A judges’ secretary was fired from her job and pleaded responsible to obstruction of justice after she checked out a wiretap warrant — solely to search out out her personal fiancé was a goal in a homicide probe and their shared residence had been bugged.
The case of Samantha Lewis reveals not simply the lengths Ottawa prosecutors went to guard an investigation from contained in the partitions of the Elgin Avenue courthouse, but it surely additionally reveals new particulars a couple of chilly case murder probe. That probe has, thus far, not resulted in any homicide fees in opposition to a bunch of males detectives as soon as believed to be liable for two metropolis homicides.
Ottawa police murder detectives launched Mission Sport in February 2021, Crown prosecutor Simon Heeney advised an Ottawa courtroom on June 15 of this 12 months, in accordance with a court docket recording of that day’s proceedings obtained by CBC Information.
Heeney, an out-of-town prosecutor, was introduced in to strive the case due to “a number of the gamers” concerned, he advised court docket when he recognized himself.
2 homicides the ‘main focus’
The challenge was one targeted on historic unsolved homicides, with the “main deal with two homicides in 2018,” Heeney mentioned, each believed by police to have been dedicated by the identical group of individuals in Ottawa.
Ottawa police publicly introduced the challenge in April 2021 as a job drive reviewing almost two dozen unsolved homicides, simply 5 days after securing judicial authorization to intercept the non-public communications of a number of targets, together with a person Heeney recognized in court docket as Yasin Mohamed.
No fees in opposition to Mohamed have been laid in connection to the challenge.
In 2014, in an unrelated case, he was charged with human trafficking offences in Newmarket, Ont.
The permission by a decide to intercept non-public communications and breach what are in any other case the constitutionally held rights of any targets is simply good for 60 days.
Throughout these first 60 days, Heeney advised court docket, police decided that Samantha Lewis was Mohamed’s fiancée, and that she labored on the Superior Courtroom of Justice as a judicial secretary.
Defending the investigation
A wiretap can solely be licensed by a Superior Courtroom decide and with Lewis working instantly in these chambers, police and prosecutors needed to devise a option to defend their investigation.
Murder investigator Det. Chris Benson notified Crown legal professional Brian Holowka about Lewis’s employment, her relationship with a goal and that there was no data police had collected to recommend she was concerned in felony exercise, Heeney advised the court docket.
Holowka then met with Justice Calum Macleod, a regional senior decide of the superior court docket, “to mitigate any compromise to the investigation” and to forestall Lewis from being uncovered to the workings of the case, Heeney mentioned.
The devised plan noticed assistant Crown legal professional Carl Lem take Benson’s wire software to a particular judicial secretary who knew to take it on to Justice Robert Smith, bypassing any dealing with by Lewis.
In June 2021, police utilized for a second wire for one more 60 days. This time, police recognized Lewis as an “different recognized particular person” whose communications is likely to be intercepted by advantage of her relationship with the goal. It was granted.
On June 4, police made an “licensed covert entry” into the Muscari Avenue townhome shared by Lewis and Mohamed and put in a listening gadget.
A snag within the plans
One other 60 days was nearing completion when Justice Smith granted a 3rd wiretap authorization on July 30. However an error in that order meant police needed to repair a typo earlier than returning the amended types again to Smith, Heeney advised court docket.
Prosecutor Carl Lem wasn’t obtainable to hold out the plan to bypass Lewis. The paperwork got to a different prosecutor Mark Holmes, who was unaware of the problems within the case.
He went to judges’ chambers at 12:40 p.m. on Aug. 5, appeared for somebody on the counter, handed the envelope to an worker and requested she ship it to Justice Smith.
The worker was Samantha Lewis.
The difficulty, although, was that there have been two Justice Smiths on the Ottawa Superior Courtroom of Justice.
She wanted to know the place to ship the envelope.
“Surveillance video revealed that Ms. Lewis took the envelope and returned to her desk, the place she was noticed eradicating the contents of the envelope, then rapidly reviewing it after which putting contents again and strolling out of digital camera view the place she delivered it as meant.”
The video proof is evident that she considered the quilt sheet of the wire software for not more than 60 seconds — however when she did, she noticed her personal title and that of her fiancé.
Heeney known as the circumstances that led to her discovery of the police investigation “inadvertent and unintentional.”
‘You are getting me in bother’
It was what occurred subsequent that was the idea of the cost that led to her conviction.
“Ms. Lewis was noticed returning to her desk and texting messages on her mobile gadget,” Heeney mentioned.
However police had been intercepting a few of her communications. Screens within the Ottawa police wire room notified investigators that Lewis was sending messages that advised she had seen the authorization.
At 2:18 p.m. Mohamed was caught on the wire telling one other particular person whose id wasn’t revealed in court docket that Lewis messaged about studying one thing unhealthy at work and he wanted to be residence when she obtained there.
