After two years of being tied up in the court system, Centennial College may have jumped the gun on Kefeli.
BY MATHIEU B. YUILL
Omar Kefeli, former part-time teacher at Centennial college was acquitted yesterday of trying to sell good grades to students.
The court case, which is two years old, began when students in Tool and Die Making program at Progress campus accused Kefeli of offering them high grades in their math class in exchange for a camera and $700.
Kefeli was charged in June 1998 with attempting to solicit secret commissions.
The defense claimed Kefeli was simply offering private tutoring classes to students who were doing poorly.
“The Crown’s argument rests on the fact that any teacher that provides tutoring would be engaging in a criminal act,” Judge Ferrier, who presided over the case, said when handing down the verdict. ‘This is clearly untrue and not the intent of the law.”
The axis of the case fell upon the reliability of the two students who brought forth the complaint, Jose Costello and Sebastiano Cashetto, whose testimony the judge found to be questionable at best.
‘The witness was unreliable,” Ferrier said of Cashetto.
The Crown entered a tape recording into evidence during the trial that Cashetto claimed was a recording of Kefeli telling him that for $700 he would go through the final exam with him and tell him the answers Cashetto didn’t know.
“The audio tape is so poor that it should not be a force to convict the accused,” the judge said.
The audio tape was recorded after a class when Cashetto gave Kefeli a drive to the Scarborough Town Centre. Cashetto said it showed Kefeli asking for money in exchange for grades while Keflie said it was just the two of them setting up private tutoring.
Kefeli now has the option of pursuing civil action against the college for lost wages and damage to his reputation as a teacher.
He hasn’t been able to find work at any other colleges or universities since the case began he said.
“I can’t believe the college would proceed in such a hasty way,” Kefeli said at the preliminary trial. “To go ahead with this prosecution without even asking me my side of the story was very unprofessional.”
However, he was unclear if he would pursue legal action, citing that he would like to talk with his lawyer first.
Yesterday, in the final arguments, Maureen Peckold, who represented the Crown in this case made a final plea to the judge based on the secret commissions section of the criminal code.
“Kefeli did not reveal to the school that he was receiving rewards from his students for the tutorials,” she said. “This puts it in the criminal context of secret commissions.”
Judge Ferrier agreed that Kefeli had possibly breached a contract with Centennial College, but disagreed with the Crown saying, “Surely this is not a criminal matter.”
Outside the courtroom, David Gorrell, lawyer for Kefeli pointed to the students, “Who the judge pretty much called liars,” for the distress caused to Kefeli.
“He didn’t want it broadcast that he may well have been breaching his contract by offering students private tutoring,” Gorrell said, clairming that to be the reason why Kefeli kept the tutoring idea secret. “But that possible breach certainly doesn’t fall under the section of the criminal code which defines secret commissions,”
The Crown had originally charged Kefeli with four counts of attempting to solicit secret commissions, however, the number dwindled down to just two counts by the time it had reached trial.
Cashetto and Castello are both employed in the Tool and Die industry currently. They were absent from the court yesterday.
Kefeli never actually tutored any students in the class because they brought the false claim that he was asking for money in exchange for high grades to the college before any private tutoring could begin.
— Files from Dave Carpenter