(THUNDER BAY, ON) – RITCHIE & COLISTRO NOT GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS
Appearing this afternoon, Tuesday February 19,2019 in Courtroom 206 are 47 year old FORTUNATO COLISTRO and 36 year old KEITH JOHN RITCHIE.
Federal Crown Attorney from Ottawa is Michael Jones and he’s appearing by video on the CourtCall program. Famed defence lawyer Joseph Wilkinson representing KEITH RITCHIE is here. FORTUNATO COLISTRO is representing himself.
LOCAL LAMESTREAM MEDIA DECIDED TO SHOW UP
Senior Superior Court Justice Bonnie Warkentin is presiding.
THE TRIAL BEGINS
Both men are arraigned on the charges.
The indictments are read. Both men are pleading NOT GUILTY to all charges.
Crown Attorney Jones is entering NO EVIDENCE.
Superior Court Justice Bonnie Warkentin finds both men NOT GUILTY.
Both men are relieved that this lengthy legal matter is over.
All property seized by police will now be returned to both accused.
NO FUTURE COURT DATES FOR KEITH RITCHIE OR FORTUNATO COLISTRO.
Both men indicate to the Inside Edition their happiness that this matter is over and state they just want to spend time with family.
PROJECT DOLPHIN HISTORY
In November 2018, The Ontario Court of Appeal granted an appeal to drug trafficking convictions against RITCHIE who was sentenced to 9 years and 6 months in prison. The Appeal Court ordered a new trial.
RITCHIE had been convicted in 2017 of one count each of trafficking cocaine and marijuana, one count each of conspiracy to traffic cocaine and marijuana, participating in or contributing to the activities of a criminal organization for the purpose of enhancing its ability to commit an indictable offence and committing an indictable offence for the benefit of or in association with a criminal organization.
PROJECT DOLPHIN INVESTIGATION
“THE THROWAWAY PHONE”
On June 16,2011 Thunder Bay police pulled over John Tsekouras. He pulled the battery out of his phone and threw it to the ground. This phone has been dubbed “THE THROWAWAY PHONE”. TBPS seized the Blackberry searching the device without a warrant. On January 16, 2012, the RCMP in Ottawa were able to uncover coded communication between Ritchie and Tsekouras, which resulted in subsequent search warrants for credit card account information and Ritchie’s residence.
JUSTICE TERRANCE PLATANA DECISION OVERTURNED.
“Apart from the contents of the Blackberry, there was very little information about (Ritchie), his involvement in the drug trafficking activities of the putative criminal organization, or his residence,” the decision reads. “The basis to believe that the appellant lived at the address searched was a one-time tip and a single incident where (Ritchie) was observed entering the residence in the early evening.”
I sat in the courtroom watching the original RITCHIE decision and i have never witnessed such a strange decision in my life like that. It was mind boggling.
RITCHIE was sentenced to 9 1/2 years in prison on April 5,2017. He spent almost a year in jail before receiving bail pending his Ontario Court of Appeal decision.
APPEAL COURT DECISION
The appeal court ruled that Superior Court Justice Terrance Platana erred by not granting Ritchie status to mount a Charter challenge against the admissibility of the messages on the Blackberry. Had he done that, RITCHIE would never have been convicted. The appeal court ordered a retrial.
RETRIAL AND THE FRUIT OF THE POISONED TREE.
A retrial by Judge and Jury was set for February 19,2019 scheduled to last 6 weeks. The Federal Crown argues in a motion to have some of the evidence allowed to go to the trial.
Justice Warkentin was not about to go against the Ontario Court of Appeal in her decision. Due to the warrantless search of the cellphone, all further evidence was essentially fruit of a poisonous tree and will NOT be allowed at trial. The Crown has no evidence against RITCHIE & COLISTRO