Edmonton

Police officers win appeal of assault convictions

Two Edmonton police officers have been cleared of all charges in relation to an incident in December 2004 where a man alleged he had been assaulted inside his home.

Two Edmonton police officers have been cleared of all charges in relation to an incident in December 2004 where a man alleged he had been assaulted inside his home.

In a ruling released Tuesday, Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Justice Brian Burrows overturned the July 2008 assault convictions of Staff Sgt. Jamie Ewatski and Staff Sgt. John Fiorilli. 

Ewatski and Fiorilli had been convicted of assault in provincial court and given conditional discharges.

In the original decision, the trial judge ruled the officers had been trespassing in Herve Dubois' Edmonton house when they arrived to arrest another man at the home. The man they were looking for had 17 outstanding warrants.

In evidence at the original trial, the court heard the officers didn't have a warrant and weren't asked to step inside. A scuffle broke out after Dubois demanded to see a warrant and asked the officers to leave. 

Dubois shoved Ewatski, the court heard. Ewatski testified he hit Dubois back, knocking the man off balance. Fiorilli and another officer then pulled Dubois to the floor and handcuffed him. Ewatski then pepper-sprayed him.

But in his written decision allowing the appeals, Justice Burrows ruled that both Ewatski and Fiorilli had the right to be inside the house.

Burrows ruled Ewatski believed the man with the outstanding warrants had been arrested and that the officers were lawfully in the house. Ewatski was mistaken, but it was a mistake that was reasonably made, the judge ruled.

As for Fiorilli, the judge ruled that he was not trespassing and entered the home not to arrest the man with the warrants, but to protect a fellow officer and to keep the peace. 

In a news release, Edmonton police Chief Mike Boyd said he was pleased the convictions were overturned. 

"I was very happy to hear of today's decision." said Boyd.

"I'm elated this cloud of suspicion has been lifted from our officers. It's been a very difficult four years for not only the officers involved, but the entire service. Whenever members of a police service are accused of any wrong-doing it affects public trust. I hope today's ruling will repair any damage to that trust which might have occurred."

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