Following the disclosure of the wiretap, the communications intercepted … largely got here to an finish.– Simon Heeney, prosecutor
At 4:28 p.m., Lewis arrived residence from work after which instantly requested Mohamed the place his telephone was and advised him to show it off.
The house, although, was already bugged.
As they left the townhouse, the final phrases caught on tape: “What I am about to let you know, I should not know this data …”
A number of hours later, the audio probe heard them again in the home preventing, Heeney advised court docket.
“You are getting me in bother and ruining my life and ruining all the pieces I labored for,” Lewis advised her fiancé,
She advised him he was destroying her life and her household and to “pack your shit and go away.”
“I noticed ‘Yasin Mohamed’ and my coronary heart fell out of my head,” she mentioned on the audio recording.
“I noticed my title,” she mentioned, and the deal with on Muscari.
Police later intercepted Mohamed speaking with “another males,” informing them of the police investigation and the wire. Their identities weren’t revealed in court docket.
It was a really troublesome state of affairs and she or he reacted considerably impulsively.– Michael Spratt, defence lawyer
The identical month, after Lewis’s disclosure of the wiretap, police appealed to the general public for assist fixing chilly circumstances and highlighted solely the evidentiary shortcomings within the 2018 slayings of Tarek Dakhil and Yonis Barkhadle.
“Following the disclosure of the wiretap, the communications intercepted … largely got here to an finish,” Heeney mentioned.
“The homicides stay unsolved.”
Lewis did not talk any substantive elements of the investigation or counsel Mohamed to destroy proof, Heeney mentioned. However she additionally did not report what she had executed to her superiors.
Arrested and charged
Police knew what was occurring in actual time however arrested Lewis on Sept. 10, 2021 and launched her on a promise to look.
A CBC reporter’s request for the data — a public doc held by the court docket that lists fees and the allegations in opposition to an accused — in Lewis’s case that was despatched on April 29 of this 12 months went unanswered by court docket workers for nearly two months. Unprompted, workers despatched the requested data on June 27 — 12 days after Lewis pleaded responsible and the decision of the case.
I agree with what my lawyer has mentioned, the one factor I wish to say is that I am actually sorry.– Samantha Lewis
That decision noticed prosecutor Heeney and Lewis’s defence lawyer Michael Spratt collectively ask for a conditional discharge that may see Lewis spared a felony report after a 12 months of probation. A situation of her discharge is that she not search or keep employment within the justice sector.
Lewis, now 30, was first employed by the Ministry of the Lawyer Normal in 2018. She labored initially as a court docket reporter, taking notes and recording court docket proceedings. Lower than a 12 months later she grew to become a judicial secretary, passing a safety clearance and taking an oath of workplace that she wouldn’t disclose any of the data that got here to her information within the position. Lewis was working in judges’ chambers on the Superior Courtroom of Justice on the Ottawa courthouse within the spring and summer season of 2021.
“This kind of offence strikes proper on the core of the administration of justice however however you’ve got obtained a youthful offender with no felony report who arrives at this accidentally and sees her personal title,” Heeney mentioned.
Heeney mentioned the wiretap had made simply “modest progress” on the chilly circumstances by the point it had been compromised.
Spratt advised court docket his shopper had by no means been arrested and even pulled over and had led a pro-social life.
The particular person you thought you knew most likely wasn’t the particular person you knew.– Justice Michael March
“It was a really troublesome state of affairs and she or he reacted considerably impulsively,” Spratt mentioned.
“She does acknowledge … that she ought to have carried out herself otherwise and that she made an error in judgment.”
Lewis addressed court docket instantly: “I agree with what my lawyer has mentioned, the one factor I wish to say is that I am actually sorry.”
Ontario Courtroom Justice Michael March accepted Lewis’s plea and the joint submission on sentencing.
“I consider you whenever you specific your regret … You realized you had been in manner over your head. The particular person you thought you knew most likely wasn’t the particular person you knew,” he mentioned.
“What Mr. Mohamed’s stage of involvement was, if any, we’ll by no means know, most likely, at this stage. It was pure happenstance that you simply had been there to take that envelope from the Crown legal professional that day.”
Perhaps it is a life lesson you’ll carry with you to the grave.-Justice Michael March
March mentioned Lewis was probably shocked and alarmed, and her survival intuition kicked in.
“Human nature took over. And you probably did what you probably did. However you knew it was flawed. And it was felony.”
Lewis additionally made a $500 donation to a collaborative justice program. Heeney withdrew a single rely of breach of belief in opposition to Lewis after the plea.
“Perhaps it is a life lesson you’ll carry with you to the grave,” March advised her.
The Ministry of the Lawyer Normal declined to touch upon the case or clarify when Lewis was terminated.
“The ministry doesn’t touch upon human sources issues, as all employment issues regarding present or former workers are confidential,” in accordance with an announcement by a spokesperson.
The homicides of Tarek Dakhil and Yonis Barkhadle stay unsolved.