BRAMPTON, Ont. - Four Toronto-area police officers admitted Tuesday to lying on the stand about stealing a statue of “Scarface” character Tony Montana from an alleged drug dealer five years ago.
The Peel Regional Police officers - Const. Richard Rerrie, Const. Damian Savino, Const. Mihai Muresan and Sgt. Emanuel Pinheiro - pleaded guilty to one count each of attempting to obstruct justice in a Brampton, Ont., courthouse. Charges of theft and perjury were withdrawn.
“Clearly their conduct is dark chapter for Peel police,” said Justice Bruce Durno. “It was a foolish and impulsive act in stealing the statue ... But the (obstruction) offence is most serious. It struck at the heart of the justice system.”
All four drug squad officers resigned from the force at the end of July as part of a plea deal, court heard.
The judge accepted a joint submission of a 12-month conditional sentence for the officers, including six months of house arrest.
The four had been watching an alleged drug dealer, Lowell Somerville, make a “hand to hand” transaction when they arrested him on June 23, 2014, according to an agreed statement of facts read out in court by Crown attorney Peter Scrutton.
The officers found Somerville in possession of a small quantity of heroin and methamphetamine. They later searched his home in Mississauga, Ont., where they found more heroin and a document about a storage locker in Toronto, Scrutton told court.
They obtained a search warrant and raided the locker early the next morning. Somerville later alleged the officers stole cash, jewelry and a one-metre tall, wooden statue of the fictional drug lord Tony Montana, played by Al Pacino in the famous movie.
Somerville's defence lawyer, Kim Schofield, pulled security video of the storage facility that showed Rerrie carrying a large object out of the locker while the other three officers watched.
At an early court hearing in 2015, the officers all said they didn't take anything from the locker.
At Somerville's trial in 2017, all four officers again denied taking anything from the locker. Then Schofield played the video for Rerrie, who said he had taken a space heater from the storage facility's hallway that had a “free” sign on it, court heard. The other three couldn't recall Rerrie carrying anything.
The video showed otherwise.
“They were only apprehended due to the diligence and skilful work of Ms. Schofield,” Durno said.
The judge in the previous case didn't buy the officers' stories and tossed Somerville's charges due to their actions. That prompted an internal investigation by the Peel force, which led to charges against the officers last year.
On Tuesday, all four admitted to the theft.
“The accused didn't lie to incriminate Mr. Somerville and they did not fabricate evidence to strengthen their case - it was to protect themselves against this stupid and sophomoric theft they committed,” Scrutton said.
He said the greater issue than the theft, which he likened to a “prank,” were the lies.
“If these officers provided an honest account of what happened, we would not likely be here today,” Scrutton said.
The judge also had harsh words for the officers.
“It was group effort to mislead,” he said. “They lied to cover up another crime. The duration of their offending was aggravating.”
The lawyers for all officers said their clients, none of whom had any previous disciplinary issues, were remorseful and embarrassed.
Pinheiro was the only officer to speak to court.
“When I recently shared with my wife what I did, she didn't understand why I risked so much,” he said through tears. “This had a major impact on my life and something I'm still attempting to understand and overcome.”
Outside court, Schofield said the resolution to the case was “better than nothing.”
“You have four police officers that perjured themselves ... no longer working as police officers,” she said, adding that the statue has never been found and neither has her client's jewelry or money.
Somerville also lamented the loss of the Tony Montana statue.
“It's irreplaceable,” he said, shaking his head.