FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has pledged to donate $100,000 to help the families of seven motorcyclists killed in a collision with a truck last month.
Kraft joined thousands of bikers from across the country outside of Gillette Stadium on Saturday for a memorial service organized by the Jarheads Motorcycle Club, to which the victims of the crash belonged.
Manny Ribeiro, the Jarheads president, says the event took two weeks to organize and would not have been possible without Kraft. Ribeiro says bikers from as far as Louisiana and Arizona rode in for the event to pay their respects.
George Loring, another Jarheads member, says the unwavering support the group has received since the June 21 crash is helping the group heal
Stephanie Morales, The Associated Press
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OTTAWA — Some victims of the federal government’s gay purge were so devastated by the experience that even decades later they needed the help of a therapist to fill out forms to receive financial compensation, says the lawyer who led a successful class action.
Several claimants were still so mistrustful of the government after being investigated or fired for their sexual orientation that they worried the compensation process was an elaborate ruse to elicit information that would be used to punish them again, said Doug Elliott, who had to coax eligible people to sign on.
A total of 718 people — fewer than Elliott had anticipated — filed the necessary paperwork for compensation by last month’s deadline under a historic settlement that was finalized in 2018.
It includes at least $50 million and up to $110 million in overall compensation, with eligible people each expected to receive between $5,000 and $175,000, depending on the gravity of their cases. Some have already received their cheques.
The settlement was a cornerstone of a sweeping federal apology delivered in November 2017 for decades of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.
Sexualities were viewed as ‘weakness’
Under policies that took root in the 1950s and continued into the early ’90s, federal agencies investigated, sanctioned and sometimes fired lesbian and gay members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP and the public service because they were deemed unsuitable.
Many who kept their jobs were demoted or overlooked for promotions or had security clearances rescinded.
The campaign was driven by the notion that the “character weakness” of homosexual employees would make them susceptible to blackmail in the tense climate of the Cold War.
“This thinking was prejudiced and flawed. And sadly, what resulted was nothing short of a witch-hunt,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in the apology in the House of Commons on behalf of the government.
The main problem was that people who were aware of the settlement were having tremendous psychological difficulties filing their claims.Doug Elliott, lawyer
When a judge approved the settlement in June 2018, Lt.-Col. Catherine Potts felt vindicated after the years of persecution she endured. “It’s truly a human-rights victory for all of us.”
The 718 claimants include 628 people who served in the Armed Forces, 78 public servants and 12 RCMP officers.
The group is disproportionately female, reflecting the fact considerable numbers of men died from AIDS and that men generally tend not to live as long as women do. The oldest claimant, who was kicked out of the Air Force in the early 1960s, is now 92.
Elliott had anticipated between 750 and 1,000 people would step forward.
However, some eligible candidates, including older people who were not active in the gay community, had not heard about the case.
These people are very damaged by their experience, and very mistrustful. Even the very well-adjusted ones live in a state of barely contained anxiety that something terrible is about to happen to them.Doug Elliott, lawyer
But there was a bigger obstacle.
“The main problem was that people who were aware of the settlement were having tremendous psychological difficulties filing their claims,” Elliott said in an interview.
“We had to go to some extraordinary effort to encourage people to file and to support them through the filing process. Some people had to sit down with their therapists and complete the form in therapy sessions … That was a reasonably common experience for our claimants.”
Many were wary of the entire process.
“It’s hard to overstate the level of paranoia. A lot of people felt that it was all a trick and a trap, and they were going to lay bare their souls to the government, and the government was going to refuse to pay them and was going to use the information against them somehow,” Elliott said.
“These people are very damaged by their experience, and very mistrustful. Even the very well-adjusted ones live in a state of barely contained anxiety that something terrible is about to happen to them, particularly in the employment context. A lot of them fear that they’re going to show up at work, and they’re going to be suddenly fired.”
