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Discredited York cop still allowed to testify
TORONTO – You would think that a cop’s testimony would be tainted after he was found guilty of misleading the court in the past. Not so, it seems.
Three years ago, an $18-million drug bust went up in smoke after a judge ruled that the arrest story given by York Regional Police Det. Robert Worthman was inconsistent and sometimes simply absurd. The 25-year veteran drug cop was then charged under the Police Services Act – accused of entering the Scarborough home without a search warrant and then fudging his testimony to justify why he did so.
Originally charged with neglect of duty, deceit, insubordination and discreditable conduct, he was ultimately found guilty in June 2013 of the last count for providing “misleading testimony” that led to the acquittal of three alleged drug manufacturers.
The officer is set to be sentenced by a police tribunal Sept. 23.
But in the meantime, Worthman has been allowed to testify in another drug case currently going on in Newmarket. How can that be?
It’s an understandable question being asked by defence lawyer Leora Shemesh, where the case against her client centres almost exclusively on the testimony of the very same drug cop who has been found to be “misleading” by both a Superior Court judge and a police tribunal.
“This is a bizarre way to proceed in the criminal justice system – particularly when a player has been so badly blemished,” the lawyer says.
In 2011, Justice Nola Garton had harsh words for Worthman’s testimony against three men arrested for allegedly operating a multi-million dollar Scarborough meth and ecstasy lab. She called portions of his evidence alternately “problematic,” “patently absurd,” “misleading” and fraught with “troubling and bizarre inconsistencies.”
As a result, she excluded all of the drug evidence seized from 60 Penmarric Place – including pill presses – saying the men’s Charter rights had been violated.
At his police hearing, Worthman blamed the lengthy cross-examination for his confusion and the wide variations in his story – in his notes he said he entered the home because he believed a break and enter was going on; at the trial, he backtracked and said he suspected drug possession.
A police tribunal had scathing remarks about his truthfulness.
“He did not testify accurately, reliably or credibly in relation to the events of March 9, 2007 at 60 Penmarric Place. The public expectation was clearly not met by the testimony provided by Det. Const. Worthman in May 2011,” said the adjudicator, retired Supt. Mark Tatz, in the 66-page tribunal decision obtained by the Toronto Sun.
“While I can think of numerous adjectives to describe his evidence, credible and reliable are not two of them. To put it bluntly, his evidence is fraught with inconsistencies. There are numerous examples of him not answering the question asked.
“Viewing his evidence from the position of a reasonable person in the community, I find there is clear and convincing evidence Det. Const. Worthman provided misleading evidence,” he concluded. “His evidence on a given point changes from day to day and sometimes, even within the same day.”
Given that finding of guilt, Shemesh challenges the wisdom of allowing Worthman back on the witness stand.
“He has not been sentenced yet – but should he be testifying in other cases before receiving his sentence and before potentially receiving some further education about being forthright with the court?” questions the lawyer. “I ask this out loud – because I am not sure what the answer is.”
It certainly doesn’t appear that Worthman believes he has done much that is wrong.
Despite screwing up a huge drug bust, he applied in 2011 for a promotion to sergeant. He did well in the selection process – ranking third for the four open spots – but sensibly, the chief of police refused to promote him because of the “serious charges he was facing.”
And Worthman’s response? He and his union took his bosses to arbitration, complaining that he had been unfairly passed over. Thankfully, he lost and remains a constable, awaiting his penalty next week for trying to mislead a court.