MANDEL: Trial opens for woman accused of killing Toronto lawyer in underground

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For days, prosecutors say, Anh Chiem lay in wait for the Toronto litigation lawyer she blamed for all her legal and financial troubles.

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“This is a case about money … and murder,” Crown attorney Corrie Langdon told the jury.

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Chiem, 64, is on trial for the hit-and-run death of Scott Rosen in an underground parking garage as he left work on Dec. 18, 2020. A white U-Haul pickup truck was captured on surveillance video accelerating quickly towards the 52-year-old father of two. After Rosen was struck and fell to the ground, the white pickup truck can be seen reversing and hitting him again before taking off.

Rosen died of catastrophic blunt force trauma at the scene.

“The damaged white U-Haul pickup truck was located approximately 90 minutes later with Scott Rosen’s DNA on the front bumper.” Langdon said. “It had been rented by Anh Chiem.”

The Crown told the 13-member jury that they’ll hear Chiem rented the same truck Dec. 15, 16 and 17 from a U-Haul rental agency on Dundas St. W. with witnesses seeing her sitting in the vehicle for hours across the street from the underground lot.

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The petite woman, her brown hair tinged with grey, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. She listened to the proceeding through a Vietnamese translator, while across the courtroom, the victim’s partner and one of his sons sat in the front row.

For years, court heard, Chiem and her mother Chau were embroiled in litigation with Chiem’s ex-son-in-law, Peter Voong, over a piece of property severed for development — 28 Elder Ave. in Etobicoke. Rosen represented Voong, who claimed she reneged on their oral agreement to sell the house he built on the land and share the proceeds.

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In 2019, a judge refused a motion by the Chiems to dismiss the lawsuit and ruled that a certificate of pending litigation should remain on the property. They were ordered to pay $37,000 in Voong’s legal costs and were denied an appeal in June 2019 with a further $3,500 in costs to pay.

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Chiem owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in other debts, the jury was told, and Rosen was also involved in representing a client trying to prevent her from declaring bankruptcy.

Chiem filed two unsuccessful complaints with the Law Society of Ontario against Rosen, Langdon said. The first, on Oct. 22, 2019, claimed the lawyer “slandered” her and interfered in her personal bankruptcy. She wanted sanctions, perhaps even his licence to practise, taken away.

After that investigation was closed without any disciplinary action, she filed another complaint on Oct. 31, 2020, this time accusing Rosen of “lawyer fraud and lawyer extortion.”

On Dec. 1, 2020, the LSO investigator advised Chiem that he’d closed this investigation as well. She responded, the jury heard, by telling him she was “totally disgusted” and “no wonder no one trusts the justice system.”

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Two weeks later, Langdon said, Chiem went to a U-Haul rental agency run out of Dignity Auto Repair and asked for a truck that would fit an underground garage.

Just before 5 p.m. on Dec. 15, 2020, Toronto Police Const. Pilar Johnson was responding to a vice-principal’s call about a suspicious white U-Haul pickup truck idling outside Eglinton Junior Public School at 223 Eglinton Ave. E. with its rear licence plate covered. She told Crown attorney Bev Richards that she came up beside the rental truck and her partner told the driver to pull over.

The driver, Johnson said, was short, wearing a dark parka, toque and face mask and appeared “agitated” when asked about the white duct tape covering the Arizona plate. The name on her licence?  “Anh Chiem,” the officer replied.

In video shown to the jury, Chiem could be heard arguing as she was issued a ticket, insisting she hadn’t concealed the plate and suggested it might have been done by the person who complained to police.

“Do you see Ms. Chiem here today?” Richards asked.

“Yes I do, right there,” Johnson said, pointing to the woman sitting between her two lawyers.

The trial continues.

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