Many lost their jobs at young ages and had not come out to family about their sexuality, making it very difficult to explain what had happened to them.
Most of those purged did manage to get back on their feet eventually, Elliott said. But many went through prolonged periods of unemployment and suffered mental-health problems, addiction or homelessness.
One former Mountie burned his red serge.
Some never recovered from being shunned by the country they’d once taken pride in serving, Elliott said. “They’ve gone from one precarious job to another or simply been unable to work at all, because they were so shattered by the experience that they basically became unemployable.”
Gatherings for survivors
The settlement includes millions of dollars for reconciliation and remembrance measures, including a national monument to be built in Ottawa, a Canadian Museum for Human Rights exhibition in Winnipeg and declassification of archival records documenting the dark chapter.
Social gatherings are also being organized so purge survivors can meet directors of the commemoration fund. At a recent event in Vancouver, Elliott thanked those present for their service to the country. A woman came up to him afterwards in tears.
“She said that that was the first time anyone had said that to her,” he recalled.
“I cannot tell you the number of class members who have said, ‘I can’t believe someone’s finally listening to me.’”
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HALIFAX — The RCMP chose not to disclose an investigator’s theories about other suspects to a wrongfully convicted Halifax man fighting to prove he was innocent of murder, federal documents revealed on Friday.
Not only that, but the Mounties digitally erased or destroyed most of this potential evidence — including the possibility a serial killer, Michael McGray, was a suspect, says the report.
The August 2014 federal report, released Friday by Nova Scotia Supreme Court, was a key to the release on bail of 63-year-old Glen Assoun almost five years ago.
By then, Assoun had spent almost 17 years in prison for his 1999 conviction in the killing of Brenda Way — whose throat was sliced on Nov. 12, 1995, in a Halifax back alley.
“There is a host of new information suggesting links between Michael McGray as well as other suspects, and the murder of Brenda Way,” Justice Department lawyer Mark Green wrote in the preliminary assessment.
He pointed to an analysis done in 2003 by former RCMP Const. Dave Moore using a police database system, referred to as ViCLAS, that led the analyst to believe McGray — who has been convicted of seven murders — was a suspect in the Way murder.
Asked for info in appeal
Green noted that Assoun’s lawyer in his unsuccessful 2006 appeal — Jerome Kennedy — had specifically asked for the Crown to disclose this type of information, but never received it.
It’s been 21 years, and it’s destroyed my life. The time gone is time I’ll never get back.Glen Assoun
Moore’s analysis also raised the prospect that a violent sexual offender, Avery Greenough, may have picked up Way in his vehicle on the night of the murder.
“Const. Moore certainly considered both McGray and Greenough as strong suspects in the Brenda Way murder,” wrote Green in his conclusion.
Outside court on Friday, Assoun said the revelations are startling.
“It’s been 21 years, and it’s destroyed my life. The time gone is time I’ll never get back … It affected me and my kids, and I can’t get back the time they took from me for something I didn’t do.”
An RCMP news release says the force did an internal investigation and concluded the files were deleted for “quality control purposes,” but the actions were “contrary to policy and shouldn’t have happened.” It says it was done without malicious intent.
Superiors should be ‘ashamed’: Moore
However, in an email on Friday, the now-retired Moore, who no longer lives in the province, says the actions of his superiors should be further examined.
“Those individuals in a position of power to do something failed miserably and should be ashamed of themselves and held accountable. They knew right from wrong.”
Green’s report was released in its entirety Friday after a provincial supreme court judge ruled in favour of a case launched by The Canadian Press, CBC and The Halifax Examiner.
Earlier this year, Justice Minister David Lametti declared there was reasonable basis to believe a miscarriage of justice had occurred and that “reliable and relevant information” was never provided to the defence.
Justice James Chipman declared Assoun innocent on March 1 after the Nova Scotia Crown dropped its case.
