Burnaby based officer in sex case says in court she is 'scared' for her children

Mountie sobs during proceedings, alleges threats of 'blackmail' by RCMP

Const. Susan Gastaldo sobbed while testifying about a "racially insensitive" poem concerning the RCMP's Air India investigation, saying a high-ranking Mountie used the document for "blackmail" and she is scared that her children could be harmed by her speaking about it.

In an RCMP conduct hearing full of strange disclosures and salacious details, Gastaldo and Staff-Sgt. Travis Pearson are accused of having sex in a police car during work hours and exchanging intimate messages via an RCMP Blackberry in 2009, while Gastaldo worked for Pearson in the "Special O" surveillance unit in and around Burnaby.

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Gastaldo has filed a civil suit in B.C. Supreme Court alleging that Pearson used his power and her vulnerable mental condition to sexually assault her at his home and coerce her into sexual relations.

Gastaldo has testified that Pearson - a former professional standards supervisor - seemed to manipulate superiors by collecting embarrassing information and ran a "snoop" network comprised of damaged RCMP members that he "protected."

"I don't feel safe here," Gastaldo said to adjudicators on Wednesday, bursting into tears as her lawyer nodded as if to calm her. "I am scared of what's going to happen next."

Gastaldo said when she returned to work for "Special O" in 2009, Pearson and a subordinate who can only be referred to as Cpl. P because of a publication ban, showed her a bundle of documents that Pearson said he could influence superiors with.

In the office of Cpl. P the mysterious papers were pushed across a desk towards Gastaldo, she testified, but when she picked them up, Cpl. P said "Don't touch that, I don't want fingerprints on that."

"Those papers could go out public at a moment's notice and it would (embarrass) the RCMP," Gastaldo said she was told by Pearson. "(Pearson) would never be in trouble with Headquarters . . . his problems would go away."

Gastaldo, who is diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, later testified she believes the RCMP is "out to get" her.

In an aggressive and sarcastic cross-examination, Pearson's counsel James Rowland tore into Gastaldo's claims. He attacked the rationality of her fears over the Air India poem.

Rowland said the poem does in fact exist, likely in a "dust bin" within the RCMP, and he suggested it contained "racially insensitive" words about the Air India victims, and that it had been filed in a harassment complaint involving Cpl. P, who is South Asian, and a now retired RCMP sergeant from "Special O."

Gastaldo said Rowland's characterization of the poem was true, but she never saw the other pages in the bundle of documents held by Pearson and Cpl. P.

Rowland asked why Gastaldo only brought up the Air India document as a "blackmail" threat from Pearson at the current hearing, instead of during investigations into her complaints in 2009.

"(Pearson) is in the same hot seat that you are in," Rowland said. "Don't you think if he had this magical get-out-of-jail-free card he would use it now?"

"I'm not making it up, I'm truly afraid," Gastaldo said.

Rowland also attacked Gastaldo's allegations that she was coerced and sexually assaulted by Pearson, suggesting that actions such as Gastaldo getting into Pearson's vehicle for sex in a parking lot behind a Wal-Mart, were part of a consensual affair.

"Is it a stretch to believe this relationship . . . you were having with the boss was convenient for you?" Rowland challenged. "It seems like it would take two to tango. Did he have a gun to your head?"

Gastaldo answered no, but "I didn't have a choice. I would get roped into sex or messaging with Travis."

Completing his cross-examination earlier in the day, RCMP conduct prosecutor Cpl. Gregory Rose walked Gastaldo through a number of her meetings with psychologists following her complaints, and questioned whether the doctors had shaped her understanding of her role in the relationship.

The hearing continues Thursday.

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