News & Cases

Some notable cases and news about the firm:

NHL player acquitted after jury trial

After a seven-day jury trial, former Vancouver Canucks player Jake Virtanen was found not guilty of sexual assault. Brock Martland, QC was defence counsel, along with sole practitioner Colleen Elden. The high-profile trial took place only six months after the charge was laid. The case also involved a rare pre-trial appeal to the BC Court of Appeal — that Court agreed with the defence that a reporter’s communications with the complainant were not protected by any “journalistic source” privilege, and must be given to the defence for use at trial.
Former Vancouver Canuck found not guilty

Winner: top criminal law boutiques in Canada for 2022.

On February 2, 2022, Canadian Lawyer Magazine published its annual list of winners for the top criminal law boutiques in Canada. Martland & Saulnier was selected as one of only two British Columbia law firms on the list. Partners Brock Martland, QC, and Joseph Saulnier were interviewed by Canadian Lawyer Magazine about the most pressing issues in criminal law today.
Click the link for the full list of winners, as well as quotes from Brock and Joe.
Canadian Lawyer Magazine: top criminal law boutiques 2022

Client Acquitted in Drug Case due to Unlawful Strip Search

Trevor Martin’s client was acquitted of drug trafficking charges in youth court after a successful Charter challenge led to the exclusion of all evidence. Mr. Martin argued that his client’s rights were violated in the course of a strip search and that the evidence against him should not be admitted due to the seriousness of the police conduct. The Court agreed and, because the Crown had no evidence left to present, an acquittal was entered. Mr. Martin’s client and the police gave very different accounts of the strip search in their testimony. Video evidence had been destroyed, despite a request by defence to preserve it. Mr. Martin cross-examined several police officers and, at the end of the day, the Court preferred the client’s testimony over that of the police.

Sexual Assault Charges Withdrawn

Crown has withdrawn charges of: sexual assault, assault, unlawful confinement and threatening against Joe Saulnier’s client. The complainant was the client’s ex-girlfriend, who made allegations against him after a big argument and breakup. After she made her statement to police, the client was arrested at work and charged with these serious offences. The complainant unsuccessfully attempted to get the client to incriminate himself to her friend in a secret recording. Then further evidence was found, including dashcam footage and text messages, which contradicted the complainant’s story. Counsel presented some of this additional evidence to Crown, and made lengthy submissions about how it vindicated the client. Crown agreed, and all charges were withdrawn.

Clearing the name of my client Bahram Karimi

September 10, 2021

It is unusual for me to post statements or publish details of one of my client’s cases. Typically my clients want privacy, even when they have been acquitted or the charges dropped. This is for good reason, as additional publicity about criminal charges is rarely helpful, even after it is shown that my client is not guilty.

However, in the case of my client Bahram Karimi, I need to finally speak up and clear his name. 18 months ago, Karimi was indicted in the United States. Just four months later, the American prosecutors asked the judge to dismiss the charges, without Karimi ever setting foot in a courtroom. The prosecutors admitted to suppressing evidence that was helpful to the defence. The judge dismissed the indictment with prejudice, meaning my client cannot be prosecuted for this offence again. In other words, he was exonerated.

Despite this, online news reports have not been updated. They continue to suggest Karimi is facing charges. Further, those reports make false assumptions and suggest connections that do not now and have never had any basis in fact. As a result, Karimi continues to face suspicion and feel repercussions. His family is under suspicion. The false allegations, now withdrawn, still threaten to ruin my client’s life.

So below, I will attempt to tell his story. I hope we can fix some of the damage that has been done. I hope those who would jump to conclusions about Karimi will read this first.

Karimi was born and raised in Iran. He went to the University of Tehran and became an engineer. In 1994, he began working for Stratus, a large private Iranian construction company. With Stratus, Karimi managed major infrastructure projects all over the world. He built roads, railways, tunnels, bridges and dams.

In 2009 Karimi became the project manager of a major urban development project in Venezuela, with 7,000 residential units and related infrastructure. From the beginning, Karimi’s job was to manage the technical issues, the design and execution of the construction. His duties never involved the financing of the project, banking, or anything of that nature. Karimi was a salaried employee and had no personal financial interest in the project.

Karimi stopped working on the project in 2014. He and his family moved to Canada. In June 2016, FBI agents, accompanied by the RCMP, came to Karimi’s house unannounced, to ask questions about the “Venezuela project”. Although Karimi’s English was poor, he agreed to speak to the agents without an interpreter and without a lawyer. There was nothing to hide. He gave a statement and told investigators that he had not done anything illegal. He heard nothing further for two years.

In March 2018, Ali Sadr Hashemi was arrested in the United States in relation to the project. Sadr’s father owned Stratus. Sadr was indicted on six charges relating to evading US sanctions.

Karimi was contacted in Vancouver by the district attorneys prosecuting the Sadr case. The Sadr trial was set to begin in early 2020. The prosecutors wanted Karimi to travel to the U.S., sign a cooperation agreement and testify against Sadr. They threatened that Karimi could be indicted if he did not cooperate.

