A Hamilton cop standing trial on corruption charges says he continued to pursue a big drug bust of a major trafficker while on suspension to prove to his superiors they had made a mistake.
Craig Ruthowsky returned to the witness box in a Toronto courtroom Friday, as the trial into his misconduct allegations continues.
The 44-year-old is accused of selling police secrets and protection for $20,000 monthly payments from a cadre of drug dealers.
After spending days in the box refuting claims from those dealers that he was a cop on the take, Ruthowsky moved to yet another central issue in the trial — allegations that he tested a cocaine cutting agent at the behest of the Crown’s key witness.
Cutting agents are mixed in with cocaine to increase its volume, and therefore, maximize profits for the person selling it.
He admitted he did test a known drug dealer’s cocaine cutting agent — not to help out the dealer, but to make a run at his uncle, who he says is one of Ontario’s biggest cocaine kingpins.
I was angry that I was on suspension.– Craig Ruthowsky
He testified he wanted to show his bosses at Hamilton police that he never should have been suspended.
“I was angry that I was on suspension,” he said. “I want to get this guy, I want to get the big seizure.”
The dealer, who can’t be named because of a publication ban, previously testified that back when his deal with Ruthowsky was in place, he was paying top dollar for a mystery chemical from 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,” the dealer 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, a 17-year-veteran of Hamilton police, 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.
Chasing after a bigger fish
Ruthowsky testified Friday that yes, he did take the cutting agent to a private lab for tests. But he said he did so — while on suspension — because he was attempting to build a case against the dealer’s uncle, who the RCMP considered to be their “most prolific” drug trafficking target.
The dealer previously testified that he was not close with his uncle, and did no business with him. Ruthowsky said the dealer’s uncle considered him “bad for business,” because he was flashy, and would attract too much attention. But, Ruthowsky said, the dealer did buy his cocaine cut from him — a chemical called phenacetin.
The dealer, who Ruthowsky alleges was an informant of his (the dealer denies this), was reluctant to give up information on his uncle, he said. But at some point, something changed, and the dealer said he would try to help out, even if he wasn’t in his uncle’s “inner circle,” Ruthowsky testified.
Ruthowsky told the jury that he came up with the idea that he could shadow the dealer when he was buying the cutting agent from his uncle, then follow the uncle, searching for his safe house.
To get grounds for a search warrant, Ruthowsky testified, he would need to have the exact chemical composition of the drug.
“I would have to find out what was the cutting agent was, and proceed from there.”
Before that investigation could took place, Ruthowsky testified, he was suspended from Hamilton police, on July 4, 2012.
Ruthowsky told the jury that he spoke to other officers about why he was suspended, and understood it was police act charges for “discipline.” An officer “in the know” said his suspension would be short lived, Ruthowsky said.
‘I want to get the big seizure’
Later that month, Ruthowsky said, the dealer tipped him off to his uncle bringing in a large shipment of cocaine to Hamilton.
The normal channel for a police officer to get a substance tested, court has heard, was to send it to Health Canada. Ruthowsy testified that “his interpretation” was it would take two to three months for that to happen.
Toronto police officer Det. John Margetson previously testified that Health Canada could do a rush turnaround on tests in 48 hours for a police officer.
“I felt like I had a time constraint,” Ruthowsky said Friday.
During his questioning, Ruthowsky’s lawyer, Craig Lafontaine, asked if he got any payment from the dealer for getting the cut tested at a private lab.
“Absolutely not,” Ruthowsky said.