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October 14, 2004

Two constables found not guilty of assaulting deaf man in 2002

From: The Globe and Mail, Canada - Oct 14, 2004


Two Toronto police officers have been acquitted of assaulting a black deaf man, a verdict that activists for the disabled are hailing as a partial victory.

In clearing the officers, Judge Paul Robertson of the Ontario Court of Justice said one of the officers would have been convicted had he believed Peter Owusu-Ansah's version of the events. "I would have come to a finding of guilt but for the credibility of the complainant," the judge said.

Elisabeth Bruckmann, a lawyer with Parkdale Community Legal Services, one of more than a dozen community organizations that have rallied around Mr. Owusu-Ansah, said the judge's ruling "was the closest I think we've come to a conviction in Ontario in a case involving police brutality."

The trial and the issues it raised may prompt Toronto Police Services to review how it trains its members to deal with those who are deaf or hearing impaired, said lawyer Gary Clewley, who represented Constable Syed Moosvi, 36.

Constables Moosvi and Wayne Taylor, 51, were charged with assaulting the 25-year-old carpenter from Ghana on Sept. 13, 2002, after he and some friends, all black and deaf or hearing impaired, left the Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf on Bayview Avenue.

Constable Moosvi faced two assault charges, his partner one count. Both pleaded not guilty.

The two officers showed little outward emotion as they left the Scarborough courthouse free men. Constable Moosvi said, "I'd like to get back to work on the road" after two years of desk duties. Constable Taylor did not speak with reporters.

Mr. Owusu-Ansah was clearly disappointed. "I really don't feel happy right now," he commented. Although hearing impaired, he is able to read lips and can speak.

"I'm speaking the truth. . . . He [Constable Moosvi] punched me," he said, adding that he was confused as to why the judge did not believe his evidence.

The judge said he had several reasons, including the fact that none of the other witnesses, including Mr. Owusu-Ansah's own friends, backed up his story about Constable Moosvi kneeing him in the groin several times and punching him in the face. And he had no physical signs of the assault.

He also noted inconsistencies in Mr. Owusu-Ansah's account of how, with his hands cuffed behind his back, he got out of the police cruiser when he was released. He told the court that he moved his body toward the door until he was able to slip out. But in his statement of claim for a civil lawsuit, he said one of the officers dragged him out.

And Judge Robertson used the $60,000 lawsuit to conclude that Mr. Owusu-Ansah had a monetary interest in the trial's outcome since a guilty finding would bolster his claim in the civil court.

Judge Robertson said he accepted the officers' testimony that Mr. Owusu-Ansah was aggressive and unco-operative when they asked to see his identification. Moreover, Mr. Owusu-Ansah showed animosity toward police resulting from being stopped and questioned 17 times during the past four years, the judge found.

He also had harsh words for Constable Moosvi. The officer said he took Mr. Owusu-Ansah to the rear of a school at 1 a.m. because it would be a safer place to talk and his cruiser would not interfere with traffic. Judge Robertson said that explanation "defied common sense."

Judge Robertson had little to say about Constable Taylor other than he, too, would have been convicted if he had stood by in the school lot while his partner assaulted the complainant.

Police legally stopped and detained Mr. Owusu-Ansah for a brief time, the judge concluded. The group was stopped at the intersection of Eglinton and Bayview Avenues because of a reported robbery nearby that involved a large number of black males. Bias or racism played no part, the judge said.

Mr. Owusu-Ansah said he intends to proceed with the lawsuit because he wants to stop others from being victimized by police.

He said he is very scared of being stopped by police again, but intends to stand up for himself, "because I'm growing like a man not a baby."

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