Toronto officer convicted in beating of Dafonte Miller pleads not guilty to discreditable conduct

Click to play video: 'Toronto cop sentenced to 9 months in jail for assault' Toronto cop sentenced to 9 months in jail for assault
WATCH ABOVE (Nov. 5, 2020): Toronto police Const. Michael Theriault was sentenced to nine months in jail and 12 months of probation for the assault of Dafonte Miller. Shallima Maharaj reports – Nov 5, 2020

TORONTO — A Toronto police officer who assaulted a young Black man with a metal pipe four years ago pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a disciplinary charge stemming from his conviction in the incident.

Const. Michael Theriault made a brief appearance before a police tribunal by videoconference to face a charge of discreditable conduct under the Police Services Act.

A notice of hearing issued by the tribunal alleges Theriault committed misconduct in that he was found guilty of a criminal offence that is indictable or punishable on summary conviction.

Read more: Toronto police officer who assaulted Dafonte Miller sentenced to 9 months in jail

However, his disciplinary hearing was adjourned until appeals in his criminal case are concluded.

Police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray said the charge of discreditable conduct is available whenever an officer is alleged to have engaged in “behaviour that’s against the core values” of policing under the Police Services Act.

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“We can’t prejudge the outcome of the tribunal process, but the hearings officer can apply a range of penalties (for discreditable conduct), which could include days of docked pay right up to dismissal from the police force,” she said.

Theriault was sentenced to nine months in jail last month for beating Dafonte Miller in Whitby, Ont., in December 2016.

Read more: Dafonte Miller says assault by off-duty Toronto cop changed his view of police

The officer — who was off-duty at the time of the incident — has been suspended without pay since the sentence was issued on Nov. 5, after being suspended with pay since his arrest.

Prosecutors alleged during the trial that Theriault and his brother cornered Miller in the early hours of the morning and beat him with a metal pipe, rupturing his eye, among other injuries.

Defence lawyers argued the brothers were fighting for their lives after Miller, who they said had been caught stealing from the Theriault family truck, attacked them with a pipe.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Joseph Di Luca said it remains unclear who had the pipe and who attacked first.

But the judge found that after the initial fight subsided, Theriault grabbed the pipe and struck a retreating Miller in the head.

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“This is not a case where in the course of self-defence, an accused simply went too far,” Di Luca said in delivering his sentence last month.

“This is a case where after any reasonable, possible threat had abated, the accused armed himself with a weapon and struck the injured and retreating victim.”

He said Theriault’s crime further degraded the Black community’s trust in the police.

Both the Crown and defence have appealed the outcome of the criminal case, and Theriault has been released on bail pending those proceedings.

Theriault’s brother was also charged criminally but was acquitted on all counts.

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