Verdict today in case of Toronto cop, brother accused of beating Dafonte Miller

A Toronto police officer and his brother who are accused of brutally beating a young Black man more than three years ago are expected to learn their fate today.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Joseph Di Luca is set to deliver his ruling in the case of Const. Michael Theriault and his brother Christian by videoconference this morning.

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The Theriaults have pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault and obstruction of justice in relation to the Dec. 28, 2016, incident and its aftermath.

The judge-alone trial has heard Michael Theriault was off duty at the time.

Prosecutors allege the brothers chased Miller in the early hours of the morning, cornering the then-19-year-old between two homes in Whitby, Ont. and beating him so badly with a pipe that his left eye burst.

Defence lawyers have argued the brothers caught Miller and his friends breaking into a vehicle and acted out of self-defence, alleging Miller was the one wielding a pipe.

In their closing statements, lawyers for the Theriaults argued that Miller lied on the stand when he denied breaking into cars that night and, as a result, his testimony is tainted.

Prosecutors, however, said the brothers were not justified in chasing the young man and grievously injuring him, regardless of whether he was breaking into cars at the time.

They also argued that if Miller did, in fact, lie about the events leading up to the encounter, that would be understandable given that he was the one handcuffed and arrested that night even as he lay bleeding on the ground.

Miller, now 22, testified before the judge-alone trial last fall, and denied stealing from cars that night.

He told the court he was out walking with two friends when the Theriaults started questioning them about why they were in the area. He said the brothers began chasing him when he and his friends walked away.

Miller said he didn't have a chance to fight back, and only recalled seeing Michael Theriault with the pipe.

His lawyers have alleged outside court that race played a role in the attack. The case has also spurred protests by members of Black Lives Matter and other anti-racism activists.

Michael Theriault, who testified last, admitted to hitting Miller but said he only did so with his fists.

He said he was acting out of self-defence after Miller attacked him and his brother with a metal pipe or pole.

Theriault told the court they had caught Miller and another young man stealing items from a truck belonging to the Theriaults' parents and chased him to an area between two homes.

Court heard Theriault never identified himself as a police officer, though he was later heard on a 911 call telling Miller that he was under arrest.

Christian Theriault did not take the stand.

The decision was initially scheduled for April, but was postponed in light of public health measures that dramatically reduced court operations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 26, 2020.

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