The prosecutors’ theory was that American sanctions against Iran somehow applied to the Venezuela project, and Sadr and others had tried to avoid those sanctions by misleading banks. They wanted Karimi to testify to that effect.

It always seemed odd, at least to me, that prosecutors would think American sanctions against Iran applied to a construction project by a private Iranian company doing business in Venezuela. This had nothing to do with the U.S. As I understood it, the basis for prosecutors to claim that American sanctions applied was that the project payments were quoted in American dollars, as is common in international deals. Therefore, although the payments were not paid into American banks, the electronic payments had to be cleared through online American banking platforms. I don’t pretend to be an expert in American sanctions against Iran. Neither is my client. But in my view, it is reasonable to believe that American sanctions against the nation of Iran would not apply to a private Iranian company doing business in Venezuela, just because the payments were quoted in American dollars. That was and is my client’s view. However, the prosecutors alleged Sadr and others knew sanctions would apply and so they took steps to hide the Iranian connection from the banks.

Eventually Karimi retained me. I spoke to the prosecutors. They offered Karimi immunity if he testified against Sadr. We did not take the immunity deal. Our position was Karimi did not need immunity because he had done nothing wrong. We did agree to do an interview. We had nothing to hide and wanted to answer any allegations. However, since American authorities were threatening to arrest my client, the interview was held at my office in Vancouver, Canada, not in New York.

So on January 22, 2020, two American prosecutors and two FBI agents traveled to Canada and, along with an RCMP officer, attended my office for a scheduled two-day interview with my client. It was audio-recorded. It quickly became clear that Karimi was not giving the American authorities what they wanted. They wanted him to say that the people involved in the project had known American sanctions applied. They wanted him to say that Sadr and others had taken steps to avoid those sanctions. Karimi did not say that. He did not make a statement against Sadr. He explained that he did not believe they were attempting to evade American sanctions. He did not believe American sanctions applied to the project.

This was not what the American prosecutors hoped to hear and they ended the meeting early. They returned to the U.S. and on January 31, 2020, Karimi was indicted.

The New York indictment contained three charges against my client: bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and making a false statement. The alleged falsehood was Karimi’s statement to prosecutors that he did not believe American sanctions applied to the project. They claimed this contradicted what he had told investigators in 2016, although they would not produce the 2016 interview transcript to prove it. In reality, Karimi was consistent in both statements: he believed they did nothing wrong. Their “evidence” for the fraud charges seemed to be that Karimi, as engineer and project manager, signed periodic invoices for the client. That was his job. Other than that though, Karimi had no part in the payments or control over banking issues. My client adamantly denied all the charges.

After the Indictment, I am not aware of any steps that were taken to extradite my client or otherwise commence court proceedings against him. However, the outstanding charges against Karimi prevented him from traveling from Canada to the U.S. to testify on behalf of the defence at the Sadr trial, had he chosen to do so, as he would have been arrested.

Again, I requested but never received a copy of my client’s statement from 2016. I also requested but never received a copy of the recording of my client’s statement from January 2020. Sadr’s lawyers also requested Karimi’s statements. They only received limited, and misleading, notes. They were given the impression that Karimi had given a statement that was unhelpful for Sadr. That was untrue. The prosecutors also told Sadr’s lawyers and the court that they had not received the recording of the January 2020 interview, and therefore it could not be shared with defence. However, the FBI in fact had that recording.

Sadr was tried in the spring of 2020. Prior to trial, his lawyers applied unsuccessfully to have the charges dismissed. At trial, Sadr testified in his own defence. He testified that he did not believe American sanctions applied to a private Iranian company or to Iranian citizens working outside of either the U.S. or Iran. In closing arguments before the jury, prosecutors called that defence absurd. On March 16, 2020, Sadr was convicted of five of six counts.

After conviction, Sadr brought motions for a new trial due to the suppressions of exculpatory evidence. Prior to those motions being heard, it was finally proven that prosecutors had hidden or attempted to bury a treasure trove of exculpatory evidence to keep it from Sadr’s defence lawyers. I understand that some of this evidence showed both the US banks and the US government (Office of Foreign Assets Control) were aware of the payments and never deemed them illegal or thought any action was warranted. The exculpatory evidence also included Karimi’s recorded January 2020 statement, which would have corroborated Sadr’s defence at trial. It confirmed that those working on the Venezuela project did not believe sanctions applied, something prosecutors had mocked.

Further, the new disclosure included Karimi’s 2016 interview, in which he initially told investigators that he thought they had not broken the law. The basis for charging Karimi for making a false statement was that his story had changed. But it had not. After all this exculpatory evidence came to light, the prosecutors no longer had a case.

