A Saint John police officer, sentenced to three months in jail for assault and engaging in threatening behaviour, has been released pending an appeal.

Const. Chris Messer, 39, was sentenced Friday after being found guilty of the charges that date back to September 2010, after his home was broken into.

He appeared in Court of Appeal in Fredericton on Wednesday and was released on several conditions, including that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour, inform the Miramichi City Police of any change of address and that he have no contact with the two complainants.

Messer is scheduled to return to court on Jan. 8.

Meanwhile, the 11-year veteran of the Saint John Police Force has been suspended without pay, pending an arbitration hearing, in accordance with the New Brunswick Police Act.

Charges follow house break-in

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Saint John Police Const. Chris Messer was released on several conditions, pending an appeal. (Facebook)

The charges stem from complaints by two people Messer suspected of being involved in the break-in at his home on Westfield Road.

After the break-in, Messer sent a work email, calling the thieves "shit rats" and asking his fellow officers to find out what they could through sources, the court heard.

Messer also stated he went looking for information and had identified an old blue Chrysler Dynasty as a suspicious vehicle.

Later that day, Messer was alerted by colleagues that they had pulled over a vehicle matching that description in the parking lot of Canadian Tire. One of the complainants, Brett McAdam, was inside.

McAdam testified that after being asked to sit in Messer's cruiser, the officer drove it around the back of the store where he yelled accusations, threatened to blow McAdam's head off, cut it off with a butcher knife, and send "lowlife scum" to his home.

Two weeks after that, the second complainant, Randy King, who was wanted on an arrest warrant, was stopped by police.

King testified that Messer punched him in the head up to 10 times while the cruiser was parked in the Saint John police station lot, and then put his boot on King's throat.

Conditional discharge inappropriate

Messer was originally charged with indictable assault, assault causing bodily harm and uttering threats. An outside police force and outside Crown prosecutors worked on the case.

Messer was convicted by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Hugh McLellan of the lesser summary charge of assault and engaging in threatening behaviour.

The Crown had recommended a sentence of three to six months.

Defence lawyer Brian Munro had asked the court to consider a conditional discharge or house arrest.

The judge said a conditional discharge was not appropriate because Messer had abused his position of trust and authority as a police officer.