There are so many questions about what exactly happened on the morning of May 28, 1997, at that intersection on a pancake-flat stretch of road east of Shellbrook, Saskatchewan.
There are even more about what happened afterwards.
First though let’s establish a few things about the RCMP’s Shellbrook detachment in the 1990s.
Corporal Roy Johnson arrived at the Shellbrook RCMP detachment as its commander in late January 1992. Originally from Carlyle, Sask., Cpl. Johnson joined the RCMP “right out of high school”. I have no idea what kind of cop he was, though that smirk in the newspaper doesn’t do him any favors in the historical context.
According to the Shellbrook Chronicle’s May 8, 2000 edition, Johnson retired at the end of that month. He and his wife still own and operate a business in Shellbrook today.
Moe’s first DUI conviction was reported in the February 4, 1992 edition of the Shellbrook Chronicle, so I’m assuming Cpl. Johnson had not yet taken over the detachment.
Johnson would have been around, however, for the 1994 Moe-incident, which we only just learned about after this October 7, 2020 mid-election campaign story released by Press Progress.
One thing that puzzles me about the 1994 incident is the fact it took the Shellbrook RCMP detachment 13 months to investigate and then finally lay the charges.
The above document is a nightmare to read (it’s handwritten on the back of the charge document, which is bleeding through), but basically says Moe’s first court appearance on those charges was supposed to be on July 18, 1995, but he didn’t turn up, and something about a bench warrant. It also says that first hearing was put over until August 1, 1995; that day Moe did show up with his lawyer and elected to be tried by judge alone.
Notably, he also rejected an offer of an early trial date and waived his Charter delay right:
Section 11b of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that any individual charged with a criminal offence has the right to be tried within a reasonable amount of time. In 1997 most Charter delay cases were determined on the basis of R. v. Morin, which didn’t actually provide timeframes, but upheld that fourteen and a half months to trial was a reasonable amount of time.
Regardless, Moe waived that right. Until three months later, when on November 7, 1995, his lawyer was back in court asking for a do-over.
Now Moe wanted to argue that his Charter right to a speedy trial had been violated, and would be prepared to do so at the preliminary trial scheduled for December 5, 1995.
That date arrives, and Moe now has a new lawyer:
Because of that, the hearing was set over again, this time until March 12, 1996, nearly two years after the alleged offences took place.
But it didn’t happen, because on January 17, 1996 the Crown Prosecutor stayed the action against Moe.
A “stay” of proceedings just means putting a halt to a trial, but is not a cancellation or withdrawal of charges. Stayed charges remain in play, though in judicial purgatory.
Stays are typically entered for two reasons: a Charter stay, which suggests that the accused’s rights would be violated if a trial proceeded; or a Crown stay, which can be evoked for a number of reasons, but is typically applied when agreed to between the prosecutor and judge. We don’t know which stay was applied for Moe’s charge.
It’s also worth noting that Moe’s first charge was simply that he was impaired.
Likely the RCMP were unable to obtain a breath or blood sample putting him over .08 within the requisite three hours of the offence being committed. If they had, the charge would have been laid under 253(b):
Further, the Crown’s stay appears to have only applied to the first charge of driving while impaired:
The second count was filed under Section 252 of the Criminal Code:
What happened to the second charge, the one alleging Moe left the scene of that accident?
All we know for sure is Moe must have been mighty relieved, because a second DUI conviction, combined with the aggravating factor of leaving the scene, very easily could have landed him in jail.
Fast-forward to October 7, 2020, when Scott Moe is forced in front of the media, yet again, to admit to this incident in his past.
Well, sort of.
“I was not impaired and I did not leave the scene. I exchanged information with the owner of the other vehicle and I called in the accident to police.”– Scott Moe, October 7, 2020
Cool story, but that’s all it is. A story.
Moe’s version of events of what happened in 1994 is not supported by anything other than his word. I’m not saying he’s not telling the truth, but I also can’t say he is – and neither can you. There’s zero evidence either way.
“Because the charges were withdrawn, the incident has not been part of my public disclosure.”– Scott Moe, October 7, 2020
True, it definitely wasn’t part of the dumpster fire that has been Moe’s “public disclosure” since vying to become Saskatchewan’s Premier, but his assertion the charges were withdrawn were simply false. As established above, there is a significant difference between “withdrawn” charges and “stayed” charges.
Moe was not asked by reporters, that I can find, not then or since, why he chose to use the word “withdrawn” when he made that statement. And he should be asked, because if that wasn’t a mistake, it was a hell of an attempt to mislead Saskatchewan voters.
