Constables assault convictions reversed
Officers found guilty of assault
Judge erred in evaluating records
Toronto Star, NICK PRON, COURTS BUREAU, Oct. 13, 2004
Two Toronto police officers found guilty four years ago of beating up a teenager had those convictions overturned yesterday. One of the officers had been facing jail.
Mr. Justice John McIsaac said the July 24, 2000 decision by a lower court judge to convict constables Albert Flis and Pietro Grande of assault was "fundamentally flawed" in his evaluation of their service records.
"The fact that both (officers') police service history and records show absolutely no previous incidents of abuse of their positions could raise a doubt that they did so on this occasion," McIsaac said in his Superior Court of Justice ruling.
Mr. Justice Greg Regis, of the Ontario Court of Justice, said after sentencing Grande to 21 days in jail that the officer had acted like a "street bully" by kicking and punching the slightly built Ryan Scullion, 15, who was being arrested by Flis at the time.
In the June 1, 1998 incident, Flis had been trying to arrest the teen in the mistaken belief that he was one of a group of youths who had stolen a van. Grande came to his aid. Both were off duty at the time.
Scullion, who as it turned out had nothing to do with the theft, had been waiting for a bus when Flis, who was not in uniform, approached him in Ajax.
Believing that the officer himself was a suspect being sought by police who had been flooding the area with cruisers Scullion ran.
Flis then tackled him and Grande, who was driving by, helped his colleague, the trial was told.
Regis sentenced Flis to a $1,000 fine or 30 days in jail.
Both officers appealed their convictions following the 12-day trial. McIsaac's ruling overturning the guilty verdicts follows a three-day August hearing.
McIsaac also ruled that there will not be a new trial in the case, saying that might be an "abuse of process."
The judge noted that since the two officers were charged in September 1998, they "have had this charge hanging over their head for six years," perhaps hurting any chances they might have had for promotions on the force.
He went on to say it was also not the fault of the officers that it took so long for their appeal to be heard, because of the delay in getting trial transcripts.
"I am satisfied it would be oppressive and vexatious in the extreme" to order a new trial, the judge said.