Assoun’s lawyers Phil Campbell and Sean MacDonald say with the release of the hundreds of page of documents, the public is finally learning the full reasons behind “a tragic loss to the administration of justice.”
“Glen’s lawyer and the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal were deliberately denied highly probative information, from an objective expert analyst,” said Campbell in an email.
“If the Court of Appeal had known in 2006 about the profiling of Michael McGray … it would never have upheld Glen’s conviction and life sentence.”
Assoun remained in custody for eight more years following the denial of his appeal.
The preliminary assessment says the RCMP superiors told Moore to stop working on the file, and two of his direct superiors told him to “stop wasting his time.”
He then brought his findings to the attention of Insp. Leo O’Brien, the head of the ViCLAS unit. Other documents in the file indicate O’Brien was aware of the request for disclosure by Assoun’s lawyer for the appeal case.
Officer’s job evaluation scores dropped after opposition
The senior officer told Moore it was the Mounties’ policy not to disclose information from the analytical system to defence counsel “since all of the information that the analysis was based on was otherwise available from other sources.”
Green wrote that Moore objected. He was later taken off the ViCLAS unit.
His job evaluations went from very positive in 2003, the year of his work on the file, to negative the following year.
In his response to his job evaluation, Moore wrote there was “no consideration given to the information or the fact that there was a possibility an innocent man was in prison.”
He continued that while he recognized there was “sensitivity” from the Halifax police — who were leading the investigation — “there was a legal responsibility to bring this information forward.”
Green says in his report that McGray told the RCMP, “I had nothing to do with it,” in an interview during the review of Assoun’s conviction.
Mr. Assoun is unable to work, his health is poor, he lives in near-penury, and the blame lies squarely with those who are responsible for the failings of the police and Crown from 1995 until today.Phil Campbell, lawyer
In his conclusions, Green says there are strong arguments that some of the evidence used for the conviction was now “discredited,” or “at the very least, called into question.”
He notes that in the initial year after Way’s murder, police had accepted Assoun’s alibi that he had stayed overnight with his friend, Isabel Morse, which was corroborated by her two housemates.
No physical evidence, at the time or since the 36-day trial in 1999, has tied Assoun to Way’s murder, though he had faced a prior charge of assaulting her.
One of the two key witnesses, 18-year-old Melissa Gazzard, told the jury she was attacked in an industrial park by a man who admitted he had killed Way.
She identified Assoun to police as her assailant in April 1998, after watching a television report of him being brought back from British Columbia to face charges.
Green says in his conclusion that “Gazzard has now identified McGray as her likely attacker,” rather than Assoun.
The report summarized fresh statements given in 2010 and 2011, where Gazzard says police were pressuring her to confirm Assoun as the culprit.
“Gazzard reiterated being picked up by the police and threatened with charges if she did not co-operate,” wrote Green in his summary of her recanting of her trial testimony.
Assoun’s lawyers say that had Moore’s evidence about McGray emerged, it might have allowed further questioning of her original story.
For example, the young woman had testified that even though it was winter at the time, the man who had cut and beaten her was wearing socks and sandals, footwear that was characteristic of McGray, according to Assoun’s lawyers.
Meanwhile, the report says there’s now evidence McGray was living within a few blocks of the murder scene.
Green also says Innocence Canada provided him with affidavits from two inmates stating that McGray had confessed to killing Way.
During Assoun’s failed appeal effort, the judges discounted the theories about McGray, saying there wasn’t enough evidence.
The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed Assoun’s application for leave to appeal on Sept. 14, 2006.
Campbell says the most frustrating part of Assoun’s wrongful conviction is that there were so many opportunities to bring an end to the process.
He says the time has come for governments to consider compensation, and to further probe why evidence wasn’t disclosed.
“Mr. Assoun is unable to work, his health is poor, he lives in near-penury, and the blame lies squarely with those who are responsible for the failings of the police and Crown from 1995 until today,” he wrote.
With Michael MacDonald in Halifax
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