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This article was published 1/2/2010 (4091 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg police came under attack in court Monday for allegedly beating and sexually assaulting a man they arrested during a break-and-enter investigation.
Leon Vermette, 34, pleaded guilty, saying he ran inside a woman's home while carrying a large knife as he tried to flee gang members who were chasing him in May 2008. Vermette -- who has a lengthy criminal record -- then barricaded himself in the woman's bathroom while she called 911. Police broke down the door to arrest Vermette, whose behaviour they described as "erratic."
Vermette walked out of court Monday with 16 days of time in custody and two years of probation as part of a plea bargain between Crown and defence lawyers. Now, questions remain about what happened to Vermette inside the house, back at the police station and in a Winnipeg hospital.
Defence lawyer Martin Glazer slammed the alleged actions of as many as eight officers involved in the case, saying there is evidence supporting his client's claims of abuse.
He told provincial court Judge Kelly Moar there is a Law Enforcement Review Agency hearing set to resume next month before another judge. Glazer submitted photos in court that documented some of Vermette's physical injuries, including a large cut to his head that required a staple, a fractured elbow, a bruised cheek and a torn toenail.
"The first thing he told me was that he'd been raped," said Glazer.
Crown attorney Rekha Malaviya admitted that Vermette suffered injuries while being arrested and that officers submitted a "use of force" report explaining what happened.
Police deny sexually assaulting Vermette. They claim Vermette admitted to inserting a crucifix into his own rectum, then fought with officers while they were trying to search his pants and underwear for possible weapons or drugs. None were found. Police say Vermette struggled with them and his clothes accidentally came down as they tried to restrain him.
"I grabbed the underwear and pulled, ripping them in the process," one officer wrote in his report.
Police say they called an ambulance to have Vermette taken to hospital for examination, including an X-ray of his rectum to ensure nothing was concealed. The results were negative and no crucifix was found.
Vermette was never charged with assaulting any police officers -- a fact his lawyer says proves he didn't put up a struggle as documented by police.
Vermette claims police shoved the crucifix into his body while his feet were shackled to a table and his hands cuffed behind his back.
"They said to me, 'Do you want to see how it feels to rape an elderly woman?'" Vermette told his lawyer. Glazer questions why his client would make up such a humiliating claim -- especially since he already had pictures to document the alleged physical assault and didn't need to add the sex-assault allegations.
Vermette was visibly upset in court Monday as the facts of his case, and alleged abuse, were read aloud.
The LERA commissioner has reviewed Vermette's complaint and initially ruled there was insufficient evidence to proceed. Glazer is now using the appeal process to bring the case before provincial court Judge Brian Corrin for further scrutiny.
Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill told the Free Press Monday he can't comment on any specifics of the case while it remains under judicial review.
Vermette apologized in court Monday for frightening the female owner of the Home Street residence he broke into, saying he was seeking refuge.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.