On June 5, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New York filed for a nolle prosequi, dropping all charges against Sadr and Karimi. June 5, 2020 Court Filing
They said it would not be in the interests of justice to further prosecute either case. The judge demanded explanations from the prosecutors for the evidence suppression, and later issued a scathing opinion in which she described the evidence suppression and government misconduct: Judge Nathan’s Opinion re: Government Misconduct
On July 17, 2020, U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan took the extraordinary step of vacating Sadr’s guilty verdict. She then dismissed the indictment with prejudice, meaning he could not be prosecuted for this again: Sadr case dismissed
Then on September 16, 2020, Judge Nathan dismissed Karimi’s indictment as well, also with prejudice, ending the case permanently. Karimi case dismissed,final order
In July 2020, Sadr’s lawyers published an article in the New York Law Journal describing these extraordinary events in more detail: “The exoneration of our client Ali Sadr”: Article

In Canada, the exoneration of Bahram Karimi was not so public. I did not publish any articles because, as stated above, my client hoped to avoid any publicity. Unfortunately, this did not work.

Now, a year after the indictment was dismissed, a Google search of my client still brings up news stories from February 2020 that have not been updated. The stories still read as if Karimi is currently indicted with serious crimes in the U.S. Further, aside from not being updated, some stories also contain significant inaccuracies and unfounded speculation. One story wrongly implies Karimi was charged in relation to money laundering (he was not). There is speculation that Karimi had been hired by Stratus for his Canadian citizenship (which he did not have), so he could conceal banking relationships, and even that he was a dual Iranian-Canadian citizen (which he is not) who used his Canadian citizenship to finance Iranian operations (which he did not).

These suggestions are all wrong and, with respect, baseless.

Obviously all charges against Karimi were dismissed. But the allegations above were never even made by prosecutors. They don’t even make sense.

Although Karimi lives in Canada now, he is not a Canadian citizen. At the time of the project a decade ago, he was living in Venezuela and had no connection to Canada. He started work for Stratus more than two decades before even coming to Canada. There was never any suggestion, even by prosecutors, that these allegations involved Canadians or Canadian banks. Further, Karimi was not charged with money laundering. His indictment contained no such allegation.

As a result of these misleading suggestions, over the past year, Karimi has had to explain himself to Canadian banks multiple times, just to try and maintain his bank accounts and mortgage. Karimi and his family have continued to hit roadblocks with various government agencies. He has had to defend himself over and over, for accusations we believe were a sham from the start.

Karimi has no criminal record. He is an engineer who has worked hard for years to support his family. He has worked on projects all over the world. His children had to change schools and learn new languages every few years. Finally, Karimi came to Canada for a better life. Unfortunately, he still struggles to find it because of this case. Although he has been exonerated, the allegations continue to haunt him. That needs to change now. His name has been cleared.

Joseph J. Saulnier

Joe Saulnier’s client receives house arrest sentence for sexual assault

On July 5, 2021, Joe Saulnier’s client received a two-year conditional sentence, with house arrest, for charges of assault and sexual assault. Crown had asked for a two-year jail sentence.

At the time of the offence, the client had been experiencing a mental breakdown. Not long before the offence, he had tried to check himself into the psych ward at the hospital, recognizing that he had been having trouble controlling his violent thoughts. Unfortunately doctors did not admit him. They gave him an Ativan and sent him home. The violent sexual assault occurred not long after.

At sentencing, defence presented extensive materials, including medical records, as well as a “Gladue report” that detailed the extent of the intergenerational trauma experienced by the client and his family. The judge relied on that report in particular in finding that jail was not appropriate for this indigenous man in the exceptional circumstances of this case.

Crown invites acquittal after hearing defence case

On February 18, 2021, Trevor Martin’s client, a member of the RCMP, was found not guilty of sexual assault after a trial in Kelowna, BC. After the complainant and the client both testified, the Crown invited the Court to acquit. Cross-examination by Mr. Martin revealed frailties in the complainant’s evidence, while the Crown acknowledged there were no similar issues with the client’s testimony, and the Court agreed that the evidence did not support a finding of guilt.
News Story

Surrey Six Appeals

In October 2020, Brock Martland, Q.C. and Elliot Holzman were counsel in the Court of Appeal on an appeal from conviction for six counts of first-degree murder in the Surrey Six shootings. The appeal was eight days in duration and was webcast live to the public. Mr. Martland had been counsel during the trial. The Court reserved judgment and its decision is expected in the New Year.

Elliot Holzman appears in the Supreme Court of Canada

In November 2020, Elliot Holzman appeared as co-counsel for the Respondent in R. v. Langan, 2020 SCC 33. Langan was a Crown appeal, as of right, after the B.C. Court of Appeal set aside a sexual assault conviction on the basis that the trial judge improperly relied upon a prior consistent statement and erred in the credibility analysis. The Supreme Court restored the conviction in a 3-2 vote.

Criminal Impaired charges dropped against two clients

In the past month, criminal charges were dropped against two of Joe Saulnier’s clients charged with various drinking and driving related charges. Both cases had been set for trial this summer.

One client had been charged in relation to an alleged series of car accidents the police believed was caused by our client driving while being impaired by drugs. He was charged with dangerous driving, impaired driving, and refusal to provide a urine sample.

The second client was charged with impaired driving, refusal to provide a breath sample, and obstruction of justice after the police alleged he was found passed out in his car on a curb.

In both cases, the clients pleaded guilty to careless driving under the Motor Vehicle Act and received fines, but no driving prohibition and no criminal record.