Combative divorce: CPS officer guilty of deceit, on trial for perjury connected to breakup

·4 min read
Const. Joe Barton is accused of lying under oath in connection with his family court case and is charged with three counts of perjury. The officer has a history of getting in trouble with the Calgary Police Service and is currently suspended. (Facebook - image credit)
Const. Joe Barton is accused of lying under oath in connection with his family court case and is charged with three counts of perjury. The officer has a history of getting in trouble with the Calgary Police Service and is currently suspended. (Facebook - image credit)

A Calgary police officer whose perjury trial began Wednesday was found guilty last week of five counts of professional misconduct under Alberta's Police Act, including deceit, CBC News has learned.

Const. Joe Barton is facing three criminal charges, accused of lying under oath during his divorce and custody court proceedings with his ex-wife.

Last week, following a hearing that took place earlier this year, the presiding officer ruled Barton is guilty of four counts of insubordination and one count of deceit.

CBC News has obtained a copy of the presiding officer's 66-page decision.

"I am concerned about the truthfulness of Constable Barton's testimony," wrote Paul Manuel.

"I do not find Constable Barton to be a credible witness."

Barton discloses ex's affair

Both the Criminal Code charges and Police Act charges are connected to Barton's years-long, combative divorce proceedings.

Before they wed, his ex-wife had a child with a married man.

The father of her child was paying her $2,400 per month in child support but his wife did not know about the affair, the child or the financial arrangement.

At the height of Barton's hostile divorce proceedings, he ran the names of the man and his wife using police databases. Included in the personal information he obtained, he learned about the vehicles driven by each and their licence plates.

In October 2019, Barton approached the wife as she sat in her car and told her about her husband's affair.

Barton lied about searches

The husband reported Barton's actions to the Calgary Police Service.

During the time he ran the searches, Barton said they were connected to an auto theft ring he'd been investigating and were done for work purposes.

"Constable Barton saw it as a means to create some form of leverage or inflict some form of harm or consequence to [his ex-wife]," wrote Manuel in his decision.

"His testimony on this point is not accepted. His actions prove his testimony on this point to be untruthful."

Barton's deceit conviction involves providing a statement to the officers who were investigating him, which "contained false or fabricated details."

Perjury trial

The criminal charges stem from two sworn affidavits and testimony given by Barton under oath at a court hearing that contradicted evidence given by an RCMP officer.

In February 2019, Barton's ex attempted to serve him with court documents that required him to be in court on March 8 during a visitation drop-off.

The pair got into an argument and the RCMP became involved, bringing the documents into Barton's home.

Although video evidence and testimony from two RCMP officers prove otherwise, Barton claimed he believed the Mounties left with the paperwork.

A video shows Barton told RCMP that his ex-wife was "not allowed" to serve him, the officer responded by saying, "Well, I can serve it to you; there you go, there's a copy."

Barton evasive in cross-examination

On March 8, Barton's ex-wife appeared in court, and when he did not show up, she was awarded $500 in costs by the judge.

But Barton pushed back, writing a letter to the judge claiming he'd never been served and took steps to have his ex-wife found in contempt of court.

In the following months, Barton swore in affidavits filed in court that he did not receive the documents.

When confronted with the audio of the RCMP officer telling Barton he'd been served, prosecutor Vince Pingitore asked the accused: "What did you think police served you with?

"No idea," said Barton.

"No idea at all?" asked Pingitore.

"I have no memory of that," Barton responded.

'He made an honest mistake'

Barton's lawyer, Cory Wilson, argued the couple had been to court approximately 60 times and the March 8 date was the only one Barton missed.

"He made an honest mistake," said Wilson.

The defence position is that Barton believed he hadn't been properly served and wanted the $500 in costs that had been awarded to his ex-wife reversed.

But Pingitore called Barton's testimony "disingenuous" and argued "he had motive to lie."

In his affidavits, Barton didn't say he was served improperly, as he argued in his testimony Wednesday. He said he wasn't served at all.

"He wanted [his ex-wife] to be found in contempt of court," said the prosecutor.

"He wanted to use the system against her in the same way he perceived she was using the system against him."

Provincial court Judge Harry Van Harten will make his ruling Thursday morning.

A disciplinary hearing for Barton's misconduct offences will take place next week.

In 2019, Barton was disciplined by CPS, losing a week's worth of pay for illegally searching his ex-wife's name using internal police databases.

Although he was initially off duty with pay, Barton was suspended without pay last December.

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