Globe and Mail

Special prosecutors tackle bizarre Klein case

ALANNA MITCHELL
Alberta Bureau
The Globe and Mail
Friday, January 7, 2000

Calgary -- The daughter of Alberta Premier Ralph Klein is to appear in court today to face charges of public mischief and obstruction of justice in a case so controversial it has been sent to the province's special prosecutions branch in Edmonton.

Angie Klein-Marcia, 34, who is the Premier's second child by his first wife and whose car licence plate reads Ralphette, is to make her first appearance in provincial court today in Drumheller on the two charges.

They stem from an incident several months ago in which Ms. Klein-Marcia made an assault complaint to police about her husband, Richard Marcia, 37.

She later changed her story and stands accused of providing false information to the police, special prosecutor Sheila Brown said in an interview yesterday.

Mr. Marcia has been jailed twice for assaulting Ms. Klein-Marcia. Now, he is in jail elsewhere in Alberta for theft, the police said yesterday.

As well, Mr. Marcia is the subject of a bigamy investigation for his marriage to Ms. Klein-Marcia.

Mr. Klein officiated at the marriage, which was held Oct. 4, 1997, in Calgary.
The Alberta Premier is entitled to perform civil marriage services by legislative authority and has conducted several high-profile ceremonies, including that of cabinet minister Pat Nelson.

The bizarre case is sensational on several fronts.

It has been kicked up the legal ladder to the special prosecutions branch because it involves the daughter of the Premier, special prosecutor Ms. Brown said yesterday. The branch was set up to deal with such things as organized crime, significant commercial or corporate crime or crimes against the government, according to the department's annual report.

Chris Levy, a law professor at the University of Calgary, said the special branch is also called in when a case is expected to attract a high degree of public scrutiny.

That implies that the case is expected to be a lightning rod for controversy. It may even lift the curtain on Mr. Klein's closely guarded private life, which has been a journalistic taboo here.

Ms. Klein-Marcia, who once ran a florist shop in Edmonton, is rarely interviewed about her famous father and could not be reached yesterday. Mr. Klein has given only one interview in the wake of the bigamy investigation against his son-in-law. In it, he told The Calgary Sun he was "shocked" at the turn of events and acknowledged that Mr. Marcia had not turned out to be the ideal son-in-law.

Mr. Klein refused to talk about the case yesterday. His spokesman Gordon Turtle said: "He's not discussing this in any aspect. He considers this a family matter."

Mr. Turtle could not say whether the Premier will be in court today with his daughter. Because it is a first appearance, Ms. Klein-Marcia may enter a plea, ask for the matter to be postponed, or ask the court to set a trial date.

But the case is bound to be controversial for other reasons, too. Charges of this nature against anyone who reports spousal abuse are exceedingly rare and much disputed. At issue is whether the threat of such obstruction charges discourages the victims of spousal abuse from going to police for protection in the first place.

That issue has become all the more pressing in Alberta as the mounting number of cases of women killed by their husbands in domestic dispute draws public attention.

Jennifer Koshan, a specialist in issues of domestic violence at the University of Calgary and a former Crown prosecutor, said that while she does not know the details of this case, she considers it inappropriate in general to treat the victims of domestic violence as offenders.

She pointed to a raft of reasons a victim of spousal abuse might recant a story.

For example, the victim might be threatened with violence if charges go ahead. Or the victim might face financial hardship if the accused goes to jail.

Ms. Koshan said a trend toward treating the victim as the offender is developing on a number of fronts in the new, zero-tolerance environment for spousal abuse, which is meant to protect victims. Many provinces, including Alberta, have a mandatory charging policy for domestic abuse. That means police must lay charges if domestic abuse is reported to them. If a victim subsequently refuses to testify, that person can be charged with contempt of court.

In some cases under the zero-tolerance regime, victims who are defending themselves against spousal abuse can be charged with assault, Ms. Koshan said.

Not only that, but Mr. Klein and other elected members of the governing Conservative Party have marketed themselves as vocal proponents of a harsh law-and-order agenda. Mr. Klein himself is fond of the saying: Do the crime, do the time.

A few years ago, Brian Evans, then justice minister, mused about the idea of reinstating chain gangs in Alberta. Eventually, the government abandoned that idea.

That context may affect the pressure to carry forward charges against the Premier's daughter, some observers said. Any Crown prosecutor would want to avoid being accused of favouritism.

"This one is a real difficult one for the police and the Crown because it's who it is," said Tony Doob, a criminologist at the University of Toronto. "It's obviously much more difficult to deal with it informally."

Ms. Brown, the special prosecutor, said yesterday her office had reviewed the evidence in the case and had decided it deserved to be taken forward through the courts.

Meanwhile, the bigamy investigation is going ahead, Drumheller RCMP Corporal Bruce Coates said yesterday. "We've got feelers out all over the country to fill in the blanks."

A decision about whether to lay charges in the case is expected within a few weeks, he said.

Copyright © 2000 Globe Information Services