Disgraced (and now nearly fired) Ontario Police officer, Craig Ruthowsky, has been recently found guilty by a Toronto jury of bribery (for accepting protection money from drug dealers), attempting to obstruct justice, breach of trust, and drug trafficking. Ruthowsky also has similar charges pending in Hamilton for which he has yet to stand trial.
Ruthowsky was caught via wiretap disclosing police tactics to drug dealers amidst a police project investigation, and his bank account mysteriously became more flush during a crucial period of time (because of a pool installation business where he had bad book keeping habits and accepted only cash, he says). In essence, the jury found Ruthowsky guilty of accepting cash payments from drug dealers, in exchange for allowing the drug dealers to roam free and avoid arrest and continue trafficking various narcotics on our city streets.
The judge in Ruthowsky’s case, Justice Robert Clark, has not been a stranger to public scrutiny as an integral member of our justice system himself. In 2017, His Honour granted a mistrial in a case that he was presiding over because during the defence’s closing address to the jury, many present in the courtroom heard His Honour mutter the F-word under his breath. In 2010 and 2015, His Honour was accused of displaying obvious signs of bias by shaking his head or making facial expressions during trial or submissions. Needless to say, His Honour has a reputation for being an outspoken member of the Superior Court Bench.
“It’s a scandalous amount of money that this man used his badge to generate. He used his badge as an ATM, a cash machine,” His Honour hissed.
However, Ruthowsky’s case seemed to be the perfect fit for Justice Clark’s temperament. It resulted in a perfect storm of condemnation for the former officer who not only embarrassed himself and his fellow officers, but made a mockery of his duty to protect the public. Justice Clark was having none of it.
The defence asked His Honour to consider sentencing Ruthowsky to 3-4 years in the penitentiary. The Crown was asking for 10. In a surprising move, Justice Clark made it apparent that he would be giving Ruthowsky even more time behind bars than the Crown wanted, calling the positions of both counsel too light for the “repugnant” crimes that Ruthowsky was convicted of. “It doesn’t look good for you in terms of what you perhaps expected the outcome would be,” he bluntly stated.
In an effort to reduce his sentence as much as possible, Ruthowsky said to His Honour: “the only thing I want you to know is that this conviction, the jury decision was shocking, devastating. It’s destroyed my life. It’s destroyed the life of my kids.”
“Well sir, you’re the author of that misfortune. You destroyed your own life by taking bribes,” His Honour quipped back.
Justice Clarke ultimately sentenced Ruthowsky to 13 years behind bars, and ordered him to pay a $250, 000 fine. If he does not pay that fine within a year, Justice Clark ruled that 3 more years will be added on to his sentence. “It’s a scandalous amount of money that this man used his badge to generate. He used his badge as an ATM, a cash machine,” His Honour hissed.
In a surprising move, Justice Clark made it apparent that he would be giving Ruthowsky even more time behind bars than the Crown wanted, calling the positions of both counsel too light for the “repugnant” crimes that Ruthowsky was convicted of. In his judgment, Justice Clark called Ruthowsky “a man of profoundly flawed character.” He openly read told Ruthowsky that his criminality was “motivated by sheer, unbridled greed,” called him “arrogant.” He said that Ruthowsky presented as someone who felt “a supreme entitlement to do what he was doing,” and who “has absolutely no insight into the profoundly wrongful nature of his actions.” Justice Clark was said to have been glaring at Ruthowsky across the courtroom while reading his judgment.
To say that Ruthowsky endured a judicial tongue lashing is putting it mildly. But the importance and utter disdain that His Honour vocalized, as an important face of the justice system himself, is crucial in this time of political tension arising globally. The Rule of Law is a fundamental doctrine of democracy and a properly functioning justice system. However its value, worth, and durability have been brought under scrutiny amongst the political soap opera on display south of the border. His Honour’s clear and morally anchored comments served as a promising and comforting indication that at least in our country, no one is above the law.