“But I am doing so now as I expect to be asked at some point in time, in particular in the environment and the atmosphere that we are operating in today.”– Scott Moe, October 7, 2020
Why lie about such a stupid detail? He didn’t “expect to be asked at some point” because he had already been asked, that very morning. Just hours before his media event, Press Progress had contacted Moe for comment on these 1994 charges. So, just like when he was ambushed by Gormley about killing Jo-Anne Balog, Moe knew he had no choice again but to come out with them publicly.
Further, his petulant reference to the “environment and the atmosphere we are operating in”, like he’s some kind of victim, is just precious. The “environment and atmosphere” he finds himself in was created by Moe, for himself, when he opted to run for the highest-profile job in the province with these personal grenades tucked away in his background. He’s not a victim of anything besides his own choices.
Speaking of tucked away, I think it would also be interesting to know whether Moe applied to have the files on the 1994 incident destroyed by the RCMP.
Whether the files exist today or not, it’s safe to assume that a year and a half after Moe’s 1994 charge or charges were stayed, on that late spring morning in 1997 when the Shellbrook RCMP pulled up on the grisly scene of the accident that killed Jo-Anne Balog, officers would have been well aware of Moe’s recent history.
The newly-emerging account of the only other living person involved in that accident, Steve Balog, does not match up to Moe’s version(s) of what happened that day.
I’m not here to tell you that means one thing or another, but I’m not going to ignore it, either. Scott Moe is the Premier of Saskatchewan for the next four years, which are going to be some of the hardest ever faced by the province.
I’d sure as hell like to trust he’s telling the truth when he opens his mouth, even when it’s a hard truth. Wouldn’t you?
I’ve grilled Steve Balog extensively on his memory of this accident and I believe his account, because as is very clear to anyone who has spent five minutes talking to him, he relives it every single day.
For example, he remembers the minutes, which must have felt like an eternity but he figures were only about three, between when his mom’s car came to rest and the first helper arrived. He remembers sitting helpless as his mom’s body convulsed, fighting to stay alive.
He distinctly remembers the first person who came to the car was a woman, who attempted to do what she could for Jo-Anne, trapped in the driver’s seat. He remembers the second person who came to the car, another woman, who helped guide him to get his mom’s seatbelt off.
Steve says as far as he is concerned, Moe never came near their vehicle. He has no memory of seeing or hearing even a male voice, until the ambulance arrived and hauled him out of the passenger’s window.
According to this 2017 CBC story, Moe says that when the accident happened, he was driving to his family’s farm in Shellbrook after having breakfast at his grandparents’ house. In this interview he claimed he does not “specifically recall” the accident, but also said it happened at around 6 a.m. CST, which it didn’t.
7:45AM jives with Steve’s recollection. The plan had been for him and Jo-Anne to leave at 7AM that morning for their trip to Saskatoon, but their car wouldn’t start and needed a boost. That took about a half hour, and they’d been on the road for around fifteen minutes when the accident happened outside Shellbrook.
In this Global News video, however, Moe, who told CBC he can’t “specifically recall” the accident, gets very specific. He says he went to his grandparents for breakfast at “about 5:30 in the morning”, finishing there “around six, or quarter after six maybe”.
I don’t understand why Moe told CBC News that he didn’t “specifically recall” the accident, then on the same day went on to “specifically recall” factually incorrect details in an interview for Global News.
This ninety minute discrepancy is a problem.
One thing Moe was extremely consistent, if not insistent on, was the thoroughness of the RCMP investigation that resulted in him getting… a traffic ticket, for driving without due care and attention and for failing to come to a complete stop.
In the Global News video, Moe insisted there was a “reconstruction” of the accident scene and a “full investigation” by RCMP, which determined that he “proceeded when it was unsafe”.
He told CBC there was a “re-enactment of the accident scene” and a “full investigation which determined he “crossed when it was unsafe” and “didn’t stop fully at the highway.”
He told CTV Regina that there was a “police investigation and a reconstruction of the scene”, determined that he had “crossed the highway when it was unsafe” and had “not come to a complete stop prior to crossing”.
However, he also shared another odd detail with CTV reporter Dale Hunter, which was that he “simply did not see the oncoming car because the sun was in his eyes.”
Come on. It was May 28th, falling within some of the longest days of the year in Saskatchewan. At 7:45AM the sun had been up for hours and Moe was traveling north for god’s sake.
