Asian with 57 pot plants victim of racial profiling, judge says
VANCOUVER — A B.C. judge has thrown out the evidence against an Asian man stopped with 57 marijuana plants in his trunk after ruling he had been a victim of racial profiling.
Zai Chong Huang was pulled over in January 2009 as he travelled along a road in 100 Mile House, B.C., about 430 kilometres northeast of Vancouver. A search of his truck turned up the potted plants, a timer, a bottle of liquid fertilizer and 150 empty plant pots, and Huang was charged with possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.
The officer, identified in court documents only as Const. Berze, said he'd pulled Huang over for swerving twice in his own lane. However, after reviewing circumstantial evidence, Provincial Court Judge Elizabeth Bayliff decided Berze did so only because of his own prejudice against Asian people.
The most damning evidence came in an interview between Berze and Huang on the night of the incident.
"You must be guilty as shit," Berze is quoted as saying in an interview transcript. "You're probably a gang member, aren't you? An Asian gang from Surrey, right? Well you're not saying anything so it must be true . . . . If I were the Canadian government I'd kick your ass right out of Canada is what I'd do.
"You come into my country and you start trafficking dope around. That's bullshit. My wife and kids live here in 100 Mile House, and pieces of shit like you are gonna come in. And if they are trafficking drugs in my hometown, I do not like it at all."
Huang, whose first language is Cantonese, only gave short replies indicating he did not understand.
Bayliff called the outburst a display of Berze's own anger.
"(Berze) demonstrates that he is personally very angry at a particular group of people of Asian extraction — those who are associated with organized crime, particularly the production and trafficking of marijuana and other drugs," she said. "He demonstrates enmity to that group of people. Further, he assumes that Mr. Huang is part of that group."
Around the same time Berze pulled Huang over, Berze's colleague, Const. Manseau, stopped another Asian man, whose vehicle also contained marijuana plants, a few kilometres behind. That man turned out to be Huang's twin brother, Zai Qing.
Manseau said he, too, pulled the man over for swerving in his lane. Bayliff noted the coincidence might not mean anything on its own, but "it is the whole of the evidence and all of the circumstances that must be considered."
She went on to say she found it "more probable than not" that Berze saw Huang, and perhaps his brother, at a gas station earlier on and followed Huang's vehicle, looking for a reason to pull it over.
Bayliff concluded by saying the principle issue is that it is a fundamental liberty for people to be able to move about the country freely without improper police interference.
"In my view, when I balance the public interest in seeing this prosecution proceed against the charter value at issue, I conclude that to admit evidence would bring the administration of justice into disrepute."
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