Remaining charges may be headed for Niagara after all

Former Pelham CAO Darren Ottaway had a court date in Cochrane, ON last week, to answer to various assault and sexual assault charges which are alleged to have occurred prior to 2019 when he was still working in Pelham. Ottaway was present in court via Zoom, but did not address the presiding judge, Justice Michel Labelle.

Ottaway is currently on leave from his position as the Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Cochrane, a community of 5000 located south of Moosonee in northeastern Ontario. Ottaway was hired as Pelham’s CAO in 2012, and was fired in 2019. Cochrane has appointed an acting CAO in his place while his legal situation unfolds.

Ottaway is charged with two assault charges, a sexual interference charge, and a sexual assault charge.

He was granted bail at his initial court appearance on January 24.

Justice Labelle threw a bit of a curveball at the proceedings when he announced to defense lawyer Paul Bragagnolo that he had heard the complainant in one of the assault charges, Ottaway’s step-son, Jay Jackson-Ottaway, in another case before him, involving a school disturbance. In that case, Jackson-Ottaway’s evidence was accepted as truthful by Labelle, and the accused was convicted. Given that Justice Labelle viewed Jackson-Ottaway as a credible witness in that case, Labelle asked Bragagnolo if he would prefer another judge, so as to eliminate any appearance of bias.

After conferring with his client, Bragagnolo reported to Labelle that indeed a different judge would be preferred.

“Absolutely,” responded Labelle. “I certainly understand your position, and for my benefit as well, it would be preferable that another judge hear this matter, because there’s always the issue of appearances, and the complainant as well as the accused perhaps thinking there was something in the back of my mind. So I think it’s just preferable to have another judge.”

Justice Ralph Carr is now slated to preside over Ottaway’s assault case.

“My estimation is it’s going to be a very quick trial, Your Honor,” said Bragagnolo, who informed the court that it was a one-witness case. Accordingly, Labelle dispensed with a confirmation hearing, and marked Ottaway for trial on October 4, Justice Carr presiding.

Labelle adjourned the other charges against Ottaway to July 12, to set a date for judicial pre-trial or a resolution. Bragagnolo informed the court that his intent was to have these charges against Ottaway brought back to the jurisdiction where they occurred — namely, Niagara.

All matters are set for October 4, but only the assault charge is scheduled for trial.

Chantal Chenier, the supervisor of court operations in Cochrane, told the Voice that it is not definite that any charges will be transferred to Niagara.