Recapping Moe’s story, pieced together from his various interviews: at 6:15AM (wrong) he approached a busy highway intersection, didn’t come to a complete stop (inferring he had actually slowed down) then despite being unable to see oncoming traffic because of the sun, rolled into the intersection.
I guess we’re to presume he gently nudged the driver’s side of Jo-Anne’s car with the grill of his truck, which then itself slid slowly into the ditch sideways.
Did four-year-olds reconstruct this accident with Lego?
Because that’s really the only way I can justify it support the outcome of any investigation.
The speed and force with which Moe t-boned Balog’s car is, in my opinion, self-evident. Newton’s Second Law of Motion, for starters.
But Cpl Roy Johnson is still hanging around Shellbrook and can explain for himself how he figures the above crash scene was the result of Moe failing to come to a complete stop.
Had Roy Johnson actually done his job, he’d have a statement from Steve Balog in which he was adamant that he saw Moe’s truck approaching the intersection at a high rate of speed, and remembers, vividly, realizing Moe was not going to stop. Steve has now insisted publicly to almost every media outlet in the province that Moe’s truck did not slow down, nor pull onto the highway after an incomplete stop – he says Moe didn’t stop, at all.
Nobody has asked Moe why his story doesn’t match his victim’s, like, at all.
The impact was enough to kill Jo-Anne almost instantly, crushing her side of the car.
Since Steve learned the identity of the other driver and this nightmare blew up at the beginning of October, he has had people reach out to him with information on the crash.
Now, I’m not impressed with the witness we’re about to discuss, who has seemingly gone into hiding after unburdening his or her conscience while also actively attempting to discourage Steve from pursuing more answers from Moe.
I’ve removed this witness’s name, but have seen the messages in their entirety and verified the identity of this person, who appears to have been born, raised and still lives right in Shellbrook.
We’ll call her Anita.
Anita says she arrived on the scene of the accident before the RCMP.
Steve knows exactly who she is and remembers the instructions she gave him to release his mom’s seatbelt.
Anyone connected to Shellbrook and area knows Dr. Fung, who passed away last year after serving that area for over thirty years.
Steve then asks Anita if Moe was still there when she arrived on the scene. You can see her response.
By now she’s almost making excuses for Moe, which I suspect isn’t a new phenom in Shellbrook.
Whatever – “to the hospital”. We know Moe was uninjured, especially compared to the woman whose entire body he’d just destroyed.
In fact, we know he was uninjured and we know that Cpl Johnson knew this on the same day as the accident, because of what he told the Star Phoenix:
That clip ran in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix print edition (there was no digital in 1997) the day after the accident. That means Cpl. Johnson told the newsroom the day before, or on the same day as the accident, that Moe was uninjured and already out of hospital.
But then Anita has more to offer, interspersed between her tacky-as-shit, barely-literate lecturing of the guy looking for answers on the last minutes of his mom’s life
(Actually I’m just going to pause here and address Anita directly: go look in the mirror and ask yourself what kind of person lectures the victim of a deadly car accident about the motives of the other driver? What the f**k do you care whether Moe meant to do it or not? Why are you hiding now? Anita, you kind of make me sick.)
Anyway, Anita tells Steve Balog that Scott Moe, uninjured, had left the scene by the time she arrived, which was before the RCMP. But at least, unlike Steve, she gave a witness stateme- wait, never mind. She didn’t.
At this point I have to admit that I’m questioning what year Cpl. Roy Johnson actually left high school to join the RCMP, cause I feel like anyone with even a Grade 9 education would have done a better job of this “full investigation”.
In addition to not having at least one other witness’s statement, however (Anita’s), I’d really like to know how a “full investigation” happened without Steve.
What exactly was Moe’s “re-enactment” based on? Again, Steve Balog – the only other living witness involved in the accident – says he did not give a statement to the Shellbrook RCMP. In fact he says he didn’t even hear from the RCMP again after the few moments they spent with him on the day of the crash when he was in the hospital in Prince Albert.
Here’s why I wonder if it was relatively easy to make Steve and Jo-Anne Balog go away in 1997.
See, tucked away in their new rural hideaway in the middle of Nowhere, Saskatchewan, Jo-Anne Balog’s husband, Randy Silk, grew pot.
Born in 1951, Randy was the consummate British Columbia hippie – smoked a lot of weed, read a lot of books and generally wasn’t interested in The Establishment. By the mid-1990s, Randy decided that he was moving Jo-Anne Balog, and Steve if he wanted to go, from Edmonton to rural Saskatchewan… to grow his own stash.
