Cameron Ortis, the former RCMP intelligence official found guilty late last year of leaking secret information to police targets, will find out soon how long he’ll be behind bars.
A two-day sentencing hearing is set to begin this morning in Ottawa in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
After three days of deliberation, a 12-member jury found Ortis guilty on all six charges against him in November.
The Crown has suggested it will seek a sentence in the range of 20 years.
“For someone in Mr. Ortis’ position, nothing less than a very severe sentence would be appropriate,” Crown prosecutor Judy Kliewer told reporters after the guilty verdict.
Ortis’s lead lawyer, Mark Ertel, said he believes Ortis has served enough time waiting for his trial to begin “and there’s no basis to further incarcerate him.”
It will be up to Justice Robert Maranger to weigh both sides and reach a decision.
Last fall, Crown prosecutors successfully argued that Ortis used his position within the RCMP — leading a unit that had access to Canadian and allied intelligence — to leak sensitive information to police targets in early 2015.
The jury found Ortis guilty of leaking special operational information “without authority” to Phantom Secure CEO Vincent Ramos — who sold encrypted cellphones to organized crime members — and Salim Henareh and Muhammad Ashraf, two men police suspected of being agents of an international money-laundering network with ties to terrorists.
The 51-year-old also was found guilty of trying to leak information to Farzam Mehdizadeh. One RCMP witness told Ortis’s trial he believes Mehdizadeh worked with “the most important money launderers in the world.”
Ortis claimed during his trial that he was acting to protect Canada from a “grave threat” passed along by a foreign entity.
“I did not lose sight of my mission,” he told the jury. “The mission from the beginning of my career until the time I was arrested was to meet the threat to Canada.”
Ortis has served three years in prison already waiting for his trial to begin. He was granted bail in late 2022 but Maranger revoked his bail minutes after the verdict was delivered.
Defence said it plans to appeal
The seven-week trial was the first to test charges under the Security of Information Act in court.
National security concerns made it a highly unusual case; Kliewer compared it to “walking on eggshells the entire time.”
The court heard from nearly a dozen witnesses and received more than 500 pages of evidence. Some of the evidence was redacted and four witnesses, including Ortis, testified behind closed doors. Redacted transcripts of their testimony were later made public — sometimes days after they testified.
The defence has suggested it plans to appeal the verdict.
Ertel argued that forcing Ortis to defend himself without disclosing certain information was unfair.
“If you can’t say who gave you information or what the information was, and then you’re found guilty of acting without authority — what other rational conclusion could be drawn other than you defended yourself with one hand tied behind your back? That’s not our system of justice,” he said back in November.
Ortis was given ‘minimal supervision’: report
Soon after Ortis was arrested in September 2019, the RCMP conducted a security review that suggested the former intelligence official was able to float above suspicion.
“Having gained the explicit trust of his superiors, he was allowed the latitude to function with minimal supervision or oversight,” the RCMP security review team wrote in its June 2020 report, obtained by CBC News through an access to information request.
“The level of trust and confidence Ortis garnered [distracted] his supervisors from being able to see common Insider Threat warning signs that surfaced well in advance of Ortis’s arrest.
“In hindsight, these warning signs seem obvious.”
Following the verdict, the RCMP admitted that “mistakes were made.”
Chief Supt. Jeffrey Beaulac, the RCMP’s deputy chief security officer, said the police service has introduced new security measures since Ortis’s arrest. They include new training for Mounties on how to detect insider threats — the term used for employees who use their authorized access or understanding of an organization to cause harm.
The force also launched a security event reporting tool at the end of last year that allows RCMP staff to flag concerns anonymously, Beaulac said.