B.C. Mountie goes from victim to suspect to victim after squad car sex
An RCMP officer who complained she was forced to have sex at work with her supervisor in an elite surveillance unit says she never should have ended up as a suspect in a criminal investigation.
Const. Susan Gastaldo thought she was being treated as a victim when she complained about what had allegedly happened at work with Staff Sgt. Travis Pearson.
But instead, documents show an investigator with the Vancouver Police concluded she was misleading them and started investigating her.
“I thought I’d seen almost everything with all that’s happened to me,” said Gastaldo in an interview with CTV News. “But this was shock upon shock."
Last month, the VPD backed down, sending her a letter that summarized their file review: labelling her a suspect should never have happened.
“Listing you as a complainant in a sexual assault investigation was more appropriate…you are no longer listed as a suspect in a public mischief investigation,” the letter, from Deputy Chief Constable Laurence Rankin reads.
The sexual contact between the two of them began in 2009, when Gastaldo was off on stress leave and Pearson was looking for officers to join “Special O,” the RCMP’s special surveillance unit, court documents say.
“My role was to gather information and evidence for larger scale investigations,” Gastaldo recalled.
“He reached across the console and grabbed me and just kissed me,” she said. “It was very shocking. It caught me off guard. I did not expect that.”
An RCMP code of conduct hearing six years ago docked Pearson ten days pay for having sex in a squad car. The investigation found that sexually charged texts were sent in both directions, and Pearson claimed in court filings that the pair engaged in “mutually consensual physical and sexual intimacy.”
But Gastaldo alleges in court documents that in May 2009, Pearson came to her house and “forcibly inflicted harmful and offensive sexual contact” on her. “Gastaldo denied her consent to this contact, and at least twice expressly demanded that (Pearson) stop, which demands he ignored.”
Gastaldo complained to the RCMP, which referred the case to Vancouver Police. The investigating officer interviewed Gastaldo.
But when Gastaldo reviewed the transcript of that interview, she was surprised to find statements in it that appeared to imply this was a consensual affair. She obtained the video recording and compared it with the transcript to find differences.
On the video, she says, “I saw his lack of regard, lack of compassion when he was my supervisor.”
Instead, the transcript says, “I saw his lack of regard, lack of compassion when he was my lover.”
Gastaldo’s lawyer, Walter Kosteckyj, says there are over 200 basic transcription errors, which gave the impression that Gastaldo was unreliable.
“There were just so many numerous mistakes that were made in this investigation,” he told CTV News. “The ramifications were that all of those were used against her.”
Gastaldo found out she was a suspect in the investigation when she tried to go on a field trip with her children and failed a criminal record check.
Vancouver police didn’t answer questions from CTV News about this story, saying only, “the VPD does not publicly provide information that could identify a victim, witness or suspect in an investigation.”
Pearson faces no criminal charges. The VPD said in their letter to Gastaldo that there was “insufficient evidence.”
Gastaldo is now suing the RCMP and Pearson for harassment at work. Thousands of other female officers have joined a class-action lawsuit.
In an interview in Ottawa with CTV News, new RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said she puts better treatment of women as a top priority.
“In a perfect world I’d like to eradicate harassment in our organization,” she said.