In September 2013, Joseph Aaron Harms began writing a blog, “Tortured by the Canadian government.” Much of his story is there. In eight months the site has garnered 16,000 views, rather impressive for a guy nobody’s ever heard of.
After being contacted about the case by Men’s Rights Edmonton, A Voice for Men reached out to Harms and began investigating his case. We now have the complete story and the documentation to go with it. This article is the first in a series that will bring his story to an even wider audience.
Joseph Harms’ nightmare began almost three years ago, and it has yet to end. On May 21, 2011 his fifteen year old common-law stepdaughter, Angel Roberts, called 911 and reported that he raped her. On October 9, 2013 Joseph was acquitted during his trial, after Angel confessed in court that it was all a lie. He is still facing very-much-related “unrelated” false charges of assaulting his girlfriend and “assaulting” police officers, who broke down his door without identifying themselves while threatening to kill him, during an unjustified and unlawful raid. He defended his home and his person. I’ve heard that the bear spray he used on them hurts like hell, and I hope it did.
The consequences of Angel Roberts’ false accusation are staggering. Joseph Harms was questioned and arrested, and he has since been subject to nonstop pressure and coercion to confess to anything at all, which might justify the initial charges and conveniently discredit him as well. He has lost his home, his family, his pets, his job, and everything else he has worked for in life. He was questioned and detained for several days without an attorney. He was denied much-needed medical attention. He was denied bail through an act of fraud, and then refused release when his bail was finally granted. He was physically and mentally abused while incarcerated (In a future article, medical records will show his condition the day he was released). He was denied contact with those who could help and support him, both while in remand and under the conditions of his bail. Most of his attorneys worked against his best interests, both actively and passively.
Police, crown prosecutors, and at least one of his own attorneys have lied and have mishandled exculpatory evidence. He and his friends have been victims of harassment by law enforcement, including the unlawful police raid that resulted in his currently-pending charges. His girlfriend was forced to relocate in order to avoid police pressure to falsely testify against him. His bail restrictions have prevented him from working in his field. Police even attempted to have his bail revoked, when he was away from his approved residence while he was in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt. Police have wantonly destroyed his personal property during unlawful searches. It took two and a half years to bring his first case to trial.
There is a long list of well documented Charter Rights (what Americans would call Constitutional Rights) violations against Joseph Harms. This is not a case of a man falling through the cracks. This is a case of a man being shoved into chasms. None of it would have happened had he done as instructed and pleaded guilty to a crime he didn’t commit. But he said “no.” He refused to shuffle obediently into his place in line for the Criminal Justice Meat Grinder, and he paid for it with everything he had, almost including his life. This article is an introductory overview of the entire case. Future articles will explore the events in greater detail and provide more documentation. Some of the linked documents are very long, and the redacted trial transcripts are difficult to read, but worth the trouble.
In her statement to RCMP Corporal Rick Dozois on May 21, 2011, Angel Roberts—who has a history of making false accusations—claimed that after an argument over chores that afternoon, Joseph sexually assaulted her (1). She also claimed that during the assault he picked her up bodily and set her down on her bed. This statement should have been the first clue that she was lying, because at that time Joseph was suffering from a herniated disk. One week prior to the alleged assault he injured his back while at work, and according to a medical report—ironically dated the day of the alleged attack—he would have been unable to lift a teenage girl:
Range of motion of lumbar spine is decreased in all ranges. In flexion by 39%; in extension by 80%;and left lateral flexion by 80% in right lateral flexion by 30%. Truncal rotation is reduced by 50%…Unable to lift greater than 20 pounds from waist height…(2)
Indeed in order to detain Joseph, the police had to remove his lumbar support brace, and it was noted that he was in excruciating pain throughout his interrogation – er – “interview.”
