A Winnipeg Police Service officer accused of assaulting a man while off duty is fighting to have the case against him tossed out of court, arguing it has taken the prosecution too long to bring him to trial.
Patrol Sgt. Sean Cassidy, 49, is set to stand trial in Manitoba provincial court March 1 on a charge of assault.
Cassidy was arrested in January 2019 and was originally set to stand trial last March. The trial was adjourned due to the pandemic and rescheduled for October, when Cassidy’s lawyers sought another adjournment due to late disclosure from the Crown.
Timelines established by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2016 mandated that, barring exceptional circumstances, provincial court cases be resolved within 18 months of an accused person’s arrest.
At a hearing Monday before provincial court Judge Sidney Lerner, Cassidy’s lawyers argued that defence and pandemic-related delays amounted to just over six months, leaving a 19-month delay at the feet of the Crown.
Defence lawyer Lisa LaBossiere rejected a Crown argument the defence, if it rejects a trial date, is automatically responsible for all subsequent delays.
"Both parties have a responsibility to expedite matters; it is not a one-way street," she said.
Crown attorney Jayson LaPlante said the delay that can be attributed to the Crown is just 16 months, leaving it open for Cassidy’s trial to proceed as planned.
"This is not a clear case for a stay of proceedings," he said.
Lerner said he will have a decision ready by the time Cassidy’s trial is scheduled to start next week.
Cassidy is accused of punching and kneeing a 32-year-old man, March 27, 2017. The alleged victim, who was released without charges and sought medical attention, claims to have suffered a number of head injuries as a result, including permanent hearing loss.
Kenneth James Cote filed a lawsuit against Cassidy and the City of Winnipeg in 2019.
The lawsuit alleges Cote and an employee were in La Salle, delivering spring flyers to customers of Cote Landscaping, in a vehicle with his company’s name emblazoned on the side, when a minivan with no police markings started following them at 12:30 a.m.
After twice trying to speak with the van’s driver, Cote and his employee left La Salle and started driving to Winnipeg. The van passed them and began swerving across both lanes of traffic to prevent Cote from passing.
On St. Mary’s Road, Cote spotted a marked Winnipeg Police Service cruiser and stopped to get help.
Cote alleges Cassidy (the driver of the van) pulled over and yelled for him to get back in his vehicle. The marked cruiser’s emergency lights came on.
Cote alleges he put his hands in the air before Cassidy threw him to the ground, and he was pinned by other officers without being advised he was under arrest.
While down, Cote says, Cassidy punched him in the face before dropping his knee on Cote’s left temple area. Cote claims only then did the other officer pull Cassidy away.
After the officers searched Cote’s vehicle, he alleges, one told him if he didn’t say anything about the incident he was free to go and could keep the marijuana cigarette they found in his cigarette pack without being charged.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.