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 since 2005, 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:

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Frank Ostrowski. From Sinner to Saint. Or, What they're not telling you.

Here we go again.
- Another convicted murderer to be lionized.
- A dedicated Crown attorney to be demonized.
- And a mainstream media mob to be titillized by a juicy miscarriage of justice. Alleged.

'I wuz framed,' says new saint Frank Ostrowski, blaming veteran Crown attorney George Dangerfield for the 23 years he spent in prison.

This week Ostrowski asked the Manitoba Court of Appeal to vacate his 1987 conviction for the murder of an acquaintance. He wants the court to issue a declaration of innocence, (so that he can sue the province for millions?).  

The province wants a simple declaration of a stay of proceedings which would eradicate the conviction and leave Ostrowski free (he's been out of prison on bail since 2009), but otherwise end the proceedings. After all, 23 years in the slam is almost the 25-year minimum before parole that the worst murderer would have to serve.

The local news media have become the Greek chorus to the 69-year-old Ostrowski's ham acting. So once again it's up to us to step in and save the show.

Ladies and gentlemen, we present our production of "What they aren't telling you."

The Winnipeg Free Press described Ostrowski as "a former hairstylist and drug dealer."  What they aren't telling you is that when he was arrested, Ostrowski was the biggest cocaine dealer in Winnipeg. At a time when $50,000 a year was a good salary, he was raking in $500,000 a year tax-free and all the blow he could snort. 

His reign as Mr.Big ended when an associate named Matthew Lovelace got arrested and agreed to cooperate with police. The FP described Lovelace as "another experienced criminal."  

What they aren't telling you is that Lovelace was Ostrowski's right-hand man in the cocaine business. He was the trusted cohort who brought the stuff in from Montreal. He was a close friend and confidante who knew all of Ostrowski's secrets because he lived them with Big O.

His defenders knew that the only way to get Ostrowski out of prison was to  discredit his biggest accuser, Matthew Lovelace. 

They learned that authorities agreed to drop the drug charges against Lovelace in return for his testimony against Ostrowski, a deal he denied existed when he gave his evidence.  


But you know what they say? The devil is in the details. What they're not telling you loudly enough is tha the drug charges were to be prosecuted in federal court and the murder charge in Manitoba provincial court. Catching a killer was more important than sending a drug dealer to jail, and the feds no doubt realized that Lovelace would have enough trouble avoiding retribution from his Montreal contacts  who might have a problem with the snitch who cost them business.

The federal authorities making the deal didn't tell their provincial counterparts, especially Crown prosecutor Dangerfield.  Lovelace's lawyer also didn't tell him until after the murder trial so there could be no question that his evidence was tainted. Or so he thought.

Nevertheless, when Lovelace denied any deal, he was telling the truth as he knew it. And when Dangerfield vouched for Lovelace before the jury, he was telling the truth as he knew it. 

The lesson here---hire a good lawyer. You'll note that nobody, even today, has a bad word to say about Lovelace's lawyer Hymie Weinstein for negotiating the deal.

Maybe it’s because unlike George Dangerfield, Weinstein isn't an 84-year-old man suffering stroke-related brain damage and can still defend himself in a courtroom.

The FP, for all its deficiences, did admit---deep, deep, deep in its Tuesday story---that Weinstein's machination was "par for the course back in the day."  In other words, what they're not telling you is that they want a convicted murdered set free because nobody did anything wrong at his trial!

 But, sings the Greek chorus, it should have been wrong. Sort of like murder?
If the "deal" gambit failed, the defenders had Plan B, the Jacobson report.

What? Even we had no idea what that was.

It turns out the Jacobson report was a memo written by a police officer named Sgt. N. Jacobson to describe a phone call he received from Lovelace warning police that Ostrowski planned to have someone killed. (Could that be Nels Jacobson, the No. 34 pick in the 1969 NHL draft?)

You know you're reaching for straws when your defence is your client didn't arrange to kill the man he's accused of having killed because he actually intended to kill a different  man. Uh huh. That will prove he's innocent, if nothing will.

Jacobson wrote that Lovelace said "Frank has a contract out on my friend."
The FP said the memo supposedly "goes on to describe that friend as 'the carpenter'."

Here's where Free Press columnist Dan Lett goes completely off the rails.

"The Innocence Canada investigation confirmed the friend in question was Dominic Diubaldo, a carpenter who had built the secret safe for Ostrowski that contained drugs and money."

"The theory Diubaldo may have been the 'friend' referred to by Nieman makes sense given an informant did, in fact, provide police with information about the secret safe, and that only Diubaldo and Lovelace knew of the safe's existence."

Okay, the reference to Nieman when it should be Lovelace is just sloppy writing.

But Lett's attempt at analysis is just pathetic. What he's not telling you, probably because he doesn't know, is that the informant WAS LOVELACE.
That's why he was so upset. Ostrowski, in his paranoia, spoke of killing Nieman, and now Diubaldo, two men who Lovelace knew were innocent.

Lovelace phoned police because he was equally frantic to save their lives.

As for the identification of Dominic Diubaldo, Lovelace told the Ostrowski jury about him 32 years ago.  Innocence Canada just had to read the trial transcript.

And what they're not telling you is that Jacobson was a peripheral character in the story.  Lovelace didn't phone him.

Lovelace was trying to reach his Winnipeg police contact with the tip about Ostrowski's murder plans, but his contact was never in the office when he phoned. He finally left a cryptic message with Jacobson.

A detective testifying at the trial said he had seen a note on a police message board, presumably written by Jacobson, which read "Sonny called. He'll be at this farm. Frankie wants to do a hit on his friend." No mention of "the carpenter".

Sgt. Jacobson didn't know who he was talking to. He didn't know what the caller was calling about. He didn't know who the caller was talking about. 
He did know enough to cover his ass, though. Lovelace tried to reach his police contact Sept.24 (1986). Nieman was shot Sept. 25. 

You might think there would be some questions asked about how thoroughly police tried to warn Nieman that he was a target of a planned assassination. A memo saying they were never warned about Nieman would be very handy.

And what they're not telling you is that regardless of Lovelace's phone call, police already knew that a hit had been placed on Nieman. How did they know that? 

Frank Ostrowski told them.

You see, what they're also not telling you, is that Ostrowski had been talking with police regularly after he got out on bail. On Sept. 24 it just so happened he was trying to make a deal, to rat out his Montreal contacts if they dropped his charges. 

He was told he was too hot for anyone to trust. He changed the subject to…Robert Nieman. "Nieman," he said," is a dead man. He's a rat and he's dead. In a couple of days he'll be dead."

"I'm not the one doing it," he assured the detectives. "I told them that's not the way to do it."

"Bill Andrews. I hear he's next," Ostrowski said. "Well, that may be one of my bargaining things for my charges."

Those police immediately tried to find Robert Nieman and warn him. They did a terrible job. They visited his known haunts, talked to his acquaintances and then, you know, their shift was over and the next shift was short-handed, and nobody told Nieman he was on somebody's hit list. 

When they came back to work the next day, they found out Nieman was in hospital with a couple of bullets in the head, which would kill him eventually. The bullets, not the hospital.

For the complete take on Ostrowski, see the story we wrote in 2009. Yeah, almost nine years ago:

The Black Rod: Ostrowski has always held the key to unlocking his jail cell