Preliminary hearing begins in case of off-duty cop charged with beating Dafonte Miller
The evidence heard at the preliminary hearing is covered by a court-ordered publication ban.
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The preliminary hearing for the Toronto police officer and his brother accused in the severe beating of Black teen Dafonte Miller began Tuesday in an Oshawa courtroom.
Const. Michael Theriault and his younger brother, Christian Theriault, are each accused of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in the severe beating of Miller, then 19, on a residential Whitby street in 2016. Michael Theriault was off-duty at the time.
The brothers are also charged with public mischief, allegedly for misleading police investigators after the incident.
The injuries suffered by Miller in the wake of the alleged assault included severe damage to his left eye, requiring surgical removal, a broken orbital bone, a broken nose and a fractured wrist.
The evidence heard at the preliminary hearing, scheduled through the week, is covered by a court-ordered publication ban.
Kingsley Gilliam, with the Black Action Defence Committee, told reporters outside court Tuesday that he and other members of the group were attending in support of Miller and his family.
“And we are here to send a message to the Durham police, the Toronto police, the police everywhere. We will never accept this kind of conduct from them in a free and democratic society,” Gilliam said, calling the case unusual “in every way.”
The high-profile case has raised questions about police conduct and transparency since the Theriault brothers were charged in July 2017.
Summoned to the scene on the night of the incident, Durham Regional Police initially charged the severely beaten Miller with assault with a weapon, theft under $5,000 and possession of a small amount of marijuana — charges later withdrawn by the Crown.
The charges against the Theriault brothers only came about months later — after Miller’s lawyer Julian Falconer contacted the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ontario’s civilian police watchdog, initiating a criminal investigation.
The SIU had not been contacted in the wake of the incident by either Toronto or Durham police. Internal investigations into conduct by both police services — including why neither service contacted police — are ongoing; Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders took the unusual step of calling in the Waterloo Police Service to conduct an internal probe of the incident.
Last fall, Durham Police Chief Paul Martin announced a new policy intended to ensure that the SIU is contacted to probe serious injuries involving a police officer that happen in Durham, regardless of whether the officer was from his force or off duty at the time.
Falconer has since filed a complaint to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) alleging a “deliberate and intentional” effort by police to “conceal a crime by one of their own.”
In particular, Falconer alleges that the Theriault brothers’ father John — a Toronto police officer himself — made attempts to conceal his’ sons alleged crimes. Falconer’s complaint alleges that the senior Theriault, who was working within Toronto police’s professional standards unit at the time, communicated with Durham investigators about his sons’ involvement in the incident.
John Theriault has not responded to requests for comment by the Star. Chief Saunders has previously denied allegations of a coverup, saying his officers acted in good faith.
Late last year, Mayor John Tory told reporters that John Theriault was no longer with Toronto police’s internal investigations unit.
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