For Chris Uniat, this newspaper was truly essential reading.
Uniat, 28, pleaded guilty last year in a big drugs-and-ammo case, and, while awaiting sentencing, he happened to read this newspaper’s account of a bad warrant against an accused accomplice.
So Uniat struck his guilty plea and looked to take the case to trial.
The Ottawa police guns-and-gangs’ search warrant was quashed in court for its shaky foundation.
Though Uniat wanted to take his case to trial, he couldn’t because search warrant writer Det. Brandi Fraser reported through a doctor that she couldn’t testify because she’s on medical leave.
Without the key testimony, the trial could not go ahead, so the Crown asked for an adjournment.
But last week the judge ruled against an adjournment and instead granted a stay of the charges, meaning Uniat is completely free and clear of all charges.
Uniat was successfully defended by Mark Ertel and Brendan Coffey.
“The judge ordered that (Fraser) should be cross-examined on serious issues going to the validity of the search. It was essential that she testify. The Crown applied for an adjournment and it was refused because the police officer had not been subpoenaed, which is a prerequisite to getting an adjournment for the attendance of a witness at a later date,” Ertel said.
This is the third Ottawa guns-and-gangs case rooted in the same bad warrant that has collapsed.
The case against Uniat was a spinoff investigation from the July 2019 Gatineau apartment raid of one-time accused killer and crack seller Mohamed Mohamed. In that authorized search, Ottawa police linked Uniat to a drug business through seized cellphones.
The search warrant was ruled unlawful by Justice Richard Meredith, who said Ottawa detectives acted on mere suspicion, used unreliable informants, didn’t have reasonable and probable grounds and suggested in filings to support the warrant that Mohamed got away with murder in a previous case even though he had been found not guilty by a jury.
The judge noted that the officer who compiled and signed the search-warrant filings on behalf of the unit made sworn comments in a supporting affidavit designed to convince the issuing justice of the peace that Mohamed was a murderous, career criminal.
When Uniat pleaded guilty to drug and firearms charges, he didn’t know the Ottawa police warrant that launched the case against him would be quashed as unlawful until he read the newspaper report.
So far, prosecutors on both sides of the Ottawa River have abandoned three guns-and-gangs cases after conflicting police testimony.
The key testimony was about the mysterious discovery of a handgun in a sparsely furnished, one-bedroom apartment.
Gatineau tactical officers testified they swept the apartment twice and found cocaine, but no gun. Once they left the apartment, they said two Ottawa officers entered it and one announced finding a black .45 Smith & Wesson on the bedroom floor. Ottawa detectives testified they never entered the apartment and knew nothing about the gun.
With differing testimonies before him, Gatineau Justice Richard Meredith asked the Crown where that took the case.
“It takes us with a ghost and a gun and a release order for Mohamed Mohamed,” the Crown prosecutor said.
Mohamed, 37, is now suing two Ottawa police officers and the Ottawa Police Service, seeking $850,000 for unlawful detainment, unreasonable search and malicious prosecution.
Detectives Kirk Gidley and Michael Saunders are accused of lying at trial “to ensure a conviction and to hide the fact that they (or one of them)” planted a handgun during a July 18, 2019, raid on the 15th floor at 101 Sacré-Coeur Blvd., according to the statement of claim filed in Ontario Superior Court by lawyer Diane Magas.
Magas was Mohamed’s lawyer in 2018, when a jury found him not guilty of murder and kidnapping in the killing of another drug dealer.
In the lawsuit, the former drug dealer also accuses one or both of the detectives of stealing $50,000, and he wants his money back.
None of the allegations in the lawsuit has been tested in court.
Neither Gidley nor Saunders responded to a request for comment. They have the full support of the Ottawa Police Association.
Fraser forwarded a request for comment to her superiors, but this newspaper has yet to receive a statement. Fraser was not subpoenaed to testify.
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