News ID: 270698
Published: 1010 GMT June 27, 2020

Toronto officer guilty of assault after blinding black man

Toronto officer guilty of assault after blinding black man
GETTY IMAGES

Michael Theriault (L) and his brother Christian

An off-duty Toronto police officer was convicted of assault after blinding a black man in an attack with a metal pipe four years ago.

Dafonte Miller, 19, was chased and attacked by Officer Michael Theriault and his brother Christian, BBC News reported.

The brawl ended with Miller badly injured and in handcuffs.

The victim, whose injuries were so severe his left eye had to be removed, said the officer should have been convicted of a more serious charge.

On Friday, Michael Theriault was convicted of assault, a lesser offense than his initial charge of aggravated assault. His brother Christian was found not guilty of aggravated assault.

Both brothers were also found not guilty of attempting to obstruct justice.

Cries of "Shame!" were heard outside the courthouse, where the verdict was delivered on a loudspeaker to a crowd of Miller's supporters, according to local media.

"While I am disappointed that both Michael and Christian Theriault were not convicted of all charges, I am grateful that Justice Di Luca found Michael Theriault guilty of assaulting me," Miller said in a press conference after the verdict.

He and his lawyer Julian Falconer are calling on a wider inquiry into police accountability, and why it took local authorities to report the incident to the police watchdog the Special Investigations Unit, which is supposed to investigate incidents where civilians are injured by police — on duty or off.

The four-hour ruling was broadcast on YouTube, where it had more than 20,000 views.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Joseph di Luca said he was aware of the case's high profile, but could not let that influence his verdict.

"I want to make one thing very clear: I am not saying that race has nothing to do with this case. Indeed, I am mindful of the need to carefully consider the racialized context from which this case arises," he said.

In Canadian law, aggravated assault is an assault that "wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant."

Justice Di Luca said that because it was not clear who had the pipe during the brawl where Miller was blinded, he cannot say without a reasonable doubt that the two brothers did not act in self-defense.

Miller denies ever striking anyone with the pipe. DNA evidence shows only his blood on the pipe. Michael Theriault had no significant injuries, and his brother suffered a mild concussion.

"By that stage, they were probably just beating on Mr. Miller. Probability, however, is not the test for a criminal case," the judge said.

 

 

 

   
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