GUNS AND GANGS: Another Ottawa Police case in jeopardy because of bad 2019 search warrant
Feb 24, 2021
A third Ottawa police guns-and-gangs case rooted in a bad 2019 search warrant is now in jeopardy.
Chris Uniat, 27, had already pleaded guilty in the drugs-and-ammo case back in March and was awaiting sentencing for his street crimes.
But Uniat moved to strike his guilty plea after reading this newspaper’s account of the bad warrant and a judge has now granted his motion, which means the plea is void and his lawyer, Robert Carew, is taking the case to trial.
The key warrant was quashed in court last year for its shaky foundation.
In fact, two other drugs-and-guns cases rooted in the same warrant have been abandoned by prosecutors in Ottawa and Gatineau.
The third case is now in jeopardy after a judge granted Uniat’s motion to strike his plea in light of evidence — the bad warrant.
The case against Uniat was a spin-off investigation from the notorious July 2019 Gatineau apartment raid of one-time accused killer and crack salesman 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 that the Ottawa police warrant that launched the case against him would be quashed as unlawful until he read it in this newspaper.
So far, prosecutors on both sides of the river have abandoned two guns-and-gangs cases after conflicting police testimony.
The key police 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 floor of the small bedroom. Ottawa detectives, meanwhile, 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 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 Sacre-Coeur Blvd., according to the statement of claim filed in Ontario Superior Court by lawyer Diane Condo.
Condo was Mohamed’s lawyer in 2018 when a jury found him not guilty of murder and kidnapping after he was charged in the killing of a fellow drug dealer.
“Gidley and Saunders engaged in serious misconduct — conduct that is high-handed, oppressive, reprehensible, offensive and morally repugnant and unbecoming of police officers,” the $850,000 lawsuit claims.
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, let alone proved.
Neither Gidley nor Saunders responded to a request for comment.
They have the full support of the Ottawa Police Association.