VANCOUVER, B.C. - The federal government lawyer who has been representing the RCMP at the inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's death has stepped aside from her duties at the hearings, which were derailed last month after the surprising disclosure of an internal email.
Helen Roberts gave a tearful apology to Commissioner Thomas Braidwood last month after an email surfaced and appeared to contradict the testimony of the four officers who confronted Dziekanski at Vancouver's airport.
The email, between two senior Mounties, suggested the officers discussed using the Taser before arriving at the airport in the early morning of Oct. 14, 2007, even though the officers testified they did not.
The late disclosure prompted a chiding from Braidwood, who called it "appalling" and put the hearings on hold until September while the email's contents are investigated.
The Justice Department confirmed that the case was reassigned to another lawyer, Mitchell Taylor, on June 29 - 10 days after Roberts' apology.
Roberts wasn't available to explain why she stepped aside, but the Justice Department released a statement that said it was her decision.
"Ms. Roberts asked that she be allowed to withdraw from the file and that request was accepted," said the statement.
The statement noted that Roberts is still working for the Justice Department.
On June 19, when closing arguments were set to begin, Roberts told Braidwood the email was contained on a CD that the RCMP handed over in April, but government lawyers didn't look through its contents until the week before.
She called the omission an "oversight," while insisting the email's suggestion that the officers planned to use the Taser en route to the airport was the result of a misunderstanding.
In the email, Chief Supt. Dick Bent and RCMP Assistant Commissioner Al McIntyre were discussing their media strategy for the release of the now-infamous amateur video of the fatal confrontation.
Bent told McIntyre that the officer in charge of the investigation into Dziekanski's death - Supt. Wayne Rideout - told him the officers discussed their response on the way to the airport.
Roberts said the three officers were prepared to appear at the inquiry and suggested they would testify Bent was simply mistaken.
Inquiry lawyer Art Vertlieb said it is the RCMP, not Roberts, who must answer for not producing the email sooner.
"She got it (the CD) in April, the RCMP witnesses were on the stand in February - that document should have been produced (by the RCMP) before that," said Vertlieb. The RCMP couldn't be reached for comment.