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Trial set for Dafonte Miller assault case

Miller case has prompted change within DRPS

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

A trial date of Feb. 19, 2019 has been set for the Toronto police officer and his brother accused in the beating of Black teenager Dafonte Miller.

The date for Cst. Michael Theriault and his brother Christian was set following a pre-trial hearing on May 31. The hearing was the latest in a series of pre-trial court appearances that have seen witnesses, police officers and Miller himself take the stand to share details around the night that led to his egregious injuries and the loss of his eye.

A publication ban prevents the details of Miller’s or any testimony, and any information shared during the preliminary inquiry from being shared outside the courtroom.

The incident has gained nation-wide attention since it occurred in December of 2016.

At that time, 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 is a constable with the Toronto Police Service and was off-duty at the time of the incident.

The details of the attack have yet to be tested in court, but allege that Miller was beaten by the Theriault  brothers with a metal pipe. The attack has left Miller with permanent vision loss in his left eye along with also suffering a broken orbital bone, broken nose and a fractured wrist.

When the DRPS 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 were summoned to investigate the case by Miller’s lawyer Julian Falconer.

It is here that the case began to gain serious attention in the media and members of the public as questions began to circle as to why the SIU was not contacted by either the Durham Regional Police or the Toronto police. The SIU is generally notified when a civilian is injured during a police-involved incident.

Following the SIU findings, Falconer filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), alleging a cover-up coordinated between the two police forces.

“Both the TPS and DRPS conspired to deliberately conceal the crime committed by PC Theriault and his brother Christian Theriault to assist in protecting them from prosecution for the brutal and heinous attack they perpetrated against Dafonte,” the complaint states.

In response to the complaint, the DRPS announced in August of 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 when 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.

“What I have come to realize as a result of the Dafonte Miller case is that these, our policies, were inadequate and that the expectations of our community were greater than that for accountability and transparency and I’ve taken some steps today to make sure that accountability and transparency is addressed,” Martin said following the Sept. 11 meeting and the release of his lengthy statement. “From here on, if a conflict between one of our citizens and a police officer takes place in our community, and the incident meets the criteria for calling in the Special Investigations Unit, then I will do so,” he said at the time. “There will be no exceptions: if the officer is from our police service the procedure will apply. If they are from another service, the procedure will apply, on duty or off.