Final arguments made in OPP officer trial
Proscutor Andrew Cappell finishes cross-examination of OPP officer Brian Bellefeuille
Final arguments were being made in a Thunder Bay courtroom Tuesday in the trial of an OPP officer charged with assaulting a First Nations man.
But first, crown prosecutor Andrew Cappell wrapped up his cross-examination of Constable Brain Bellefeuille, who was charged after an altercation with Gary Megan in a Geraldton jail cell in February, 2012. During the incident Megan suffered a head injury.
Dozens of people crowded into the darkened courtroom to watch a video of the incident.
A handcuffed Megan could be seen being brought into the cell by Bellefeuille, his hands on his back.
Megan was in custody for his own safety because, Bellefeuille said, he was so intoxicated he couldn't care for himself. Seconds into the video, Megan turned to face Bellefeuille with an angry look on his face.
'Here we go'
Bellefeuille said, at this point, he believed Megan was going to attack him and the other officer in the cell.
Seconds later, Megan was pinned against the cell wall and put to the ground.
"I'd suggest to you it's never appropriate to ground someone who is cuffed to the rear," Cappell said.
To which Bellefeuille said: "I completely disagree. I believe this was the least-force option to control this man".
As Bellefeuille watched the video of the takedown, frame-by-frame, in cross examination, he noted a jail cell is a dangerous place to be.
"It's a small space, concrete everywhere," he said. "I figured, here we go."
Bellefeuille said he thought Megan was "going to try to kill me … he [was] going to try to fight us."
But Megan was in custody for safety, Cappell said. "Why not just step back and close the cell door, saying ‘see you later, sleep it off'."
Bellefeuille responded that "everyone has a handcuff key … what if he gets the cuffs off and harms himself or another officer?"
Cappell countered, "you have an unruly drunk, what is the harm of closing the cell on him?"
'Certainly grave doubt'
Defence lawyer Andrew McKay, who regularly defends police officers facing charges, was the first to present his final arguments.
He said there is absolutely no evidence to support the Crown's theory that Megan giving the finger to police prompted his arrest and injury later.
McKay praised Dr. Edward Hargassner's testimony as "honest and truthful." He addressed the doctor's uncertainty and reminded the court the doctor said Megan told him he had been punched in the eye once in the cell.
"[There’s] certainly grave doubt" about the cause of broken bones in Megan's face, given the doctor's testimony," McKay said.
Gary Megan "tried his best to give his evidence," McKay noted, adding it was "somewhat comical" when Megan admitted to additional charges not on his criminal record.
McKay said Megan agreed with him that "the consumption of alcohol clouds his memory" and he's not sure how he was injured.
'Crucial piece of evidence'
The defence lawyer noted it's a "crucial piece of evidence" that officers were afraid to let Megan walk away from the bar for fear he would freeze.
"If they really wanted to get Mr. Megan, they would have let him walk home to Aroland [First Nation]. That would have got Mr. Megan."
McKay also called guard Warren Kerr's evidence "honest, forthright, sincere, and unwavering, despite rigorous cross-examination."
He pointed out Kerr recalled Bellefeuille saying "please comply, Gary" to Megan, who was resisting.
McKay said it's a crucial piece of evidence that Kerr said Bellefeuille tried to "ease (Megan) down" during the takedown.