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Opening comments: More at the end.
The big question is - if his fellow officers were out to frame him - WHY?
Lots more to this story here.
Torstar Network - Aug. 21, 2009 - By
Accused officer wanted help from colleagues
A veteran Peel Regional Police officer, accused of stealing fake cocaine from a botched RCMP drug sting, wanted the two officers who knew the truth to come forward to clear his name.
Cst. Sheldon Cook said the media labelled him a drug trafficker after his arrest Nov. 18, 2005 for conspiracy to import cocaine.
"They had me on the same level as Pablo Escobar...," Cook told Brampton court today. "... there wasn't one speck of cocaine found at my house."
Cook today told federal prosecutor David Rowcliffe that he hired a private investigator because neither Det. Marty Rykhoff nor Acting Det. Warren Williams would tell authorities about the box of dummy cocaine in his police cruiser in the early hours of Nov. 17, 2005.
"These were the only two people who had knowledge of the box," Cook said during his fifth and final day testifying in his own defence. "The heart of the matter is that I went out and hired a private investigator. I knew what the truth was. I wasn't afraid of what he would uncover."
Cook, 40, has pleaded not guilty to seven criminal charges in this judge-alone trial before Justice Casey Hill that has been underway since last November.
He maintains he was told to take the dummy drugs home and return them to the morality unit the following day. But before that could happen a GPS unit hidden inside the packages led the RCMP to his Cambridge home where 15 bricks (packages) were found in his garage inside a compartment of a watercraft.
Rowcliffe and fellow prosecutor Ania Weiler say Cook took the drugs, which they say he thought were real, during his involvement as part of Rykhoff's crew investigating the seizure of 102 bricks of suspected cocaine from a courier truck.
The white powder turned out to be flour, part of a mistake-filled RCMP-controlled delivery from Peru to Canada that went missing 12 hours earlier after arriving at Pearson International Airport.
Rowcliffe suggested Cook took advantage of the RCMP's blundering and saw an opportunity to "score" what he thought was real cocaine and didn't have time to "dump it" before it was discovered.
Cook said the accusations were outrageous. He'd never have risked "on the drop of a dime everything" he stands for - his career, his wife, his two kids, his house - to become a drug trafficker.
He waited four years to tell his story.
"The allegations against me are completely unfounded."
Rykhoff has denied putting the packages in Cook's cruiser or having any knowledge that Cook took them home. He denied telling Cook to take them to his home when he testified as a Crown witness in February. Williams also denied ever seeing the fake bricks in Cook's cruiser.
The 14-year veteran officer discovered the bricks in his cruiser's trunk at the end of his shift in the early hours of Nov. 17.
Cook today said Williams also told him after his arrest that he spoke to the RCMP and confirmed he saw the box. But he discovered later that Williams lied to him about what he told investigators.
"My phone wasn't ringing. My wife was still crying. I just wanted him to come forward and talk," Cook said. He realized their fear of prosecution, both criminally and under the Police Act, meant they weren't going to clear him.
"My life was being turned upside down," Cook said. "I knew only he and Rykhoff could confirm the box.
"If he (Williams) had come forward and told the truth that he saw the box in the trunk of my cruiser and had given me direction to hang onto that box after talking to Marty, then I wouldn't be sitting in this chair right now."
Cook never thought there would be any consequences for taking the box home.
"I was operating under the authority of my two immediate bosses," he said. "I believed it wasn't a controlled substance. I believed the box mistakenly was put in the trunk. I had no reason to believe there was anything untoward happening."
Cook, Rykhoff and Williams were among several officers who unloaded boxes of rotting mangoes with hidden suspected bricks of cocaine from the delivery truck in Mississauga the night before.
Cook never got the chance to return the product as planned because his shift extended because of a fire call and when he got home he had to take his children to a babysitter.
He caught a few hours of sleep. But RCMP officers stopped his car as he left his garage with his children about 11 a.m.
The dummy drugs ended up in his watercraft after the box broke when he was transferring it from cars in his garage, Cook testified.
Cook is charged with attempt to possess a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking, possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking, possession of stolen property (MP3 players) from a police investigation and breach of trust as a police officer. He remains suspended with pay.
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