The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Whitley's testimony takes 180 degree turn, MSM misses 100% of it

Writing about the Driskell Inquiry got us to thinking that there hasn't been this much backstabbing since Julius Caesar went to lunch with his best pal, Brutus.

That incident was immortalized in contemporary notes:

FLAV Flavius Maximus, private Roman eye. I'd like to ask you a few questions. What do you know about this?
CAL I told him, Julie, don't go. Don't go Julie, I said. Don't go, it's the Ides of March.
FLAV Now look, Mrs. Caesar, I'd ---
CAL If I told him once, I'd told him a thousand times, Julie, don't go ...
FLAV Please, don't upset yourself.
CALPURNIA Julie, don't go, I said. It's the Ides of March. Beware already.

At the Driskell Inquiry, the line of backstabbers is long and, apparently, still growing.
- Perry Dean Harder ratted on Jim Driskell for running a chop shop operation, and wound up dead.
- Ray Zanidean's brother in Regina told police they should talk to Ray in Winnipeg about an arson in Swift Current.
- Zanidean snitched on Jim Driskell for the murder of Harder.
- RCMP Supt. Ross Burton put a knife into Winnipeg Sgt. Tom Anderson.
- And, just before taking a break, the inquiry heard former crown attorney Stu Whitley do his best to deep six his former colleagues George Dangerfield and the late Bruce Miller, now known at the inquiry as Public Enemies #2 and #3.

Whitley started as a crown attorney in 1974 and if there's one lesson he's learned over the years, it's that the first to squeal gets the deal. So when counsel for the Driskell Inquiry called, he began practicing his scales.

He started with an aria adapted from Julius Caesar. You know:
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him;
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones,

Whitley started by praising Dangerfield and Miller as good, experienced, honourable officials of the Crown.

Then he stuck a knife in each.

George Dangerfield failed to do his job when he didn't tell defence lawyer Greg Brodsky everything about the negotiations to put key witness Ray Zanidean in witness protection, including Z's demand for immunity in an arson investigation in Saskatchewan.

And Bruce Miller, speak not ill of the dead, broke the law when he authorized giving Zanidean $20,000 to get lost without getting the proper approval from his superiors, one of whom was -- Stu Whitley.

Whitley knew he carried some baggage of his own in the Driskell matter.

He was, for example, the guy who signed the cheques to Zanidean while he was under police protection pending the trial.

Zanidean's lawyer called him "the banker".

As such, Whitley knew everything about the negotiations for witness protection but thought it was Dangerfield's job to tell the defence, not his. But he dummied up when it came to what he knew --and when -- about the final negotiations with Zanidean during and after the trial.

He couldn't remember.
He was out of town.
He was distracted by the coming trial of lawyer Harvey Pollock.

It didn't matter to Commission counsel Michael Code or Commissioner Patrick LeSage. They didn't grill him about his notes, or lack thereof.

That was reserved for Det. Tom Anderson, Public Enemy #1 at the inquiry.
And the newspapers, also acting as the Greek Chorus in the production, loved Whitley's performance. It got rave reviews. Five and a half out of five stars.

Justice official may have broken law, Driskell inquiry hears
salivated the CBC.
Driskell Gets Apology / Denied Fair Trial: Whitley
blared the Winnipeg Sun

For, you see, Stu Whitley topped his act by genuflecting to Jim Driskell and asking forgiveness.
What a showman. Bravo.

The highlight of the act, all agreed, was Whitley's tour de force soliloquay regarding the final payoff.

The Driskell trial ended with a guilty verdict on June 14, 1991. Five days later, there was a meeting of the witness protection team: Zanidean, his lawyer Dave Kovnats, Bruce Miller and RCMP Sgt. Orr. By then the authorities had decided Zanidean would likely be a washout in the formal Witness Protection program, and had an option in mind.

Miller offered Zanidean $20,000 to start a new life. That's roughly what the RCMP figured it would cost to set him up with a new identify in another city, anyway.

On June 21st, Miller faxed Kovnats a formal deal for the $20,000, which was accepted.
But, said Stu Whitley on the witness stand, this wasn't right.
He leaped up and, facing towards Bruce Miller's grave, he shouted "J'accuse!"(Or at least that's what the transcript we have says. But that transcript was prepared by Free Press reporter Paul Samyn, and
we all know what problems he has with listening to tapes. We can't say for sure that Whitley didn't shout "Diasaporas.")

