Court dismisses appeals in case of off-duty Toronto cop convicted of assaulting Dafonte Miller

The Court of Appeal for Ontario has dismissed both the defence and the Crown’s appeals in the case of an off-duty Toronto cop who was convicted of assaulting a young Black man.


The Court of Appeal for Ontario has dismissed both the defence and the Crown’s appeals in the case of an off-duty Toronto cop who was convicted of assaulting a young Black man.

In November 2020, Michael Theriault was sentenced to nine months in jail for brutally beating Dafonte Miller in December 2016, leaving him with a ruptured eye. He was also sentenced to 12 months of probation following his jail term, along with a five-year weapons prohibition.

He was acquitted of aggravated assault and obstruction of justice charges as was his brother Christian Theriault.

In May of this year, his lawyers challenged the verdict, saying the assault conviction was unreasonable based on the evidence, and Theriault’s nine-month jail sentence is outside the normal range.

The Crown appealed Theriault’s acquittal on the other charges, arguing that an Ontario judge made errors in assessing issues related to self-defence and unlawful arrest. However, the Crown stated that it would seek a new trial only if the defence appeal succeeded and his conviction for common assault was not upheld.

Justice of Appeal Michael Tulloch said the Crown’s appeal was dismissed without considering its merits, given their position on a retrial, because the defence appeal was dismissed as well.

Dafonte Millers lawyers Julian Falconer and Asha James held a virtual press conference on Monday afternoon with Miller and his mother Lisa in attendance.

Falconer said he was glad to see that Justice Tulloch acknowledged the role of anti-Black racism in the case and recognized that the trial judge had taken that important social context into account. James added that the judgment recognizes that anti-Black racism impacts the way Black communities feel about and respond to the police and how policing is handled in those communities.

Miller called the decision to uphold Theriault’s conviction a huge step forward.

“The acknowledgement of racism in police interactions, not only in my situation but other people who go through the same situations, was very important,” he said, “I’m grateful for all the hard work of the Crown and everyone who has been behind me, helping this stuff go forward.”

Lisa Miller said she was glad the ordeal was finally coming to a close.

“As much as it hurt me that Michael Theriault himself couldn’t just accept, apologize and give us something to heal, I’m just grateful that we’re at the point now where we can actually move on and try to rebuild,” she said.

Falconer also lambasted the justice system that allowed what he called “the real bad actors” — people he alleges to be involved in covering up the case to protect Theriault — to entirely escape any repercussions.

“Our system doesn’t really want to hold them accountable. So the chiefs of police who covered up this crime against Dafonte Miller have retired … inspectors who magically didn’t connect with SIU and furthered the coverup have retired out of accountability,” he said. “And so while this is an important day in respect of Michael Theriault, the story has not been told and will not be told until those who were in charge, who orchestrated the coverup of these crimes are held accountable.”

He added that the civil action being taken by Miller and his family does have the potential to hold these “bad actors” accountable through private litigation.

“But it is an embarrassment that retiring out of accountability is possible in this province and it is proof that the system is rigged,” he said.

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