Winnipeg police officer Sean Cassidy takes witness stand in trial
The Winnipeg police officer accused of allegedly altering information in a police database to get out of a $259 speeding ticket gave his side of the story Friday in court.
Patrol Sgt. Sean Cassidy has been charged with unauthorized use of a computer, fraud and obstruction of justice. He has pleaded not guilty.
In Manitoba's provincial court Friday, Cassidy – a 24-year veteran of the Winnipeg Police Service – told Judge Cindy Sholdice he had been working as supervisor of the photo radar unit in October 2019.
Among his duties, Cassidy testified he and his second-in-command at the time – Const. Raymond Howes – were responsible for adding licence plate numbers designated by the Winnipeg police garage to the special plates list – a list of police vehicles exempt from red light and photo radar tickets.
Cassidy told the court personal vehicles are not supposed to be on the list.
CASSIDY FLASHED BY RADAR WHILE OUT WITH UNIT, COURT HEARS
Cassidy testified on Oct. 1, 2019, he took some members of his unit out for a team-building breakfast to boost morale and check on some problematic red light intersections.
He said he drove the group in his personal van, as he was not authorized to drive a police vehicle because he wasn't carrying a firearm.
During the outing, Cassidy said they passed a photo radar van. Believing he might have been flashed, he said he turned around, pulled up to the vehicle and asked the driver – who told him he would be getting a ticket.
“I mentioned to the people in the van that I wanted to challenge this ticket. We talked about the fact that I was in my personal vehicle, but we were doing police duties," Cassidy said.
"I was only in my personal vehicle because I couldn’t drive a police car, and if I was in a police car I wouldn’t have been issued a ticket.”
CROWN CHALLENGES CASSIDY'S INTENTIONS
Back in the office later that day, Cassidy said he received an email requesting four plates be added to the special plates list in both the red light and photo radar databases.
Cassidy said two plates were not showing up when he tried adding the four plates into the databases.
“At that point I wanted to test the integrity of the system," Cassidy said.
He testified he put his own licence plate number into the databases a total of four times throughout the day to see if it would show up.
“Again for an integrity test to see if I was using the software properly and to see if my plate would go through," Cassidy said, adding he voided his licence plate number on the list after.
"Did you have any concern at that time given you had been flashed shortly before, that the entering of that plate at that time may have affected the ticket that you had received,” Defence Counsel Lisa LaBossiere asked.
“No, that didn’t even cross my mind at all. It would be impossible for me to have a conflict," Cassidy said, adding he didn't believe his ticket had been put into the system yet as he had only been flashed a little more than an hour earlier.
It was a statement challenged in cross-examination by Crown Prosecutor Brett Rach.
"I suggest you entered your plate… to avoid getting the ticket that you knew was going to be issued to you," Rach said.
"No, that is incorrect," Cassidy responded.
CASSIDY GIVES TESTIMONY OF CONVERSATION WITH FORMER CONSTABLE
Cassidy said Howes spoke with him that afternoon, saying an officer in the unit had approached a photo radar operator.
“I stopped him immediately and said, 'No, it was me'," Cassidy testified, adding they had a brief conversation about the ticket and his intention to fight it.
Cassidy told the court Howes came to his office the next day and said he was going home sick.
"Before he turned to leave, he looked at me and said something like, 'What were you thinking',” Cassidy said.
“He looked really upset.”
In previous testimony, Howes testified he had been given a document that day showing Cassidy's user account had entered his personal licence plate into the system.
On Oct. 3, Cassidy said while he was dropping old office equipment off at police headquarters and catching up with former colleagues, he was called into his inspector's office.
"They informed me that I was being suspended," Cassidy said.
He testified that months later he became aware the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba was investigating, and was criminally charged in early 2020.
The Crown and defence have now wrapped up their cases. Closing arguments in the trial are scheduled to begin in November.