Toronto officer guilty of assault after blinding black man
A duty officer from Toronto was convicted of assault after blinding a black man in a metal pipe attack four years ago.
Dafonte Miller, 19, was persecuted and attacked by officer Michael Theriault and his brother Christian.
The fight ended with Mr. Miller badly injured and handcuffed.
The victim, whose injuries were so severe that his left eye had to be removed, said the official should have been convicted of a more serious charge.
On Friday, Michael Theriault was convicted of assault, a less serious crime than his initial charge of assault. His brother Christian was not found guilty of serious physical injury.
Neither of the two brothers was found guilty of attempting to interfere with the judiciary.
Screams of "shame!" were heard outside the courthouse where the verdict was announced to a crowd of Mr. Miller’s supporters over a loudspeaker, according to local media.
"Although I am disappointed that both Michael and Christian Theriault were not convicted of all charges, I am grateful that Judge Di Luca found Michael Theriault guilty of attacking me," Miller said in a press conference after the verdict.
He and his lawyer Julian Falconer are calling for a more thorough investigation into police accountability and why local authorities had to report the incident to the Special Investigations Unit's security guard, who is charged with investigating incidents of police injuries to civilians - on duty or off.
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The four-hour verdict was broadcast on YouTube, where it had over 20,000 views.
Ontario Supreme Court judge Joseph Di Luca said he was aware of the high profile of the case but could not influence his judgment.
"I want to make one thing very clear: I'm not saying that race has nothing to do with this case. In fact, I am aware of the need to carefully consider the racist context that gives rise to this case," he said.
What happened to Dafonte Miller?
The then 24-year-old Michael Theriault saw on December 28, 2016, how Mr. Miller and his friends got into his truck parked in front of his parents' house in Oshawa, Ontario.
The court heard Michael running away in his socks at the end of December, chasing Mr. Miller in one direction while his 21-year-old brother Christian was chasing another young man in another direction.
Mr. Miller has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, although Judge Di Luca found his innocence "not credible".
All charges related to the alleged auto hopping - a term that describes minor thefts of unlocked vehicles - have been dropped.
Michael Theriault says he persecuted Mr. Miller because he wanted to arrest and arrest him, but he said he never identified himself as a policeman during the persecution or told Mr. Miller that he was arrested.
Justice Di Luca said during his decision: "To be honest, I would have expected the first thing out of Michael Theriault's mouth when he was chasing Mr. Miller while he was only wearing socks was: 'Stop, you are under arrest. I am one Police officer.'"
Michael Theriault (left) and his brother Christian
What is more likely, Justice Di Luca said, was that the Theriaults wanted to administer "street justice" and had little intention of arresting them.
On a Christian Theriault emergency call after beating Mr. Miller, you can hear the younger brother saying, "You chose the wrong cars."
After catching up with Mr. Miller, the two fought and Christian finally joined the fight. Then the fight turned into a "one-sided" fight, the judge noted.
Mr. Miller says the brothers hit, kicked, and hit him with an object that was probably a 1.3 m long metal pipe that was found at the scene.
An experienced pathologist says that it was probably a blow and not the pipe that blinded him.
When he bled, Mr. Miller rang a neighbor's door and asked him to call 911. Then Michael Theriault hit Mr. Miller in the face with a pipe, the court heard.
When the police arrived, Mr. Miller was held to the floor with Michael Theriault's knee on his back. The officers handcuffed Michael Theriault to detain Mr. Miller.
What is the difference between assault and serious assault?
According to Canadian law, a serious attack is an attack that "wounds, maim, distort, or endanger the life of the complainant".
Judge Di Luca said that since it was not clear who had the pipe during the fight in which Mr. Miller was blinded, he could not reasonably say that the two brothers had not acted in self-defense.
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Mr. Miller denies that he has ever hit anyone with the pipe. DNA evidence just shows his blood on the pipe. Michael Theriault had no significant injuries and his brother suffered a slight concussion.
"At the time, they were probably just beating Mr. Miller, but the likelihood is not a test for criminal proceedings," said the judge.
The judge found that this "razor-thin" justification for self-defense had evaporated when Michael Theriault hit Mr. Miller after asking the neighbor to call 911.
Because of the fact that he had acquitted the brothers - who had not mentioned the pipe to the police - of the disability of the judiciary, Justice Di Luca said that the trauma of the situation could have affected her memory, although he "worried about her omissions." "was.
He also said that when the police made additional statements two weeks after the police incident, they did not directly ask Christian Theriault if he or his brother had ever hit Mr. Miller with the pipe.
At that time, the police were still investigating Mr. Miller as a suspect.
What happens next?
Mark Saunders, Toronto police chief, said his "heart is going out" to Mr. Miller and his family.
In 2017, he asked the Waterloo police to investigate the circumstances of the attack and explain why neither the Oshawa police nor the Toronto police immediately reported Mr. Miller's injuries to the SIU.
This investigation was interrupted during criminal proceedings, but can be resumed, he says.
Michael Theriault, who is currently suspended for payment, will also face a professional disciplinary committee.
The Toronto Police Association, the union representing police officers, declined to comment because Michael Theriault has not yet been convicted.
He will be back on trial on July 15 to determine future plans for his hearing. He remains on bail.
here for Dafonte
Reply to @DesmondCole
We must never forget that Dafonte has suffered in the past three and a half years and how much his family has suffered
Please support this fundraiser to help Dafonte and his family continue their recovery
Dafonte we love you #HereForDafonte
Dafonte Miller organized by Wendy Lopez
At the end of 2016, a 19-year-old Toronto police officer and his brother attacked Dafonte Miller. Wendy Lopez needs your support for Dafonte Miller
here for Dafonte
This judgment shows how difficult it is for black people to make fair decisions in court. You cannot offer us justice. The abolition of the police AND our judicial systems will allow us to build true accountability systems
I know that hurts - let's hold on to each other today
8:52 p.m. - June 26, 2020
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The ruling has fueled calls to discharge the police. The Toronto City Council is currently debating a 10% budget cut for the police. The move is not supported by the city's mayor, John Tory, who proposes a number of reforms.
Mr. Miller, who wears a prosthetic eye and says he is still suffering from chronic pain due to his injuries, believes the verdict is not the end of the matter.
"I don't feel like I am losing. I feel like there is still a long way to go and we have only taken one step forward," he said.
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