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Trial of brothers accused of beating young black man begins today

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

The trial of two brothers, one a Toronto police officer, accused of severely beating a young black man in Whitby is set to begin today.

Michael Theriault, a Toronto Police constable, and his brother Christian, are each facing one count of aggravated assault and obstructing justice.

The men’s judge-only trial will take place in Oshawa.

It is alleged the brothers attacked and beat Dafonte Miller, 19, with a metal pipe in the area of Thickson Road and William Stephenson Drive on Dec. 28, 2016.

The young man’s left eye was badly damaged in the attack, and eventually had to be surgically removed.

He also suffered damage to his right eye, a broken orbital bone, fractures to his nose, jaw and wrist, and bruised ribs.

Miller’s family lawyer, Julian Falconer, says the alleged attack caused severe psychological and emotional distress to the young man and his family.

Miller and two friends were walking through a Whitby suburb when, according to claims released by Miller’s lawyer, they were confronted by Michael and Christian Theriault in the driveway of their home. Michael Theriault was off-duty at the time of the incident.

When the Durham Regional Police Service responded to the incident, they first arrested Miller, charging him with assault with a weapon, theft under $5,000 and possession of marijuana. It wasn’t until months later that those charges were dropped after the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) were summoned to investigate the case by Falconer.

Questions began to arise why neither the DRPS or the Toronto Police Service had contacted the SIU over the incident. Falconer then claimed there was a cover up by both departments.

In response to the complaint, the DRPS announced in August 2017 that they were reviewing their policies and procedures for contacting the SIU. Just over a month later, the DRPS announced sweeping changes to their notification guidelines, noting that they will notify the SIU in any case where a Durham citizen is injured when police are involved, regardless of the police force.

And while DRPS Chief Paul Martin never stated it was a mistake not to inform the SIU, he notes that the DRPS procedure did not go far enough to address the situation.

The Waterloo Regional Police Service was asked to conduct an internal review of Toronto Police Service’s handling of the case.

The findings of that review have never been released, and when questioned by the CBC in August, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders declined to say if it is even completed.