HUNTER: The cop, the councillor and the mobsters

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It was supposed to be Hamilton Police Const. Paul Manning’s star turn, but instead the 10 people in attendance were treated to an empty chair.

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The former undercover cop was charged with eight counts of discreditable conduct under the province’s Police Service Act.

Among the allegations were that Manning had disseminated confidential police intelligence on Twitter and insinuated Hamilton City Councillor Sam Merulla was a de facto mobster aligned with the now obliterated and buried Musitano crime family. Merulla adamantly denies being involved with the mob.

Manning posted a chart on which the longtime city politician is called Target #10. His photo is grouped with now-deceased gangsters Pat “Fat Pat” Musitano and Angelo Musitano.

Pat Musitano (right), who was gunned down July 10, 2020, and his late brother Angelo (left) leave Hamilton court in January 1998.
Pat Musitano (right), who was gunned down July 10, 2020, and his late brother Angelo (left) leave Hamilton court in January 1998. Photo by File photo /Postmedia Network

Manning had hinted at the connections on Twitter. So it was fitting, Monday morning before the hearing, the British-born detective tweeted that, no, he would not be attending.

And he launched a broadside into the proceedings themselves, calling the participants “heavily conflicted and a stacked deck.”

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“In fact, reason enough for me to refuse to become involved in this charade,” Manning tweeted to his followers, adding that his hands would be tied.

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“A finding of guilt. Paid for and assured.”

In addition, Manning said medical professionals have advised him against taking part for the good of his health.

In 2005, the young officer was attached undercover to Project Scopa the wide-ranging probe of underworld activities in southern Ontario. Manning claimed that some high-ranking police and politicians were not pleased.

Coun. Sam Merulla said he has been “terrorized”.
Coun. Sam Merulla said he has been “terrorized”. Photo by HANDOUT /SAM MERULLA

In fact, he suggested in his morning missive that senior cops were trying to torpedo the operation, and he feared that he was being set up to be murdered.

He again targeted Merulla claiming that he was “firmly entrenched in business with individuals who were members of organized crime groups.”

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The tribunal heard from Hamilton Police professional standards, an HPS tech whiz, an intelligence officer (whose testimony was in camera) and the aggrieved Merulla, who filed the complaint about Manning to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD).

Most of it was as dreary as the taup-coloured walls in the Lancaster Room at the Marriott on Upper James St. The morning was largely concerned with the efforts made to get Manning to appear.

The discreditable conduct allegedly occurred from April to September 2019.

The aggrieved politician testified he first met Manning in 2005 when the cop rented an apartment from him. They had several other friendly interactions afterwards but nothing else.

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And Merulla admitted knowing organized crime figures as guys from the Hamilton neighbourhood where he grew up.

But he said around 2007, a whisper campaign began tarring him as a member of the underworld. One gangster suggested to the politician that “you should sue this guy.”

“It’s consumed my life for the past 16 years, it’s a hate crime,” Merulla said. “These people [on Twitter] are insinuating I’m in organized crime or a mobster. I grew up in the north end, these people were friends, acquaintances, there’s good, bad and indifferent.”

He added: “I’m retiring. This is not sustainable. It’s an attack on our democracy.”

Manning, he said, has also “terrorized” his family.

“If he was calling an Arab or a Muslim a terrorist, it would be a hate crime.”

The hearing continues Tuesday morning.

With or without Paul Manning, who instead is being tried in absentia.

bhunter@postmedia.com

@HunterTOSun

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