Jo-Anne did not use marijuana and was not thrilled with the plan, but she complied. Remember, she had just been reunited with Steve, and was hopeful that her other son, Daniel, would soon one day be joining them too. She’d have both her boys back, living under one roof.
I’m not sure how many choices Jo-Anne Balog had at that point. She hadn’t had a life that was full of supports and stability. She desperately wanted a place for her family to be together and able to settle down. And in the late nineties, in the tiny hamlet of Crutwell, Saskatchewan, for a while it looked like Jo-Anne was going to get that.
Steve describes leading a relatively normal, somewhat communal, family-oriented, farming lifestyle over the course of 1996 and into 1997. They kept to themselves, however, for obvious reasons, and rarely went into Shellbrook.
It was a total thing in the 1990s – there were indoor grow ops hiding all over rural Saskatchewan. This story appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix only three weeks before Joanne died.
“Marijuana that’s grown in Canada is so good it’s being exported to the United States,” said Const. Joe Wand of the RCMP drug section in Edmonton. “It began strongly in British Columbia and it’s migrating east. Canadians have been growing marijuana indoors longer, so we’re better at it than the Americans.”Saskatoon Star Phoenix, May 5, 1997
In 2020, we make Netflix romcoms about rural grow ops.
In 1997, it was, well, illegal, but also a bit of an obsession of the RCMP.
Especially in Saskatchewan.
The “reefer”-cops were everywhere, using infrared technology to scan houses for intense heat readings, analyzing Sask Power bills for outlying usage, wiretapping like crazy and surveilling anything remotely suspicious. The consequences seemed disproportionate to other crimes.
“Brayford also questioned the severity of sentences for marijuana offences. He noted that in Saskatchewan, trafficking marijuana can net a longer sentence than molesting a child.”– Saskatchewan defense lawyer Mark Brayford questioned the tactics and intensity used in the late 1990s to ferret out marijuana growth in Saskatchewan. Saskatoon Star Phoenix, March 15, 1999.
One week after Jo-Anne Balog died, her widow, Randy, accepted her younger son Dan into his custody. This made Randy the only grownup left in charge of Steve’s little brother, with whom he had only just recently been reunited. For Steve, losing Randy to a grow-op investigation would very likely have meant losing Dan all over again. Surely you can empathize with an 18-year-old kid who knew, even on a subconscious level, that pursuing interaction with the cops, who had already told him he was not allowed to know the name of the driver who killed his mom, could mean trouble for Randy.
You can perhaps also empathize with Randy, who I said in a previous post seemed to give Steve and Dan the impression that he knew Moe’s identity. In addition to having his plants, when Jo-Anne died he was still serving out a sentence for simple possession, and may have not been super-excited about working with the cops, or encouraging Steve to pursue justice with the RCMP.
As I told you previously, about a year after the accident Randy and Dan moved to BC, and Steve moved into Prince Albert. Ultimately, we’ll never know the real reason why Randy Silk didn’t tell his stepsons who killed their mom, because Randy died in 2015. He meant a lot to his own loved ones, and after speaking to Dan, I think his stepdad taking him in still means the world to him. I will not impute or infer anything further about a dead man.
I do, however, have some questions about how much both the Shellbrook RCMP and the Moe family knew about Randy’s hobby and Jo-Anne’s marginalized background, and if so, how that impacted the extent to which justice was pursued, or not, for the loss of her life.
I’d also like the Shellbrook RCMP to answer for what the hell they did in the wake of this crash that led them to the incredulous conclusion that it was worthy of not more than a traffic ticket.
How did they conduct their “full investigation”, supposedly so exhaustively, and come up with that one? When did the Crown prosecutor review the file and agree no charges were necessary?
In 1997, as it is today, the law is abundantly clear – you stay at the scene of an accident and offer assistance. If you don’t and your victim dies, you’re going to jail, possibly for life.
I want to know if Moe stayed on that scene, or if he left Jo-Anne Balog dying in her car to rush to hospital for treatment of his non-existent injuries. At best, if that’s happened, he needs to own up to it and explain why he wouldn’t do it again today, and why we should believe him.
Where this sits today for Moe is precarious, to say the least. This blog post may come and go, but the stench around what he says happened on the morning of May 28, 1997, will not.
I’ve done my part here – now it’s time to for the media and NDP Opposition, who actually, you know, get paid and have lawyers and shit, to get their act together and do theirs.
Note – this post was reviewed for accuracy and approved for publication by Steve Balog.
I’m Tammy Robert. I’m a writer, but pay the bills consulting in media and public relations. Feel free to email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.