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RNC officer tells investigators he didn't do anything malicious in St. John's traffic stop

RNC Const. Joe Smyth sits with his wife in provincial court in St. John's on Tuesday.
RNC Const. Joe Smyth sits with his wife in provincial court in St. John's on Tuesday. - Rosie Mullaley

Const. Joe Smyth admits he made a mistake by issuing ticket to motorcyclist, but says there was nothing deceitful about it

He was stumped and struggled to find the words.

RNC Const. Joe Smyth couldn't explain why he issued a ticket to a motorcyclist for going through a red light when the video from the rider's Go-Pro, footage of which he had just watched, clearly showed the light was green.

In a recorded interview with investigators from the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) on Nov. 24, 2017 — played in provincial court in St. John's Tuesday during Smyth's trial — Smyth was asked by Lorne Pubants, "My question here is, did you write that red-light ticket maliciously? Did you write it in deceit?"

"Absolutely not," Smyth replied. "I can't even begin to fathom why I would do that, to bring my integrity into question over a red light. That killed me to see that."

Smyth said he would never stop anyone unless he was 100 per cent sure they had broken the law.

"I perceived it as a red light," Smyth, who was sitting next to his lawyer, Jerome Kennedy, told Pubants and lead investigator Andrew Johnson in the video. "That's clearly wrong.

"That tears the guts out of me to see that."

Smyth has been charged with one count of obstructing justice by issuing a traffic ticket while knowing no violation had occurred.

It stemmed from an incident on May 12, 2017, when Smyth stopped a motorcyclist, Sayed Husaini, who was riding an orange Honda Rypsol racing bike along Torbay Road. It matched the description of a motorcycle that had been spotted a month earlier speeding at over 200 km/h on the Outer Ring Road. Smyth had pursued that motorcycle at that time, but the rider sped off, leading Smyth to call off the chase. Several members of the public had complained about the motorcyclist, posting on social media.

In the video, investigators asked Smyth if he had anything in for Husaini to stop him and issue him four traffic tickets, which were later dismissed.

"Absolutely not," Smyth replied.

Husaini testified Monday that when Smyth stopped him, he was aggressive, rude and unprofessional. The 35-year-old recorded much of their conversation on his iPhone when he was pulled over. Smyth issued him summary offence traffic tickets for having a defective tire, improper passing, driving in between vehicles and running a red light.

"I can't even begin to fathom why I would do that, to bring my integrity into question over a red light. That killed me to see that."

— RNC Const. Joe Smyth

During much of his testimony, Husaini seemed argumentative with Kennedy and refused to answer many questions, triggering Kennedy to tell Judge Mike Madden that in his 30 years of practice, he had never encountered such a combative attitude toward basic questions, such as where he lived before coming to Canada in 2015.

When Johnson took the stand Tuesday, he said that in his many years with ASIRT, this was the first time he was involved in a case involving a traffic ticket. He agreed the agency, which investigates police officers' wrongdoing, normally deals with serious incidents, such as shootings or serious injury cases.

"Were you surprised to be assigned to this file, a malicious traffic ticket?" Kennedy asked.

Johnson said he was curious.

Kennedy pointed out ASIRT had been involving in the investigation of Don Dunphy's death on Easter Sunday in 2015, when Smyth fatally shot Dunphy, and Johnson admitted he recognized Smyth from that case after he was assigned to the traffic ticket case.

Kennedy asked Johnson if he was aware that the May 12 incident happened after the inquiry finished and before the final report had been issued.

"I knew it was close," Johnson said.

The inquiry report by Justice Leo Barry concluded that Smyth — who, as a member of then-premier Paul Davis's security staff at the time, went to Dunphy's house to follow up on a strongly worded Tweet from Dunphy regarding politicians — used appropriate force in self-defence when Dunphy threatened him with a rifle.

Smyth's obstruction of justice trial continues Wednesday morning.

Twitter: @TelyRosie

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