Officer denies making threat against couple in bitter land dispute

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One of three Cape Breton Regional Police officers subject to a Nova Scotia Police Review Board hearing testified Thursday in his own defence.

Const. Donald (D.W.) Reginato said he was "shocked" to learn a complaint had been made against him by Stephanie Bonner and Edward (Ted) O'Quinn.

Bonner bought property on Crestdale Drive in Sydney Forks in September 2011 and became embroiled in a nasty land dispute with their neighbours, Ralph and Elizabeth Campbell.

Reginato told the review board in Sydney he was called to the property on May 9, 2013 by the Campbells, who accused Bonner of placing an obstruction on their right of way — a shared driveway.

The officer said he did not see any obstruction, but the Campbells told him they were having difficulties with Bonner and O'Quinn. The Campbell's nephew, Const. John Campbell, arrived on the scene shortly after and reiterated the couple's concerns.

Officer denies making threat

Reginato testified he ran into his lawyer, David Iannetti, later that day in an elevator at the Sydney courthouse. In his testimony, he described Iannetti as a friend.

He said it was during a casual conversation that he learned Iannetti was also Bonner's lawyer. Bonner had been charged with mischief and criminal harassment in September 2012 in connection with the dispute with the Campbells.

She had also been served with a peace bond in April 2012.

Reginato testified he suggested Iannetti contact Bonner to let her know she could "get in trouble." He denied it was a threat, saying he simply gave the lawyer information to "calm things down."

He said he gave the Campbells the same advice because neighbour disputes rarely end well.

3 officers under review

Reginato, John Campbell and another officer, Supt. Walter Rutherford, are subject to the review board hearing. Rutherford oversaw the charges against Bonner.

The board is hearing appeals from Bonner and O'Quinn of disciplinary decisions made by the Cape Breton Regional Police Service.

The board will decide if any of the three officers breached the code of conduct and if so, decide on penalties. All three are accused of neglecting their duties.

Campbell was the only officer disciplined by the police service after it was determined he acted in a disorderly manner and was discourteous or uncivil to a member of the public.

The board said a reprimand letter was temporarily placed on Campbell's personnel file and he was required to take an ethics and accountability course. Campbell is appealing that discipline, which the board is hearing at the same time as the other complaints.

Constable said 'You're dead,' woman alleges

Bonner and O'Quinn were acquitted of mischief and criminal harassment following a trial in January 2014.

Both accuse John Campbell of orchestrating the case against them. Bonner has also accused Campbell of threatening her in July 2013.

She said the police officer looked her in the eye, pointed his finger at her and said, "You're dead."

Bonner's daughter was a witness and gave police a statement to that effect. However, evidence presented at Thursday's hearing showed that a year later, the daughter changed her story.

Daughter changed story

Const. Gary Fraser testified he answered a disturbance call at Bonner's house in September 2014 and was met in the yard by a very distraught woman.

He said the woman — who turned out to be Bonner's daughter — accused O'Quinn, her stepfather, of trying to kill her. She also alleged Bonner had made her lie about John Campbell making threats.

Bonner, who is representing herself at the police board hearing, was visibly upset by Fraser's testimony and accused the police of exploiting her daughter's mental health issues.

She testified her daughter has since recanted what she said to Fraser in the back of the police car.

The hearing has been adjourned until Monday.