Toronto Star

Judge clears restau­ra­teur ac­cused of gang links

Lawyer asks why his client was de­nied bail for two years

- BETSY POW­ELL COURTS BUREAU

Al­most two years ago, Bob Turner was ar­rested by Toronto po­lice as part of an early morn­ing gang raid called Project Fu­sion. Po­lice al­leged his res­tau­rant, Flavaz, was a hub of drug dis­tri­bu­tion by a crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tion known as M and E Crew, and that he was a mid-level gang mem­ber. Three ounces of pot and a sil­ver dig­i­tal scale were seized at Flavaz, then at 3340 Lawrence Ave. E. Turner was ar­rested in an apart­ment along with his com­mon-law wife and daugh­ter. In­side a bed­room closet, po­lice found a loaded hand­gun be­tween lay­ers of cloth­ing. At his bail hear­ing, a jus­tice of the peace deemed the case against Turner, 44, to be so strong that he was de­tained on the se­vere “ter­tiary ground” — to main­tain pub­lic con­fi­dence in the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice. Turner spent 22 months, in­clud­ing two Christ­mases, in­side the oft-ma­ligned Toronto (Don) Jail await­ing trial. But at the pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing, On­tario Court Judge An­drea Tuck-Jack­son dis­charged him on all 11 of­fences, in­clud­ing pos­ses­sion of a loaded firearm, drugs and par­tic­i­pa­tion in a crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tion. “The ev­i­dence they claimed sup­ported their opin­ion that he was too dan­ger­ous to be re­leased on bail . . . never ma­te­ri­al­ized in court,” says Turner’s lawyer, Daniel Brown. Brown says the case raises con­cerns about an in­crease in the num­ber of ac­cused, par­tic­u­larly in gang-re­lated cases, be­ing de­tained on the ter­tiary ground, which the high­est courts have said should be used only in “the rarest of cases,” such as murder. Pros­e­cu­tors, how­ever, ar­gue that Par­lia­ment in­tended gang-re­lated of­fences to be con­sid­ered among those rare cases. At a bail hear­ing, the Crown can try to keep an ac­cused per­son in jail await­ing trial on three grounds: pri­mary (to en­sure the ac­cused will at­tend court), sec­ondary (to pre­vent an ac­cused from com­mit­ting fur­ther of­fences or threat­en­ing wit­nesses) and ter­tiary (to main­tain pub­lic con­fi­dence in the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice). On the ter­tiary ground, four el­e­ments must be in place: a strong case, a se­ri­ous al­leged of­fence, com­pelling cir­cum­stances, and a long prison term if the ac­cused is con­victed. The Turner case also un­der­scores that jus­tices of the peace and judges at bail hear­ings of­ten as­sess the strength of the Crown’s case based on hearsay ev­i­dence, Brown said.

In this case, the daugh­ter of Turner’s com­mon-law wife told po­lice the gun be­longed to him. She was sub­se­quently re­leased with­out charges. Turner’s com­mon-law wife was also re­leased with­out charges af­ter deny­ing any knowl­edge of the gun. A cook at Flavaz, also ar­rested in the sweep, even­tu­ally had drug charges dropped af­ter telling po­lice the res­tau­rant was a drug de­pot.

Their state­ments were all pre­sented at the bail hear­ing stage and not sub­ject to cros­sex­am­i­na­tion, Brown says. He sug­gests the gun be­longed to some­one other than Turner’s wife and daugh­ter, as other peo­ple oc­ca­sion­ally stayed in the apart­ment.

But by the time the pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing ended in De­cem­ber, the Crown was only seek­ing com­mit­tal to trial on the firearm­re­lated of­fences — not the pot pos­ses­sion, traf­fick­ing or crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tion charges.

Yet Turner re­mained locked up. In jail, his even tem­per­a­ment earned him the re­spect of cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers and the ad­mi­ra­tion of younger in­mates, who called him “Old Boy.”

“Peo­ple who came to visit would say, ‘What are you do­ing here?’ It hurts,” says Turner.

He has al­ways main­tained his in­no­cence and scoffs when asked if he is a gang mem­ber. “I’m not guilty of any­thing and I’ve been say­ing that since day one,” he says.

Now free, Turner is try­ing to get his life back on track. Gone is Flavaz, which he opened in 2006 and turned into a pop­u­lar West In­dian eatery. His com­mon-law mar­riage also ended.

“They took all of this away from me. Ev­ery­thing,” he says.

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 ?? TANNIS TOOHEY/TORONTO STAR ?? Bob Turner, 44, walked out of court a free man af­ter a judge threw out all his charges.
TANNIS TOOHEY/TORONTO STAR Bob Turner, 44, walked out of court a free man af­ter a judge threw out all his charges.

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