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Judge to decide sentencing for Toronto cop convicted in Dafonte Miller beating

NEWS STAFF, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Nov 5th, 2020

A judge will be making a sentencing decision on Thursday in the case of an off-duty Toronto police officer convicted of assault in the beating of a young Black man.

Const. Michael Theriault and his brother Christian were charged with aggravated assault and obstruction of justice in connection with the December 2016 incident in Whitby.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the victim Dafonte Miller says he is “grateful that we are coming to the end of these proceedings.”

“Throughout this process, all I have ever wanted was for those responsible for causing me harm and altering my life be held accountable. The sentencing decision, whatever it may be, is an important step in the accountability process.”

Prosecutors alleged the Theriault brothers chased Miller, then 19, and beat him with a metal pipe, leaving him with a ruptured eye and several other injuries.

The defence argued the pair wanted to arrest Miller after catching him and his friends breaking into the Theriault family truck.

RELATED: Sentencing underway for off-duty cop who assaulted Dafonte Miller

They alleged Miller was the one armed with a pipe and the brothers were forced to defend themselves.

In a widely watched virtual hearing in June, Ontario Superior Court Justice Joseph Di Luca said he couldn’t rule out the possibility that self-defence played a role in the early portion of the encounter.

Michael Theriault was found guilty of assault while Christian was acquitted on all charges.

A sentencing hearing for Theriault began on Sept. 25.

Miller laid out a lingering impact of the encounter with Theriault.

In the statement, Miller said that as a Black man, he had long heard stories about police abusing their power, but had never experienced it like he did that night.

“To this day, I can’t believe that these would be the actions of a police officer. Someone that is sworn to serve and protect was viciously attacking me without any justification for doing so. No one questioned him. Only I was worthy of suspicion because of the colour of my skin, Michael Theriault could have got away with what he did to me.”

Miller described feeling isolated and on edge since the incident, grappling with headaches and failing to find meaningful employment or return to school. He said the incident will forever be a part of his story.

RELATED: Dafonte Miller says assault by off-duty cop changed his view of police

Theriault’s assault conviction was a first step in accountability, Miller said, adding he would like to see the constable serve jail time.

The Crown is seeking a jail sentence of 12 to 15 months and several other restrictions for Theriault.

Judge Di Luca is set to release his sentencing decision at 9:30 a.m. from an Oshawa courthouse.

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