Same as it ever was.
A flank of police officers in civvy suits.
How do you plead, Const. Leslie Nyznik? “Not guilty.” (Loud enough to practically rattle the windows.)
How do you plead, Const. Joshua Cabero? “Not guilty.”
How do you plead, Const. Sameer Kara? “Not guilty.”
When last we saw the three-headed beast, they had just been acquitted in criminal court on charges of sexually assaulting a colleague — a parking officer, loaded up with booze (at least) after a long night of drinking at a couple of downtown saloons and the Brass Rail strip club.
That was Aug. 9, 2017.
It’s been more than three years since the threesome were charged, and they’ve been on paid suspension from the Toronto Police Service ever since.
A key component of that acquittal was the (female) trial judge’s skepticism about the testimony offered by the only defendant — Nyznik — who’d taken the stand. She stated that, boldface, in her decision: I Do Not Necessarily Believe Mr. Nyznik.
Justice Anne Malloy agreed with the Crown’s submission that Nyznik’s evidence was scripted and missing in details, except for those aspects which the prosecution characterized as “rehearsed.”
But she also found there was not proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the threesome sex in a hotel room (following a “rookie buy night”) had not been consensual, as the complainant had testified under brutal cross-examination by a phalanx of defence lawyers.
The accused insisted the sexcapade had actually been initiated by the complainant known as A.B., her identity still protected under a publication ban, who also believed that she had been drugged.
Each defendant had sex with A.B., including Kara, who’d actually split from the festivities earlier in the evening of Jan. 17, 2015, and had to be physically assisted back to their pre-booked room, puking in the lobby en route.
“Although the slogan ‘Believe the victim’ has become popularized of late, it has no place in a criminal trial,” Malloy wrote in rendering her decision at the judge-alone trial. “To approach a trial with the assumption that the complainant is telling the truth is the equivalent of imposing a presumption of guilt on the person accused of sexual assault and then placing a burden on him to prove his innocence. That is antithetical to the fundamental principles of justice enshrined in our constitution and the values underlying our free and democratic society.”
But that was then, in a courtroom, on criminal charges.
And this, after so much time has passed, was Thursday morning, at a police tribunal, on Police Services Act charges, with their lower threshold of proof.
These aren’t criminal charges, they’re disciplinary charges, brought when conduct is alleged “likely to bring discredit upon the reputation of the police force.”
With respect to Nyznik, who had been the primary organizer of that “rookie buy” event, it is alleged that he accepted alcohol and food free of charge at the Pravda Vodka Bar and, when the party relocated to the Brass Rail, was granted entry without having to pay a cover charge.
Whilst at the peeler bar, it is alleged — as court heard at the criminal trial — he told an exotic dancer/server that he and others at the table were part of an adult film crew. “During the conversation, you invited the exotic dancer/server to a private audition in your hotel room,” says the notice of hearing. “Prior to leaving the Brass Rail the exotic dancer/server’s contact number was obtained.”
This, as per the notice of hearing, is misconduct, “in that you did act in a disorderly manner or in a manner prejudicial to discipline or likely to bring discredit upon the reputation of the Toronto Police Service.”
On the second charge, Nyznik is accused of engaging in “sexual conduct” with the parking enforcement officer, an individual in “a lower position within the TPS hierarchy, structure and authority,” thereby taking advantage of the woman’s lower TPS position. Disorderly and discreditable.
On the third charge, same as above, essentially, except that A.B. “did not consent to the sexual conduct.”
Cabero faces two charges: Taking advantage of his position and authority, and sexual conduct without consent.
Kara faces three charges: Ditto on the taking advantage and no consent to the sexual conduct, plus intoxication so severe that he upchucked first in the Pravda restroom and then in the hotel lobby — disorderly, manner prejudicial to discipline or likely to bring discredit, etc., etc., etc.
Under the Police Services Act, if a finding of guilt is proven “on clear and convincing evidence,” an officer may be demoted or dismissed.
The Toronto Police Association lawyer, holding down the fort until later in the proceedings when the big gun cop lawyers take their places, tried to waive reading of notice of hearing, which would have meant the details would not have been heard aloud, not on this day anyway.
But the hearing officer, Insp. Richard Hegedus, wasn’t having any of that, noting he would not otherwise know what the cops were pleading to. Thus the “statement of particulars” were read for each of the accused.
They did not look pleased.
The entire procedure took under half an hour and the hearing was adjourned until Jan. 29.
Then everybody filed out and went back to their jobs. Well, not really.
Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno