TORONTO (AP) — A Toronto police officer has been found guilty of assault in the beating of a young Black man who lost an eye when he was arrested in 2016.
Prosecutors alleged Const. Michael Theriault, who was off-duty at the time, and his brother Christian chased Dafonte Miller in the early hours of the morning, cornering the then-19-year-old between two homes in Whitby, Ontario and beating him so badly with a pipe that his left eye burst.
The Theriaults had pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault and obstruction of justice in relation to the Dec. 28, 2016 incident and its aftermath. The judge found Michael Theriault, the officer, guilty and acquitted his brother.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Joseph Di Luca delivered his verdict on Friday. The sentence has not yet been announced.
Defense lawyers argued the brothers caught Miller and his friends breaking into a vehicle and acted out of self-defense, alleging Miller was the one wielding a pipe.
In reading his decision, Di Luca said he was mindful of the social context surrounding the case. The case, and others like it, “raise significant issues involving race and policing that should be further examined,” Di Luca said.
But the judge said his task was not to conduct a public inquiry on race and policing, or to deliver the verdict sought by the public — it was to determine the case based on the evidence.
Miller, now 22, testified last fall, and denied stealing from cars that night.
He told the court he was out walking with two friends when the Theriaults started questioning them about why they were in the area. He said the brothers began chasing him when he and his friends walked away.
Miller said he didn’t have a chance to fight back, and only recalled seeing Michael Theriault with the pipe.
His lawyers have alleged outside court that race played a role in the attack.
The case has also spurred protests by members of Black Lives Matter and other anti-racism activists.