Nowack investigation, I believed that as the emails were automatically being archived, this resulted in them being safe from deletion.  As I did not have a need to access archived emails, I did not realize that as time went on the emails were being systematically deleted.”

During the trial on April 15, 2019, Slansky tried to introduce the subject of the missing evidence, by asking Nowack questions on the stand, under oath. Goldstein blew a gasket when Nowack tried to  bring the subject of the Toronto Police “systematically deleted” emails up, before the jury. Justice Goldstein was furious and excused the jury.  Justice Goldstein then went on to say: “There is no evidence, whatsoever, that the Toronto Police systematically destroyed emails.  That is not the evidence.  Mr. Nowack may believe it.  That’s his opinion.  It has nothing to do with anything that the jury has to decide.  I don’t want to hear it,” he said, and then acted very oddly. He said: ” I’m going to take a break now while I calm down.”

When Goldstein returned to court after his hissy fit, defense attorney Slansky argued that there was a potential fraud being perpetrated on the Court. Slansky said the explanations of  The Toronto Police and the Crown — confirmed by their very own email — that they had “systematically deleted” three and half years of email evidence related to Mr. Nowack’s case were questionable. Justice Goldstein replied, ” The only fraud that – okay, maybe there’s been a fraud perpetrated on the court.  That could be.  But, you’re objection is noted.  I do not agree, because in fact, Mr. Nowack certainly asked questions.  I will ask you to please refrain from getting involved in things that have, that Mr. Nowack has no personal knowledge of. “

This was shocking. Goldstein denied the very existence of the evidence that he had seen and heard and then conceded it was possible a fraud had been perpetrated on the court, by the Toronto Police and the Crown.  Yet he did nothing. He didn’t stop or dismiss the trial, or recuse himself. He chose instead to continue on with the trial and Nowack was convicted.

From prison, Nowack actually wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and to the Attorney General of Canada and the Attorney General of Ontario alleging serious and grave acts of misconduct by Goldstein, asking them to stay the proceedings. (The government has the discretion to do this in the rare instance of acts of misconduct by a judge.)  Trudeau and the Attorney General’s and Justice Minister of Canada, David Lametti, didn’t respond to Nowack’s allegations, although Prime Minister Trudeau’s office did write to Mr. Nowack, on behalf of Prime Minister Trudeau,  saying they understood his concerns.

But no one did anything about it.

After  Nowack had been in prison for 346 days, Slansky was finally able to win a bail, pending appeal motion for Nowack. He was released on April 6, 2020, but not without a hitch. The order was for April 3rd, a Friday. Why did it take three days to secure the release? The prison refused to release Nowack and made him stay over the weekend, violating the court order on purpose.

 

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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