Corporal Dozois is one of the four investigating officers whose trial testimony was stricken because the judge declared them “less than credible” in a Voir Dire hearing during the trial (3, p.107-121). Another, RCMP officer Colin Folk, has been brought before the RCMP review board at least twice for excessive force. His actions were found to be justified by the same law enforcement organization that has been maliciously hounding Joseph Harms for three years. The Mounties were clearly determined to get their man and they probably thought they had an easy open-and-shut case. Harms was injured, not well educated, and of relatively low social standing; he appeared to be exactly the kind of man who could be easily railroaded by the criminal justice system. They were sorely mistaken in their assessment of Joseph Harms.
The first of several documented (4) violations of Harms’ Charter Rights was his detention without access to an attorney. He was held for a few days at the local jail, then transferred to Edmonton Remand Centre, all before he saw an attorney. He fired his first legal aid attorney on the spot when—without so much as looking at Joseph’s file—the man told him “You plead guilty and I will get you the best deal possible.” Police, prosecutors, Edmonton Remand Centre staff, and at least one defense attorney spent the next nine months lying and actively working to prevent his being granted bail. Unable to provide evidence that bail should not be granted, they mishandled exculpatory evidence and lied about its existence. Edmonton officials even refused to release him after his bail was granted. Throughout those months, he was denied medical attention, physically abused, and mentally tormented. Six weeks after Joseph’s release on bail, enough DNA evidence test results had come back to make a conviction nearly impossible, yet the prosecution still pursued the charges. His preliminary inquiry—scheduled for June 2012—was postponed until December 2012 because Angel Roberts decided not to show up, and instead went drinking with her friends.
While on bail he was forced to move from approved residence to approved residence five times. He was constantly followed and watched, and he and his new girlfriend frequently received mysterious and threatening text messages. In June of 2013, based on the patently false pretense for which evidence has yet to be shown, police unlawfully raided his apartment without identifying themselves as police. He defended himself from the attack with bear spray and was subsequently charged with thirty-three counts of various assaults against police officers and one count of assault against his girlfriend. Based on the latter charge—another false allegation and the pretence behind the raid—the courts forced a restraining order against him, separating them very much against her will. She had to relocate to escape pressure from police to falsely testify against Harms. Eleven of those charges are still pending, and that trial is scheduled for December 2014.
The trial for the false rape claim was scheduled for October 2013, and it played out rather like a circus, beginning with a Voir Dire hearing which resulted in the exclusion of testimony from RCMP officers Richard Dozois, Colin Folk, and two others, and continuing with the false accuser Angel Roberts wandering around the courthouse talking with other witnesses. The trial ended after Angel admitted on the stand to lying under oath. On October 9, 2013, the trial was concluded by acquittal.
— my confession first. When court started, I didn’t want to put Joseph in jail because I didn’t feel like deeming somebody for doing wrong. I just was hoping he would just stay away from me and my mother. Because I have known him since I was nine years old, and him and I never got along a lot, but when we did — I never had a father-figure in my life, and I didn’t want to put him in jail because — because he cared about me a lot. (trial transcript p.189)
After Angel Roberts made this statement, and after she had been shown to have changed her testimony several times, the prosecution decided to force an acquittal by not presenting any further evidence. How could the Crown possibly do otherwise? Five of the Crown’s key witnesses had been caught lying, including the accuser herself. Had there been physical evidence, perhaps the prosecution could have continued with minimal testimony from non-credible witnesses, but there was never a shred of physical evidence indicating the slightest guilt on the part of Joseph Harms. In fact the physical evidence also proved that Angel Roberts is a liar, and not a very bright one.
So why did the criminal justice system spend two and a half years (three and counting, if we include the charges resulting from police harassment of Joseph Harms) doing everything in its power to ruin an innocent man’s life? Was it perhaps to pad the stats and justify the employment of the people who’ve been persecuting him? Was there never any malicious intent, and these people are just that incompetent and stupid? Perhaps the Police and the court decided to punish him for having the audacity to say, “No” to his self-proclaimed “betters.”
Watch for further updates as we tell you more about this horror story–and the man who refused to kowtow and plead guilty to something he never did. And while you do, wonder how many other men’s lives have been ruined because they foolishly pled guilty to something they didn’t do, hoping to make it all go away.
4. Charter Notice 2 14 (PDF)
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