Steve Hinder was good in the witness box today. He is calm, confident and assured. But is he telling the truth?
To be clear, Anthony Pullano or Steve Hinder is lying under oath.
Hinder puts in a masterly performance. At one point, when talking about the effect of Pullano’s never ending stream of acidic tweets, he chokes up. He tells the Court:
“My wife constantly reminded me how much we enjoyed life before politics. I didn’t want to be out there being subjected to this.”
“It caused anxiety… I didn’t go out as much.”
I am looking at the jury as he says this, gauging their reaction.
Hinder has appeared in Court a thousand times in the course of his long 30 year police career. He knows what to say and how to say it. But despite being at the sharp end, dealing with criminality for decades he is still, touchingly, an innocent abroad. He is asked if he knows what a bagman is. He says he doesn’t know. I gasp.
The night of the alleged assault
On 20 March 2014 – the evening of the alleged assault on Pullano – Hinder went along to the Mansion Banqueting Hall for Jane Twinney’s acclamation. He tells us he really didn’t want to go but Frank Klees was stepping down as MPP for Newmarket-Aurora and he had a lot of respect for him. He wanted to be there for that and for Jane Twinney. He worked with her in her role as a councillor.
He tells the Court he walked into the main room. He saw John Abel – the then Deputy Mayor of Aurora – and walked over to say hello.
“There were lots of people standing around that general vicinity.”
“I reached out and shook Pullano’s hand and said:
“So who are you supporting tonight?”
“It was a simple comment like that. I shook Pullano’s hand first (with my right hand) then John Abel’s and Arshad Desai’s. It (all) happened in less than a minute.”
He is asked if he was upset that Pullano had been at the Ballard meeting the night before.
“I didn’t care.”
He is asked if he touched Pullano in the chest or poked him.“No.”
He says that after shaking hands he moves on and Pullano follows him and tells him not to worry who he is supporting. “Don (Don Walker, Chief Executive of Magna) and Joan (his wife) will know.”
Hinder is asked if he ever called Pullano a WOP. “Never.”
Did you silently mouth WOP? “No”
Do you hate WOPs? “No.”
Do you have concerns about Italian people moving into Aurora? “No.”
Do you ever use the term WOP?
“Certainly not publicly.”
Do you use it privately?
Hinder is asked about a remark he allegedly made about rolling up the tents and moving out of town if WOPs are elected.
“I don’t recall saying it. It is not in my nature.”
Whoa! This falls way short of an absolute denial. It is formulaic. I don’t call people of Italian heritage WOPs in public or in private. My brain isn’t wired that way. Hinder’s response is rehearsed.
Later, Pullano’s lawyer, William Reid, picks up on this when he asks Hinder if he is familiar with the law on perjury. Reid tells the Court the “I don’t recall” is a technique that is used to avoid the perjury trap. Hinder acknowledges the formulation he used could be seen that way.
Police training and the use of force
Hinder goes on to tell the Court that in his 30 year police career he used a “closed hand punch” only once.
He is asked if he has ever been in a fist fight and says yes. He is not asked how many fist fights he has been in.
Pullano’s lawyer’s cross examination is slow, meandering and laborious. There are no signposts to tell the jury where his questions are going. The jury’s eyes are glazing over.
Picking up a salary as a councillor while barred from elected office
We learn that Hinder stood for election to Aurora Council when he was a serving police officer in Toronto and when the Police Regulations in place at the time did not allow for this (they were subsequently changed).
Did you get a legal opinion? No.
You broke the law. Yes.
We hear in deadening detail about Hinder’s employment history with Magna and the Stronachs and how much he earned, his employee benefits and the bonuses he could get. We learn about the Stronach Consulating Group (a family trust) and the plans to release surplus lands in Aurora for development. Pullano’s lawyer, William Reid, is now taking us deep into the undergrowth and we all follow reluctantly.
We hear about Magna’s political contributions. We learn Hinder recommends who gets the money. He doesn’t make the decision. We are not told how many of Hinder’s recommendations are spiked and rejected.
All in all, a long painful day of cross examination trying to get behind Hinder’s solid pillar-of-the-community exterior.
Tomorrow he is back on the stand.