Trial puts wiretap expert on hot seat

OPP veteran who took part in massive biker probe charged with perjury, giving contradictory evidence


Jan 20, 2009 04:30 AM
Betsy Powell

A veteran Ontario Provincial Police wiretap expert's truthfulness during a massive police investigation into the Satan's Choice motorcycle club and subsequent court case is at issue in a Superior Court trial that got underway yesterday.

John Cavanaugh has pleaded not guilty to two counts of perjury and two counts of giving contradictory evidence. The charges were laid in 2004.

"This is a case designed to address the question whether Mr. John Cavanaugh, a police officer, lied to the court," Crown attorney Shawn Porter told the jury.

Under the Criminal Code, a person is guilty of perjury if he or she testifies knowing something to be false and does so with the intent of misleading court, Porter explained to jurors.

"Give contradictory evidence" is inconsistent testimony given by a person on the same matter before two different courts with the intent to mislead, he said.

The trial will focus on the mid-1990s OPP-led, joint-forces police operation called Project Dismantle.

Its goal was to dismantle the Satan's Choice. Cavanaugh was the project's wiretap co-ordinator who prepared the affidavits used to seek judicial wiretap authorizations.

Drug-trafficking charges against several people were eventually laid after several wiretaps were granted.

In court, defence counsel challenged the admissibility of the evidence on the basis the authorizations were obtained using false information.

The defence alleged Cavanaugh misled court about whether the source of information was a confidential informant or an agent acting for police.

Yesterday's evidence focused on the distinction between an agent and an informant.

An agent works for the police and is expected to testify; an informant remains anonymous and provides information to police, often in exchange for reduced criminal charges.

On the stand for 16 days during the preliminary hearing and at trial, Cavanaugh was vigorously cross-examined.

"He was getting beaten up," said OPP Det. Sgt. John Gralewicz, one of two Crown witnesses to testify on the trial's opening day. Gralewicz worked briefly on the project and considered Cavanaugh a "mentor" as well as a friend.

Under cross-examination by defence lawyer Harry Black, Gralewicz, along with the second witness, OPP Staff Sgt. Glenn Irving, agreed Cavanaugh has a reputation for hard work and honesty.

"He was very, very good at his job," Irving testified.

Black suggested the lawyers who cross-examined Cavanaugh, with clients facing very serious charges, had a "powerful motive to try and portray John Cavanaugh as someone who hadn't been truthful."