A Toronto cop who, along with three fellow officers, is accused of planting drugs in a man’s car in 2014 now faces new charges for his arrest of the same suspect a year earlier. Const. Benjamin Elliot first came under fire last fall during Nguyen Son Tran’s trial when a judge accused him and colleagues Const. Jeffery Tout, Det.-Const. Fraser Douglas, and Const. Michael Taylor of lying under oath and planting evidence to justify an illegal vehicle search.
Those allegations prompted an investigation by the service’s Professional Standards Unit and in January the four cops were charged with obstructing justice and perjury.
A few weeks later, Tout was charged with an additional count of perjury and two more counts of obstructing justice stemming from Tran’s 2014 arrest in East Chinatown. At the time, Elliot and Douglas were each also charged with an additional count of obstructing justice in connection with the 2014 heroin bust.
All of the charges against the officers have yet to be tested in court.
On Wednesday, Toronto Police spokesman Mark Pugash revealed Elliot now faces two new counts of obstructing justice and one count of perjury stemming from his January 2013 arrest of Tran.
“When the first charges were laid early this year, Chief Mark Saunders assured the public that Professional Standards would review other cases involving the four accused officers to see if there was any cause for concern,” Pugash said. “That is exactly what is happening.”
The internal investigation, which is expected to scrutinize hundreds of cases, is ongoing.
When the review was announced, defence lawyer Kim Schofield insisted Professional Standards look into Tran’s 2013 arrest and subsequent conviction on drug charges.
His 2014 drug charges were dismissed outright last fall when Justice Edward Morgan concluded the officers involved sprinkled heroin on the dash of his car to justify their search.
The four accused officers remain suspended with pay while they await the outcome of their charges.
Elliot, a drug squad officer with nine years of service, is scheduled to appear next in court at 2201 Finch Ave. W. on Thursday.
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR:
– On Jan. 4, 2013, Nguyen Son Tran was arrested on drug charges by Toronto Police Const. Benjamin Elliot after a traffic stop.
– On Jan. 13, 2014, Tran was out on bail when he was stopped again, allegedly for running a red light at Gerrard St. E. and Broadview Ave.
– Elliot and three other officers claimed drugs were visible on the dash of Tran’s Toyota Camry, prompting a search that found nearly 12 grams of plastic-wrapped heroin stashed in the steering column.
– Tran remained in custody and went to trial for his first drug charges in July 2014.
– His lawyer, Kim Schofield, claimed at the time that the 2013 search of her client’s car was illegal.
– Justice Leslie Chapin ruled the search was legal and Tran pleaded guilty to drug trafficking.
– Tran was sentenced to 30 months behind bars but was released after serving 18 months.
– He was back before the courts last September for his 2014 arrest.
– Justice Edward Morgan dismissed those charges, ruling that the arresting officers sprinkled heroin on the dash of Tran’s car to justify their search and then lied about it in court.
– Const. Benjamin Elliot, Const. Jeffery Tout, Det.-Const. Fraser Douglas, and Const. Michael Taylor were charged in January with obstructing justice and perjury.
– In February, Tout was charged with another count of perjury and two more counts of obstructing justice for Tran’s 2014 arrest.
– Elliot and Douglas were also each charged in February with an additional count of obstructing justice for the 2014 arrest.
– Elliot now faces two new counts of obstructing justice and one count of perjury stemming from his arrest of Tran in 2013.