For sure at the Inquiry, there was this exchange between commission counsel Michael Code and Whitley:

Q But it is a signed letter. He sends it out to Kovnats on the 21st. And we've got Kovnats' fax cover sheet here showing that he receives it on June 21st. It's actually sent to him, even though it hasn't been approved by the deputy yet.
And it says, in the third paragraph:
"The plan arranged for your client is one that has been worked out with the police and is one with which your client is comfortable."

It appears to refer to a final agreement.
"And it caps the relocation costs at$20,000."
Do you see that?

A Yes.

Q And, again, I take it, it is self-evident from the face of the document that this is the kind of an agreement that would have to go through you and up to the deputy?

A I would have to take this to the deputy.

And then...

A But I equally can't imagine this letter going out with all of us understanding the authorities that are required to be in place before such a letter could commit the department.
Q Before?
A Before such a letter could commit the department.
Q Before the proper approvals had been obtained?
A Yes.
Q It's a high-risk tactic is what it is?
A It's an offence.
Q It's contrary to the Attorney General's Act?
A Or the Financial Administration Act, one of the two.

And to make matters worse, the inquiry was told that the letter went out the day after Zanidean threatened to recant his testimony and go to the defence.

Get it? Zanidean says he's going to go to Greg Brodsky and scuttle the Crown's case, and Bruce Miller, to shut him up, signs over $20,000.
That's what the Driskell Inquiry wanted you to believe.

However it was clearly pointed out late in the day, when the reporters were already mentally scribbling their regurgitation of the Inquiry's official line about Miller, that the threat to recant was not known to the Crown or to Miller until it came out in the Hall/Ewatski report of 1993.

So the conspiracy theory that Miller was trying to shut Zanidean up was blown out of the water -- yet not one reporter saw or heard it. Or not one reporter saw a need to include it in their dispatches.

That's the beauty of a show trial. You can massage the evidence to support the verdict that's already in the envelope. And the press will fall for it every time.

Well, something didn't look right about this to The Black Rod, so we did what any good reporter would do--- we looked at a calender for June, 1991.

And it suggested a totally different story.

July 19st was a Wednesday.
July 21st was a Friday.

Have you ever tried to reach a government official on a Friday? Hardy har har.

Maybe, we said, Bruce Miller tried to phone Whitley and couldn't reach him? (1991 was pre-cell phones.) And maybe he did get ahold of Deputy Minister of Justice, Graeme Garson, and got his verbal approval to sign off on the Zanidean payment !

That would make sense, since Garson put his John Henry on the deal on June 24--the Monday--making it official.

But then something else caught our eye. Whitley was asked this about the letter from Miller to Kovnats.

Q This is the one that says it is subject to approval by the deputy?
A Yes.

We overlooked this at first. Until Doug Abra, the lawyer representing the estate of Bruce Miller, read the whole thing when he examined Whitley.

Q ... And it says on it, very clearly, that it is:
"strictly confidential, for discussion purposes only, subject to approval of the Deputy Minister of Justice." Correct?
A Yes.

Now thats a whole different ballgame.
The letter was clearly a draft of an agreement.

Why did the Commissioner allow the press to think it was a final, signed, sealed and delivered agreement?
Because it suited the purposes of the Inquiry.

It got the headlines the Inquiry wanted.

And it fooled the public, just as required. The MSM didn't report that Whitley fully retreated from his earlier condemnation of Bruce Miller.

Q And I am suggesting to you that there was nothing wrong with him sending that letter, at the time that he did, as long as he made it clear that it was subject to the approval of the Deputy Minister?
A Yes, I'll accept that.

Put on the spot, Whitley couldn't say exactly what section of the Financial Adminstration Act had been breached. If any.

He didn't have to. The damage to Miller's reputation had been done. The apology and headlines delivered.

And nobody reported his sad response to why he couldn't remember a thing about what was said and what he did during the firestorm that developed after Heidi Graham's stories in the Winnipeg Sun in 1993.

His wife, he said, "remembered I was ill."

Add that to the list of Whitley excuses for why he bears no blame in the Driskell case:
I was out of town. I was distracted by Harvey Pollock. I don't recall. I was ill.

Yet Stu says Bruce was a lawbreaker;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
We speak not to disprove what Stu spoke,
But here we are to speak what we do know.

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