Case against former OPP officer Michael Rutigliano falls apart
All 17 charges related to fraud and obstruction of justice have been dropped in the face of "substantial" police misconduct related to wiretaps.
Michael Rutigliano was charged, after a lengthy police investigation, with 17 offences, including breach of trust by a public official, attempt to obstruct justice, fraud, give a secret commission, and money laundering. But over the course of four years, the prosecution has unraveled.
The arrest of veteran OPP officer Michael Rutigliano in May 2009 was a media sensation.
Yet over the course of four years, the prosecution has been quietly unraveling, with the Crown withdrawing all of the charges after a series of complicated pre-trial defence motions in the Brampton courthouse.
Last month, Ontario Superior Court Justice Casey Hill stayed seven remaining fraud charges against Rutigliano after finding “substantial” and “multiple acts” of police misconduct related to the improper gathering of wiretap evidence.
The Crown conceded the Ontario Provincial Police committed “serious” violations when they listened to wiretapped conversations that Rutigliano had with his lawyers, breaching sacrosanct solicitor-client privilege.
Rutigliano had allegedly conspired with two former Bombardier employees in a $15 million fraud against the aircraft maker. Charges against the ex-Bombardier employee were also stayed. On Friday, the Crown filed an appeal of the ruling that led to the withdrawal of charges against Rutagliano.
Last January, the Crown withdrew three obstruction-of-justice charges relating to allegations Rutigliano helped a convicted fraudster “remain at large” and “avoid prosecution in Ontario,” according to court documents.
Also dropped were charges that Rutigliano used his position as the OPP’s Toronto court case manager to try to engineer the outcome of a sex assault case. The accused was Rutigliano’s old friend, former Steelback Brewery CEO Frank D’Angelo; the alleged victim was a business associate’s 22-year-old daughter.
Back in 2009, the D’Angelo-related charges dominated headlines and rocked the province’s justice system. The Attorney General took the rare step of appointing a retired judge, Coulter Osborne, to oversee the prosecution after allegations that Crown attorneys and other court staff may have been involved. Independent prosecutors Richard Peck, who handled the Michael Bryant case, and Scott Fenton were also brought in.
As the OPP’s court case manager in Toronto, Rutigliano knew many players in the criminal justice system, including judges, Crown attorneys, defence lawyers and trial coordinators.
After he turned up on the radar of an RCMP investigation into organized crime, his own force launched a probe and began wiretapping his phone.
Now, for the first time, details of the allegations against Rutigliano can be published after Hill’s 79-page ruling, issued on Oct. 28, lifted a publication ban on all related proceedings or rulings, including scores of wiretaps, emails and text messages that were part of the case.
In one 2009 recording that was presented in court after Rutigliano’s arrest, he discussed D’Angelo’s upcoming court hearings on the sex assault charges.
“There’s a person looking inside,” Rutigliano told D’Angelo on March 25, 2009. “There’s three judges I’m looking for and believe me, I’m gonna get ’em. I’m gonna get one of ’em. And if we get the one I want, it’s … this is a f-----g wash.”
The OPP also alleged Rutigliano conspired with D’Angelo “and the unindicted co-conspirator Domenic Basile” and others to obstruct, pervert, or defeat the course of justice in the prosecution of D’Angelo.
At the time, Basile was an assistant Crown attorney. He now practises in Toronto as a defence lawyer.
“Frankie, I was meeting with Dom Basile, who is the ... who is helping us with your problem,” Rutigliano told D’Angelo on Jan. 13, 2009.
On another occasion, Rutigliano and Basile were recorded discussing the fact Superior Court Justice John Hamilton had been picked to try D’Angelo’s case. Basile stated that it was a “100 per cent” guarantee that Hamilton would acquit D’Angelo.
“There’s a better chance I never eat pasta again,” Basile told Rutigliano on April 16, 2009.
Five days later, Hamilton acquitted D’Angelo of the sex assault.
In 2010, Rutigliano denied that he or anyone on his behalf interfered with the assignment of Hamilton as the trial judge.
He agreed to pose for a photograph this week but would not comment on the case, on his lawyer’s advice.
Defence lawyer David Humphrey, who represented Basile at the time of the Rutigliano probe, said ultimately “the police came to the right conclusion that there was not a basis for charging him.”
“The police thoroughly investigated the matter and they concluded, in fact, there had been no interference with the process involving the assignment of the judge to the case,” he said in an interview Thursday.
He noted that the Crown also withdrew all related charges against Rutigliano and D’Angelo, who was also charged with attempt to obstruct justice.
“It’s important that everybody understand that the police, who thoroughly investigated, never charged (Basile),” Humphrey said.
“That was just talk between him and Rutigliano, who was an old friend and someone he came to know through their work together. He was a police officer and Dom was a Crown prosecuting cases.”
Contacted through an intermediary, Hamilton, who retired in 2009, said Friday he had nothing to say or add.
Defence lawyer Owen Wigderson, who along with Scott Hutchison and Frederick Schumann represented Rutigliano, declined to comment on the case.
Rutigliano, 54, retired from the OPP in July 2011 after 30 years of service. Today he is an entrepreneur with interests in construction, home renovations and the manufacture of doors, windows and pasta.
By: Betsy Powell City Hall Bureau, Published on Fri Nov 22 2013http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2013/ ... apart.html