Lee challenges search warrant
Wing Lee defence opens with challenge of search warrant

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Jul 08/98) - The admissibility of pornographic videotapes and photos seized during a police raid was the focus of the opening two days of the Wing Lee sex trial.

Defence lawyer Andrew Mahar and Lee himself (left) argued on Monday and Tuesday in NWT Supreme Court that police exceeded the authority of two warrants they used to search the 61-year-old Yellowknife poker baron's Gold Range Hotel rooms last year.

It was from that search for evidence of gambling and gun offences, and the 1,305 videotapes and hundreds of photos it uncovered, that the 24 sex and pornography charges Lee is facing flowed. Lee pleaded not guilty to all charges and has elected trial by judge alone.

The identities of the nine underaged girls named in the charges are protected by a publication ban.

"The first search warrant was for the game room only, not for my private bedroom," Lee told Justice John Vertes yesterday. "It was a violation of my constitutional rights and my human rights."

Lee noted he paid separate rent for each of the three rooms he had.

Responding to questions from Crown prosecutor Mark Scrivens, Lee admitted moving cards and cash from the gaming room to his bedroom for storage.

Under questioning by Mahar, police officers recounted the May 29 raid last year on three second-floor rooms Lee rented at the hotel. The search was the culmination of a two-month gambling investigation.

Six officers entered the room Lee used for gambling at 11:20 p.m. They arrested and searched Lee and two others who were playing cards for cash. Lee was carrying a loaded handgun in a fanny pack.

In February, Lee was sentenced to a month in jail for carrying the concealed 22-calibre pistol. At the same trial he was fined $1,500 for keeping a common gaming house.

Lead investigator Cpl. Malcolm Eaton testified that during the search someone tipped him off to another room "he should check out."

In the early morning hours police obtained a second search warrant for a storage room Lee kept, again looking for evidence of gambling and weapons offenses. They broke down the locked door to get in.

"There was a fair amount of, for lack of a better word, junk in the room," recalled Grundy. "I turned to the right when I walked in and saw the bottom liners of pop cases containing video tapes. They were stacked 10 to 12 high."

Near the videos was a box with hundreds of photos in it.

Mahar asked Eaton if he was surprised by the scope of the find.

"That's the understatement of the year," responded Eaton. "In many ways I wish they were never found."

Grundy recalled examining the box of photos.

"I picked up a photo book and started flipping through it," he recalled. "Inside the book were photos of nude girls in various poses. Some were older women but I think there was one I knew. I asked Cpl. (Anna Marie) Mallard if she knew this girl, and she said it was (one of the minors identified in the charges)."

A number of the tapes had handwritten labels with the name of the same girl on them. Beside those with her name and the names of others was a rating system of stars.

"We took one of the videos and put it in Mr. Lee's video machine in his room and saw Mr. Lee having sex with (the same girl in the photo)," recalled Grundy.

The two-hour search of the room also uncovered a number of guns stored in a tool chest.

Police seized approximately 30 of the home-made videos. It was not until later the same day that a third search warrant was sought and issued for evidence upon which the sex charges are based.