‘Grave injustice’: Ontario’s attorney general stays court case against police officer

An Ontario man is blasting the provincial government for abruptly ending a court case against a police officer who was facing allegations of assault, obstruction and fabricating evidence in connection with that man’s arrest about a year-and-a-half-ago.

“I believe a grave injustice has been done to me, and in a way to the other members of my community,” said Richard Morgan, 45, who spent several days in intensive care after his arrest by Ontario Provincial Police on July 10, 2022 in MacTier, Ont., about 200 km north of Toronto.

Morgan applied for a private prosecution against Const. Ethan Meyer on Oct. 31. and it was scheduled to be heard in the Ontario Court of Justice on Dec. 6 in what’s known as a pre-enquête hearing.

But before the hearing began, the attorney general’s office intervened and stayed the proceedings last week.

Milan Rupic, one of the top lawyers in Crown’s law office in Toronto, didn’t provide the court with a reason.

“Why did he take this drastic step, with no reasons offered?” said Morgan, who provided APTN with a written statement.

A private prosecution is a process where a justice of the peace is asked to lay charges and assign a prosecutor.

Morgan was never allowed to reach that step.

He was repeatedly shot with conducted energy weapons (CEW) and beaten during his arrest involving Const. Scott Anthony, 50, and Meyer, suffering numerous broken ribs, a punctured and collapsed lung, brain injury and several large abrasions.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigated for months before deciding to only charge Anthony with assault causing bodily harm and assault with a weapon on Nov. 24, 2022.

As part of Morgan’s private prosecution application, Meyer was facing charges of assault, assault causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon, obstruction and fabricating evidence.

“I am still suffering from the traumatic effects of that beating today,” said Morgan.

This photograph of Richard Morgan was taken shortly after he was arrested by OPP.

Morgan’s arrest was captured on surveillance video from the local hardware store. He can be seen standing shirtless in front of the store for several minutes when Const. Scott Anthony pulls up alone in his OPP vehicle at about 3:20 a.m.

Anthony was responding to a report of a break and enter at the nearby CP railyard when he spotted Morgan.

They appear to exchange words, but the video doesn’t have audio.

Anthony quickly points his CEW at Morgan who lowers to the ground and raises his hands behind his head.

Forty seconds later, Anthony shoots Morgan with the weapon.

Anthony then appears to kick Morgan in the head.

Morgan convulses with his arms out for another 20 seconds.

Anthony kicks Morgan again and again.

The full surveillance video can be watched here.

When Meyer arrived several minutes later he soon appears to shoot Morgan with his own CEW point blank as he’s standing over Morgan, who is on the ground and not handcuffed.

Morgan is repeatedly struck again by Anthony before both officers eventually drag him by his feet, with his hands now cuffed behind his back, across a paved parking lot to Meyer’s vehicle as his upper body scraps on the pavement.

In total, records show Morgan was shot 15 times with CEWs.

Morgan was charged by the OPP with assault/resisting arrest, trespassing and mischief over $5,000.

Apparently, neither officer was aware that the arrest was caught on video and that the owner of the hardware store sent the video directly to the SIU and not the OPP, sources told APTN.

Video shows the officers dragging a shirtless Richard Morgan by his feet as his upper body scraps across the pavement on July 10, 2022.

After Anthony was charged by the SIU, the Crown quickly dismissed the charges against Morgan.

APTN reviewed a court transcript of the hearing and the Crown did not explain why the charges were being withdrawn.

Morgan’s lawyer, Kerry Evans, however, told the court that Meyer should have been charged too and that both officers lied to hospital staff and their superiors about what really happened that night.

“These officers lied in their notes, to their superiors, to the hospital staff trying to assist Mr. Morgan and eventually to the media in their news release,” Evans told the court.

The lying allegations, however, would fall on deaf ears with the court.

The Crown and SIU should have known this wasn’t the first time Anthony’s notes didn’t line up with what the video showed.

After all, the SIU had just wrapped up a separate excessive force investigation into Anthony that happened a couple of weeks before Morgan’s arrest.

In that case, Ronnie Taylor, 31, alleged he was seriously injured after being repeatedly punched by Anthony inside a cell at the OPP’s Bracebridge detachment on June 21, 2022.

Taylor, who has intellectual disabilities and identifies as Métis, was in police custody after a domestic incident with his girlfriend.

Soon after the OPP charged Taylor, his lawyer, Jay Herbert, requested the Crown’s evidence (known as disclosure), including cellblock video.

But the video didn’t arrive until December 2022 – after the SUI’s investigation into Taylor’s allegations wrapped up on Nov. 10 without charging Anthony. The SIU said it didn’t consider Taylor’s injuries to be serious enough at the time to meet their threshold and closed the case without requesting the cellblock video.

Herbert reviewed the video and noticed it was missing the part where his client was struck by Anthony over and over.

Herbert flagged it to the Crown and several months later he received the full version without explanation despite asking for one. The OPP would later tell APTN there were technical difficulties.

The video confirmed what Taylor had been saying.

It also contradicted Anthony’s notes.

