The drug dealer who alleges he entered into a pay for protection scheme with Hamilton police officer Craig Ruthowsky simply made everything up to protect himself after his arrest, the cop’s lawyer said Monday as he began his cross examination.
The dealer — who cannot be identified because of a publication ban — returned to the witness box in a Toronto courtroom for the third day. Court has heard the dealer and his associates were collectively paying Ruthowsky $20,000 a month in exchange for police secrets.
Both Ruthowsky and the dealer were caught on police wiretaps as part of a massive Toronto police guns and gangs investigation called “Project Pharaoh.” It was after hearing that wiretap conversation while in custody, Ruthowsky’s lawyer Greg Lafontaine alleges, that the dealer became worried about other inmates finding out he was an informant.
“You made it up sir, to save your own skin,” Lafontaine said.
He told me if he had to take the stand he would lie for me, and that I wouldn’t go to jail.– Witness
“No,” the witness answered, while adamantly stating he was not an informant for the 17-year veteran of Hamilton police.
Ruthowsky, 44, has pleaded not guilty in Superior Court in Toronto to charges of bribery, attempting to obstruct justice, trafficking cocaine, criminal breach of trust, and conspiring to traffic marijuana.
Picking apart witness testimony
The animosity between Lafontaine and the witness was evident almost as soon as the lawyer began his cross-examination. Both talked over each other with their voices rising, so much so that the judge had to caution them to keep the temperature down.
Lafontaine also took aim at the dealer’s assertion that he and three other associates were collectively paying Ruthowsky $20,000 a month for protection. Ruthowsky, court heard, allegedly only knew the names of two of those four people — which meant the two other people couldn’t actually be protected, Lafontaine said.
The dealer, however, said that money coming from two of his suppliers was used to make sure “their investment was safe,” as he was moving so much of their cocaine.
“It’s very simple,” he said.
Lafontaine spent much of the afternoon challenging the witness on dates, times, and the names of people involved with the case. He also attempted to chip away at his general credibility.
“You’re a criminal, right sir?” Lafontaine said.
“Yes,” the dealer responded.
“Dealing in serious, dangerous, hard drugs?” Lafontaine then asked.
“Yup,” the dealer answered.
“You’re well aware those drugs can do incredible harm to people?” Lafontaine said.
“Yes,” the dealer said. “I was doing them myself, so I’d know.”
‘He would lie for me’
In court’s morning session, the dealer testified that Ruthowsky had said he was prepared to lie in court to protect him.
The jury previously heard that Ruthowsky and the dealer met in the summer of 2011, when Ruthowsky was one of the officers who took part in a drug raid on the dealer’s Caroline Street condo in downtown Hamilton.
The dealer said Monday that Ruthowsky promised to get him off from the charges stemming from that raid. He previously testified those charges were stayed.
“He told me that he was going to put pressure on the Crown to drop [the charges] and that he was going to say there was a mistake in some paperwork,” the dealer said.
“He told me if he had to take the stand he would lie for me, and that I wouldn’t go to jail.”
Searching for the ideal cutting agent
The dealer also testified Monday about a cutting agent for cocaine, which is one of the key aspects of the trial. Cutting agents are mixed in with cocaine to increase its volume, and therefore, maximize profits.
He said that back when his deal with Ruthowsky was in place, he was paying top dollar for a mystery chemical, and buying it through one of his suppliers. He said that Ruthowsky, at his request, took the mystery cutting agent for cocaine to a private lab to be chemically analyzed.
“I told him that I really needed it, and that if he could find out [what it was] for me, I’d make it worth his while,” he said, adding that he paid the cop somewhere between $10,000 to $20,000 for his trouble.
“Then I could just order it in bulk for a cheaper price. The stuff was legal to have, but because I didn’t know what it was I was paying a crazy amount for it.”
Ruthowsky, court has heard, took the chemical to a private lab to be tested and identified.
Armed with an identification of exactly what the chemical cutting agent was, the dealer was able to buy it wholesale, which let him turn a much greater profit.
“I made a lot more money,” he said. “I was even selling the cut by itself.”
The dealer said that in the fall of 2012, the relationship between the two men had soured — because Ruthowsky had been suspended from Hamilton police.
“[The deal] changed I believe when I saw that he was suspended in the news,” he said.
Ruthowsky, the dealer said, told him he couldn’t give him as much information when he wasn’t working as a police officer.
“I figured, why would I pay this guy if he’s not even a cop?”