Judge tosses Peel cop’s gun case over racial profiling. It’s the fourth time a judge has rejected the officer’s evidence
For the fourth time in four years, Peel Regional Police Const. Darrell Corona has been rebuked by a judge in a case where criminal charges have been thrown out due to his interactions with a Black man.
In a September decision, Brampton Superior Court Justice David Harris excluded evidence of a loaded handgun Corona had seized, finding that the Peel officer had racially profiled the 18-year-old Black accused, infringed on his “human dignity” and violated his charter rights during an April 20, 2018 arrest at a Malton apartment unit. Without the evidence of the weapon, the case was later withdrawn.
According to the ruling, Corona and another officer had placed the man and several other people under “investigative detention” following a low-priority, non-criminal “unwanted person” call at the apartment building. Soon after, Corona searched the man and found a loaded handgun in a satchel he was carrying.
In his testimony, Corona said the teen had made an “obvious” move to conceal the satchel from view, justifying the weapons search. However, the other officer gave a contradictory account, saying he did not recall the teen making any clear move to hide the bag — a version of events that gave no cause for a search.
The accused man’s defence lawyer, Carlos Rippell, had argued that Corona’s conduct was tantamount to unreasonable search and seizure and arbitrary detention. In his decision, Harris agreed, noting that the search could not have been justified without Corona’s “deliberate and calculated” false account that the teen had moved to conceal the satchel.
“The evidence demonstrates that racial profiling played a substantial role in the conduct of the police leading to the discovery of the firearm,” the judge wrote. He added: “It is hard to imagine that evidence obtained at least in part based on racial profiling could ever survive and be admitted at trial.”
“Racial profiling is a particularly insidious form of racism. Zero tolerance and unequivocal denunciation is the only possible position to confront it.”
The Star asked Corona to respond to Harris’s decision in phone and email messages, but was redirected to Peel police media relations.
In a statement, the service said: “In light of the seriousness of the allegations, Peel police has commenced an internal investigation into this matter,” but declined to comment further pending conclusion of the investigation.
The service “takes allegations of charter breaches, and in particular, those involving allegations of systemic racism, of the utmost seriousness,” the statement said.
Harris noted that Corona’s conduct and credibility has been previously criticized by Ontario judges in at least three other cases.
In 2017, Superior Court Justice Casey Hill acquitted a Black man of drug charges after finding Corona had misled the court. The judge also criticized the officer for his note-taking.
In 2018, Ontario Court judge G. Paul Renwick tossed evidence of a loaded handgun found on an 18-year-old Black man following a traffic stop, finding that Corona’s improper questioning during a routine traffic stop had led to an unlawful search and arrest.
And, in 2019, Superior Court Justice James Stribopoulos tossed evidence of another seized handgun Corona had taken at a traffic stop of a Black man in what the judge called a “deliberate” violation of charter rights after the officer “carried out an investigative detention based on little more than a hunch.”
Corona was investigated but not charged in the 2019 case.
He did face Police Services Act charges over the 2018 case, however, those were later withdrawn with the stipulation that he undergo mediation with the accused. The accused chose not to participate.
In Harris’s decision, he notes that Corona also acknowledged in cross-examination another police disciplinary matter in which the charges were withdrawn in favour of mediation with the complainant. Again, the complainant declined to participate.
Although none of the three prior judges made an explicit finding of racial profiling, Harris found it to be very much part of the rulings in the 2018 and 2019 cases.
The judge separately remarked that he found it “disturbing” that Corona’s charges in the 2018 case would be withdrawn in favour of mediation with the accused.
In its statement to the Star, Peel police said, “the informal resolutions in both cases were predicated on the consent of the subject officer, the public complainant, and the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD).”
Peel police recently entered a legally binding arrangement with the Ontario Human Rights Commission aimed at cleaning up systemic racism and discrimination in the service.
In its statement, the service said it is treating the case as an opportunity to improve, and have been working with the commission to “ensure that there is appropriate monitoring and accountability to ensure all of our members’ actions are in compliance with the Charter as well as their obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code.”
Rippell, the lawyer representing the accused in the latest case, is now calling on Peel police to provide answers about disciplinary action taken against Corona.
“It’s particularly problematic when it appears to be a systemic problem with the same officer,” Rippell told the Star. “I hope there’s some accountability with respect to (Harris’s) decision.”
Toronto lawyer Alex Mamo, who represented the accused in two of the previous cases, said Corona’s repeated actions expose a broader systemic issue.
“Anti-black racism is so deeply embedded in our society, so when we see these cases of racial profiling by police officers, I think it’s just a reflection of that,” Mamo said.
Mamo added that although the public might be outraged by firearm evidence being thrown out of court, the community also needs to consider “how many times are these officers breaching peoples Charter rights, racially profiling an individual and illegally searching him and not finding anything, and nothing comes of it.”Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. Reach him on email: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpicJOIN THE CONVERSATION Q:
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