Crown lawyer had doubts about cult abuse charges: sources
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Wednesday November 6, 2002
The Star Phoenix (Canada), Nov. 6, 2002
The senior Crown prosecutor handling a satanic cult abuse case in 1991 refused to lay charges, but other officials proceeded anyway, sources say.
Cpl. Brian Dueck of the Saskatoon Police Service investigated bizarre allegations of orgies, ritual abuse and bestiality made by three Saskatoon-area foster children.
He brought his findings to senior Crown prosecutor Terry Hinz. A group of 13 people, including Richard and Kari Klassen, were accused of making the children eat feces, drink blood and urine, and forcing them to have sex with bats and dogs.
But Hinz refused to agree to charging the adults, according to the sources.
The file was then taken over by Crown prosecutors Sonja Hansen and Matthew Miazga. Thirteen people were rounded up in the summer of 1991 and charged.
Klassen’s father, who had a previous criminal conviction for abusing children, agreed to a contentious plea bargain on the eve of the trial — he pleaded guilty and the charges were stayed against the others. All three foster children have since admitted to lying about the abuse.
Twelve of the group charged in the bizarre case have filed a $10-million lawsuit for malicious prosecution. Klassen and lawyers for the other plaintiffs have begun closed-door questioning of the defendants and potential witnesses as part of a pre-trial process called examinations for discovery.
Hinz is now willing to state how he handled the file when it was assigned to him, according to the sources. One motion filed by Klassen seeks to compel Hinz to appear for the pre-trial questioning.
Another motion seeks to have Queen’s Bench Justice Ellen Gunn appear as well. Gunn was director of prosecutions for the provincial Justice Department in 1991 when Klassen and the others were charged.
A third motion seeks to compel Dueck, now a superintendent with the police department, to answer certain questions he refused to during earlier questioning.
Any documents filed in support of the requests to have Hinz, Gunn and Dueck appear for questioning were put under a sweeping publication ban last Friday by Queen’s Bench Justice Mona Dovell, the judge overseeing the lawsuit.
A University of Saskatchewan law professor called the action “highly unusual,” while Klassen says it’s “so frustrating it’s eating me alive.”
Some of the motions and other materials in the case had already been available to members of the public for several weeks at the courthouse.
However, Dovell learned a story was about to be published last Friday when The StarPhoenix requested a public document in her office.
Dovell called all of the lawyers in the case together just after 5 p.m. that day for a conference call, then she ordered sealed “all materials filed in support of any motion made either before or after this date regarding the discovery process.”
Klassen and Robert Borden, the lawyer for the other plaintiffs, said they weren’t in favour of a blanket ban.
In her order, Dovell states that “it was known that a reporter from The StarPhoenix had in his possession a sworn statement of Richard Klassen, which contained paraphrased portions of what Crown prosecutor Hansen had said.
“That information has now been sealed by the court.”
The statements by Hansen that are now banned were made during an examination for discovery. Under court rules, the information gleaned from the questioning is kept secret until trial.
However, because some of that information was also contained in a public document on the court file — Klassen’s sworn statement — The StarPhoenix had been about to publish a story, until Dovell issued her ban.
The motions filed on the case can still be published, although details about why the motions are being made cannot be printed.
Dovell ruled this week that Dueck will have to answer some of the questions he earlier refused to answer. She is expected to rule soon on the other matters.
Dovell’s order to seal the documents Friday night does not sit well with Klassen.
“We’re not opposed to the rules of court (but) this was filed legally. The public has the right to know,” Klassen said. “What’s the next step? How far will this go?”
U of S law Prof. Russ Buglass said Dovell’s decision to seal public documents was “highly unusual.”
Buglass said it’s also unusual that The StarPhoenix was not given a chance to make an argument in favour of freedom of expression. Buglass and civil litigation lawyer Andrew Mason said public documents are sealed only when the judge mistakenly allows them to be public in the first place.
“It may have been an oversight. It says to me there was probably a mistake,” Mason said.
It’s unclear whether any of the specifics of this case will ever become public. Buglass noted that “much more than half” of all lawsuits are settled before trial, and the files are usually sealed as part of the agreement.
Dueck’s lawyer, David Gerrand, said it would be inappropriate to comment while the matter is before the courts.
In an interview Friday before the order was issued, Don McKillop, who represents the prosecutors and other defendants, cautioned against publishing the material which is now sealed.
He said the “snippets” of information in the documents would give an incomplete picture of the case.
“There is the potential to keep an old wound open or open wounds and not particularly do anybody any good,” he said.
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