The video shows Taylor being escorted into an area outside of a cell by three officers and he turns around to face Anthony.

Here’s how Anthony’s notes describe it:

“Stopped going into cell.”

“Pushed towards cell.”

“Squared off.”

“Struck in mouth.”

“Exchange empty hand blows until in cell.”

But that’s not what the video shows, at least not what happened in the cell.

Anthony keeps striking Taylor in the head while he’s clearly inside the cell and on his back and as two other officers watch and do nothing.

This is a screenshot from a video obtained by APTN News showing Const. Scott Anthony punching Ronnie Taylor.

Herbert filed an excessive force application on May 2 to dismiss the domestic assault charges against Taylor and included the video as an exhibit.

APTN quickly requested the video from the Bracebridge courthouse which agreed to release it, however, before that could happen it was flagged for judicial review and APTN was re-directed to the ministry of attorney general.

More than two weeks later, APTN was ordered by Justice E. A. Carleton on May 18 to apply for its own hearing to argue whether the video should be released.

Carleton also had the option of releasing the video to APTN and several days later it was learned he had a conflict of interest with one of the officers involved.

The video was eventually released by Justice Cecile Applegate after APTN successfully argued in court against the Crown and Anthony’s lawyer.

APTN published a report about the video on July 5.

A separate breakdown of the cell video can be seen here.

In it, Taylor appears to suffer a seizure after being struck by Anthony.

“I think I could have died that night with what he did to me,” Taylor said.

Taylor has been forced to live with his mother, Rae Lowe, under strict bail conditions.

Lowe said video from inside the cell was hard to watch.

“It was really bad, but when I saw my son fall and have a seizure and no one came…,” Lowe told APTN, fighting tears.

She worried for weeks that her son would drop dead of a brain injury.

“That just shattered my world,” she said.

Several weeks after APTN’s story on Taylor, the SIU reopened its investigation into Anthony, which is still ongoing.

When the attorney general’s office intervened in Morgan’s application on Dec. 6, it should have known Taylor had just filed a $1 million lawsuit against Anthony, the OPP and the Ontario government a few weeks earlier on Nov. 15, which APTN is now reporting for the first time.

“Ronald suffered grievous personal injuries, including, but not limited, to his nose/face. Ronald continues to suffer pain in the afflicted areas and has undergone tremendous anxiety and depression as a result of the incident,” the lawsuit states, which is also known as a statement of claim.

It’s alleged in the claim, filed by Michael Laplante of Ferguson Deacon Taws LLP, that the OPP failed to protect Taylor from Anthony, who “intentionally assaulted” Taylor. The claim referred to Anthony as an “incompetent employee of the OPP.”

A statement of defence has not been filed and the claims have not been tested in court.

Const. Scott Anthony, middle, stands over Ronnie Taylor after repeatedly striking him.

Meanwhile, in the days leading up to Morgan’s private prosecution application hearing, Evans, who filed the application on behalf of Morgan, was contacted by the attorney general’s office several times.

First, Crown lawyer Mohamed Salama called on Dec. 1 asking for an adjournment until after Anthony’s upcoming assault trial, at least in part because Evans and Herbert had served the SIU with a subpoena for its records relating to Meyer.

Evans told Salama that Morgan planned to proceed with the pre-enquête hearing scheduled for Dec 6.

Salama replied on Dec. 4.

“We will be asking the court to adjourn the proceedings until the ongoing criminal prosecution is complete, on the basis that production of the documents would prejudice the ongoing criminal prosecution. If these arguments are rejected by the court, we are prepared to discuss the mechanics of the disclosure, however, we will not be providing these documents in advance,” he wrote.

Evans was then contacted by another Crown lawyer.

This time it was Rupic, who called on Dec. 4 saying the province was now going to stay the private prosecution.

“Further to our telephone conversation yesterday, this letter confirms that, with respect to the above-noted private information, the Crown will appear in court tomorrow and stay the proceedings,” he wrote on Dec. 5.

And Rupic, who was the lead prosecutor in the case against former police officer James Forcillo who shot and killed Sammy Yatim in 2013, did just that.

The Crown has 12 months to reopen the application, if it decides to do so.

Meyer had only been with the OPP a few months when this happened and resigned from the OPP in April. He now works for Nishnawbe Aski Police Service.

He was stationed in Webequie, about 500 km north of Thunder Bay, as of November.

Anthony pleaded not guilty to the assault charges involving Morgan and goes to trial beginning in April.

While he awaits the results of the SIU’s re-investigation involving Taylor, Anthony could also face Police Services Act charges.

“It’s only after SIU investigations are complete and the courts have finished their process that the OPP can begin PSA tribunal proceedings. In addition, OPP officers are only subject to OPP PSA proceedings while employed with the OPP. Ethan Meyer is no longer a member of the OPP,” said Brooklyn Harker, spokesperson for the OPP.

Taylor’s excessive force application has yet to be heard in court and his trial is scheduled for March.

The attorney general’s office didn’t respond to APTN’s questions sent by email a week ago.

And as for the how the video of Taylor’s beating was missing, Herbert filed an application several weeks ago to determine what happened.

The Crown has not responded.

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