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Toronto lawyer acquitted of drug charges

|Written By Robert Todd

Veteran defence lawyer Edmund Schofield is free of drug traffickingcharges after a federal prosecutor chose not to present evidence at the74-year-old former FBI agent’s trial.

Edmund Schofield has been cleared of Don Jail drug charges.

“I think it’s essentially being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the lady guard misinterpreting what happened,” Schofield responded when asked how he - a highly respected lawyer of 40 years with an impeccable reputation - ended up facing accusations of smuggling drugs to an inmate at Toronto’s Don Jail.

“Absolutely everybody was shocked. It was shock and disbelief,” Brenda Lawson, Schofield’s lawyer, tells Law Times in describing the reaction to the charges. “Having had an unblemished career, to have these allegations that he was trafficking in marijuana and cocaine - no one believed it to be true.”

Schofield was arrested on March 27, 2007 after meeting the prisoner. A guard saw the inmate adjusting his pants during their discussion.

The likable lawyer spent the night in jail before being released the next morning on $10,000 bail from friend and lawyer David O’Connor.

“It was horrible,” Schofield, who was an FBI agent from 1960 to 1966 and Ontario prosecutor in the late 1960s, tells Law Times in an interview. “If that’s the way they treat prisoners, it’s totally wrong - on a cast iron bed with no blankets, no pillows. You’re sitting there freezing and just stressed out of your mind. It was my worst night in 74 years.”

He adds that the security guards at Old City Hall, where his bail hearing was held, “couldn’t have been nicer to me.”

Schofield was cleared of the two trafficking charges when Ottawa prosecutor Luc Boucher told Superior Court Justice Maureen Forestell the Crown would not show evidence at the trial.

“It’s good to have it over,” a visibly relieved Schofield told the judge.

Boucher said outside court there was no reasonable prospect of conviction after the evidence presented at a preliminary inquiry.

One of Schofield’s four daughters, Toronto psychiatrist Sally Schofield, says she believes there was contradictory testimony at the  preliminary inquiry.

Her father says the inmate testified he already had the drugs on him prior to their meeting. In fact, at the prelim the prisoner showed the judge how he was able to conceal drugs in his shorts during strip searches; he dropped his pants to reveal how he had managed to smuggle wadded papers inside a sock pouch in his underwear into court that day, despite two searches.

Boucher says he’s not aware of any investigation into the guards who testified at the preliminary inquiry.

Carol Schofield, Edmund’s wife of 49 years, suggests the Don Jail be retrofitted to prevent a similar incident. She says a pane of glass should separate lawyers from prisoners during interviews.

She says she was “very relieved that this is all over.” But not without “a few issues,” including that it took “17 months for this thing to be resolved.” She adds: “Maybe someone should do a big investigation of how drugs are getting into the Don Jail . . . Ed is the last person in the world who would ever take them in.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she says of when she heard of the charges right after she’d had hip replacement surgery. “I thought it had to be a mistake.”

In an interesting twist, Schofield was represented on the case by Lawson, his former legal assistant/law clerk. Lawson worked for him from 1983 to 1986, during which time she did everything from his typing and billings to appearing in court to set trial dates.

Lawson moved on to work as O’Connor’s law clerk, where she decided she wanted to become a lawyer. But being a single mother, she had to put her dream on hold.

Years later she began preparing for law school, and eventually got into Osgoode Hall Law School as a mature student in 2004 at age 48.

It was only the second time she had worn her gown when Lawson - called to the bar in June and now a law partner and wife of O’Connor - appeared in court to represent Schofield.

Lawson says it was rewarding to be able to help her former boss, whom she describes as someone who would do the same thing for anyone else.

“He’s just phenomenal. He’d give anybody the shirt off his back. He’s very kind and thoughtful,” says Lawson of Schofield.

She notes that O’Connor, who represented Schofield at the prelim, after a new surety stepped forward so that he could act in the case, asked one of the guards if he’d had any prior contact with the accused.

“He said, ‘Yes, as a matter of fact I had,’” she recalls. The witness went on to tell a story of how at one time he was guarding a hospitalized inmate represented by Schofield, who would visit the prisoner and bring him lunch and coffee.

“That’s just the kind of guy he is,” says Lawson.

Schofield says he has received support throughout the ordeal from people in all walks of the justice system. He says he got hugs and kind words from defence lawyers, prosecutors, justices of the peace, and court clerks after news of his acquittal circulated.

“It’s one way to find out who your friends are,” says Schofield. “And they’re all over the lot . . . Everybody that’s in the business has been totally supportive.”

Lawyers Edward and Brian Greenspan, who happened to be at the 361 University Ave. courthouse on an unrelated matter across the hall, shook hands with Schofield and congratulated him. The brothers said they offered themselves as character witnesses as soon as they heard of the charges.

Moments after the acquittal, Brian Greenspan called Schofield “a fine lawyer . . . and person of real integrity.”

Edward Greenspan agreed wholeheartedly, adding that as for visiting the Don Jail, if lawyers are “able to go in with more than one person you try to.”

Lawyer Michael O’Neail, who was asked by Schofield to call his daughter on the night of the arrest, also attended court to support his friend.

“They couldn’t have picked a worse guy as far as getting a conviction because his reputation is impeccable,” says O’Neail. “There was no doubt whatsoever of his innocence.”

Schofield, who spent the morning of his acquittal running between three courthouses to represent clients, planned to celebrate later that day with a vodka and tonic - after spending the afternoon in court representing another client.

When asked if he’ll go into the Don Jail again, Schofield pauses: “Probably not,” he says.

- With files from Gretchen Drummie

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