Rom-con artist loses bid to stay conviction over frequent strip-searches
Shaun Rootenberg is pictured in a handout image. (Toronto Police Service)
TORONTO -- The conviction of a romance con artist who defrauded a woman of hundreds of thousands of dollars was upheld on Thursday despite his contention that frequent strip searches in detention had violated his rights.
In affirming last year's conviction of Shaun Rootenberg, the judge also rejected his arguments of prosecutorial misconduct related to late pre-trial disclosure of materials.
"The strip searches were conducted in compliance with the legislation and policies and procedures," Superior Court Justice Beth Allen said in her ruling. "I find there were no violations of the applicant's rights."
A sentencing hearing is now set for Feb. 10. The prosecutor would not say what punishment he would ask for Rootenberg, who had previously been sentenced in 2005 for fraud to three and a half years behind bars.
Rootenberg, who is in his 50s, had argued for a stay of proceedings because he had been subjected to hundreds of strip searches in "humiliating and unlawful conditions." He said they were done in the presence of other inmates and correctional officers, some of whom were female.
But Allen said Rootenberg, for example, opted to work in the detention centre kitchen despite knowing he would be strip searched before and after his shifts. She rejected his arguments that he never complained to authorities or the courts because he feared guards would see him as a troublemaker.
Allen also found no bad faith on the part of a previous prosecutor around the late disclosure issue.
Neither issue, she said, impacted his right to a fair trial that would warrant the extraordinary measure of staying the proceedings in light of his having committed the "serious crime" of taking advantage of the romantic affections of a woman.
Allen had found Rootenberg, of Thornhill, Ont., guilty of defrauding Victoria Smith out of $595,000. The divorced mother of two, whom he met on the e-Harmony dating site in July 2013, had given him the money to invest on her behalf. Instead, Allen found he had used her funds to buy himself a new BMW and pay off gambling debts, among other things.
Smith, who initially believed she was involved with a Shaun Rothberg, complained to police about 18 months later after discovering his real identity.
The judge had previously refused to declare a mistrial amid Rootenberg's arguments that she was biased. However, she allowed him to mount his now-unsuccessful constitutional challenge over his treatment while in custody and the disclosure issues.
The current case also initially involved another of Rootenberg's romantic partners, Dr. Kim Barker, who resigned in 2015 under a cloud as medical officer of health for the Algoma Public Health Unit in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Barker, who says Rootenberg preyed on her vulnerability, had hired him as Shaun Rothberg to be the unit's chief financial officer. The Crown did not proceed on those charges.
The Supreme Court of Canada recently refused to weigh in on Barker's years-long but ultimately unsuccessful fight to keep secret an embarrassing forensic report into Rootenberg's hiring. The health unit is expected to release the report within the next several weeks.
The Canadian Press first published this article on Jan. 9, 2020.