As Toronto lawyer Leora Shemesh prepares to defend herself against charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, other defence counsel say they’ve also been dealing with issues surrounding the existence — or not — of a video that surfaced in a drug case she acted in.
Earlier this week, Peel police charged Shemesh with perjury and obstruction of justice. None of the allegations have been proven in court. Peel Regional Police Staff Sgt. Dan Richardson confirmed police had served Shemesh with a summons this week but declined to comment on what led to the charges.
“I don’t reveal anything that’s in court, so I don’t come out with any evidence,” says Richardson.
According to the Toronto Star, Shemesh had been acting in a drug matter in 2013 in which Peel police Const. Ian Dann was a witness.
The Star reported that the Crown dropped the matter in that case after Shemesh told Crown attorney Robert Johnston about alleged misconduct involving Dann.
It’s not clear exactly what Shemesh told Johnston.
But after the Crown backed away from the case, word got around the criminal law bar about the existence of a “nanny cam” video depicting alleged misconduct by the officer, sources say.
Previously, Shemesh had defended a client in R. v. Dinh, a 2011 drug-trafficking case that resulted in a finding of perjury against Dann and several other Peel police officers.
Richardson says Dann is facing a disciplinary proceeding by the police force but wouldn’t specify the cause of the investigation.
“Constable Dann is subject to a formal disciplinary proceeding that has been adjourned to a conference call on Sept. 10, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. as the officer is currently on an approved leave of absence,” Richardson said in an e-mail.
“We will not comment further on an ongoing hearing process.”
Amid questions about the existence of a video showing alleged misconduct by Dann, several criminal lawyers sought to obtain it for their own matters involving the same officer. One of those lawyers was David Rose, a former law associate of Shemesh’s who is now a judge in Newmarket, Ont.
In 2014, Rose subpoenaed Shemesh to court before Superior Court Justice Bruce Durno to talk about the existence of the video, says Joseph Neuberger, who took over that file once Rose joined the bench.
“My understanding is that David Rose had issued a subpoena for Leora for evidence that she may or may not have been in possession of,” says Neuberger.
“During that process, we understand that she was required to take the stand and provide viva voce evidence in front of Justice Durno.”
Criminal lawyer Rob Christie says that about a year ago, he was representing a client in a drug case when the federal Crown on the record told him about the existence of “nanny cam” footage depicting alleged misconduct by Dann.
“The Crown raised the issue with me,” says Christie. “The way it was related to me was that this video was in existence,” he adds, noting he was told Shemesh had the video.
Christie says his case was adjourned to figure out if the video did in fact exist.
Gary Grill, who’s representing Shemesh along with Toronto lawyer Marie Henein, says he won’t comment about the allegations against his client.
“We’re not really commenting to the media at this point except to say, of course, that the charges are going to be challenged and fought vigorously and that Ms. Shemesh is an excellent lawyer with an excellent reputation,” says Grill, a certified specialist in criminal law.
“I can’t comment on the allegations at this point. It’s too early in the proceedings,” he adds.
Criminal defence lawyer Paul Burstein says Shemesh “loves the law.”
“She loves to help people and she lives to protect her clients from unfair and overzealous policing. She would never do anything knowing that it would jeopardize that career,” he says.
Neuberger, meanwhile, says a force other than Peel police should have investigated the matter.
“In a case like this, criminal charges against the lawyer is quite extraordinary,” he says.
“But what’s important to maintain the integrity of the investigation, in my opinion, is an outside police service should have conducted the investigation rather than the same internal affairs unit that’s looking into the officer’s conduct,” says Neuberger.
“That lack of independence is a concern in a case like this and would be a fertile ground for the defence.”