Michael Bryant, wife Susan Abramovitch (left) and lawyer Marie Henin arrive at court on May 25, 2010.
May 25, 2010
The Crown has withdrawn criminal charges against former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant in connection with the death of a cyclist last summer.
Bryant, 44, was charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death after the Aug. 31 confrontation in which bicycle courier Darcy Allan Sheppard, 33, was killed.
Bryant and his wife, Susan Abramovitch, were driving along Bloor St. around 9:30 p.m. on a Monday when they were involved in a minor incident with Sheppard.
Witnesses said the cyclist then chased Bryant and grabbed hold of the driver’s side door of his convertible.
Police had alleged that Bryant took off, crossed into the oncoming lane and mounted the curb, dragging Sheppard between 50 and 100 metres.
The cyclist fell from the vehicle after striking a mailbox and a tree, witnesses said.
As attorney general, Bryant was once in charge of appointing Ontario judges and prosecutors. To avoid any potential conflict of interest, Vancouver lawyer Richard Peck had been brought in to prosecute the case.
If the prosecution determines there is no reasonable prospect of conviction then the charge must be withdrawn, Peck told the judge this morning in a courtroom packed with reporters.
“This case falls short of that standard and I’ll explain why,” he said.
Peck added the decision to drop the charges was “mine and mine alone,” and said no one from Attorney General’s office had any input into the decision-making process.
Bryant, wearing a blue suit and striped purple tie, sat stoned-faced with his wife as Peck addressed the court.
Sheppard’s blood alcohol level was measured after his death at 1.83 – more than twice the legal limit for driving – and he had a history of altercations with other motorists, Peck said.
The prosecutor outlined six other incidents that came to light after Sheppard’s death, including one in which an elderly woman described Sheppard as a “mad man.”
Peck said four of the previous incidents happened during the month of Sheppard’s death, and showed “an escalating cycle of aggressiveness toward motorists.” All of the motorists who came forward were interviewed extensively, he said, and in one case surveillance photos captured the altercation.
Peck said he was outlining the incidents because they had “significant legal relevance” and not in any way to “demonize” Sheppard or suggest he deserved what happened.
In the moments before he died, Peck said Sheppard cycled past Bryant’s vehicle along the driver’s side and then cut in front, stopping his bike directly in front of the convertible Saab and blocking its way.
When Bryant hit his brakes, he said the vehicle stalled. He said he was trying to get away and attempted to get his car started when it stalled again, causing it to lurch forward. That was when “Mr Bryant’s vehicle came close to or in contact with the rear wheel of Mr. Sheppard’s bike,” Peck said.
“At this point, Mr. Bryant describes himself as being in a state of panic. He says that Mr. Sheppard was becoming enraged.”
When Bryant got the car re-started and lurched forward, Sheppard landed on the hood. Bryant hit the brakes and the cyclist fell, but did not appear at that point to be seriously injured.
Bryant reversed and then tried to drive forward around the bicycle.
“Mr. Sheppard threw his backpack, which struck either the hood or windshield and bounced onto Bloor Street,” Peck said. “Mr. Sheppard then jumped onto the vehicle as it drove away.”
After Sheppard “latched onto the vehicle,” it veered left and continued west in the oncoming eastbound lane. Expert analysis conducted by Crown and defence investigators determined the car was travelling in the range of 34 kilometers an hour.
“Although certain eyewitnesses described the vehicle as swerving and driving onto the sidewalk in an attempt to dislodge Mr. Sheppard, forensic examination has demonstrated that the Saab did not rub against the curb or mount the curb at any time,” Peck said.
“A fire hydrant was located close to the south curb in the area if 131 Bloor Street. The distance from the fire hydrant cap to the curb was one foot. This fire hydrant caught Mr. Sheppard on the left side of his torso,” Peck said.
“This caused Mr. Sheppard to dislodge from the car, ultimately striking his head, either on the curb or a raised portion of the roadway. The impact was fatal.”
Bryant was expected to speak to reporters Tuesday afternoon.
Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre
You have really got to give some credit to the back room publicity guys in
the Bryant affair. Navigator or equivalent has been posting like crazy, lots of
diversionary posts to breed public apathy. Then of course, Bryant gets up and at
the right moment says "Nobody is above the law, to be sure. But no one's below
the law, either"
Give me a break. Bryant is "above the law", was and is above the law, he and his cronies are the law and tell us what the law is.
Its a mixture of the rich and powerful Ontario and those High income generators in the legal profession. Almost every law firm with a judges name on it or riddled with the ghosts of judges who were lawyers at that practice do very very well, with "orders for costs".
That's the legal cartel's way of throwing cash around by judges to their friends by means of orders for costs.
We have not heard the last of Bryant, Jaffer Guergis or Fantino, more government names that will be remembered for less than what is expected from elected officials and public officers. Its enough to make you want to puke.