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Ottawa Citizen: Man found not guilty of head-butting officer

(2012-08-21)

Man found not guilty of head-butting officer 

By Andrew Seymour, OTTAWA CITIZEN

August 21, 2012

A man was found not guilty of head-butting an Ottawa police officer Monday after a judge concluded the Crown had failed to prove the man intended to do it.

Ontario Court Justice Dianne Nicholas said she couldn't be certain beyond a reasonable doubt that Fernando Vieira-Rodrigues meant to head-butt Const. Earle Cook after Cook and a fellow officer offered vastly different versions of Vieira-Rodrigues's arrest.

"This case is not a whodunit, and the question that must be conclusively determined, before any conviction could be registered, is what actually happened that night," Nicholas noted in a written decision. "The beyond a reason-able doubt threshold is, and rightly so, very high and has been referred to as a degree of moral certainty."

Vieira-Rodrigues, 46, had been drinking in the backyard of a townhouse on Summerville Street on Aug. 18, 2011, when the two officers arrived just after 1 a.m. Const. Adrian Ring said Vieira-Rodrigues was heavily intoxicated, stood up and started punching him-self in the head and telling the officers he wanted to die.

Cook said Vieira-Rodrigues, who knocked beer cans off a table and asked the officers to shoot him, didn't seem drunk.

Vieira-Rodrigues was taken to the ground and hand-cuffed.

Cook said Vieira-Rodrigues was later leaned against the police cruiser having his handcuffs loosened when he looked back with what Cook described as "a targeting glance" and leaped toward him, striking Cook in the fore-head. Ring said he never saw Vieira-Rodrigues look back.

Vieira-Rodrigues's lawyer, Solomon Friedman, argued that when Vieira-Rodrigues reared backwards, his actions may have been a reflex to the discomfort of having his arms pulled back to loosen the handcuffs.

"I do not accept the evidence with respect to 'a targeting glance,'" said Nicholas, who chose to rely on Const. Ring's version of events after the Crown invited her to ignore Cook's because he had suffered the head injury and wasn't as reliable.

Cook received what he de-scribed as a concussion and was off work for three months with dizziness, vertigo and other difficulties. Vieira-Rod-rigues was charged with assaulting a police officer causing bodily harm.

Friedman had also argued that Vieira-Rodrigues's arrest was unlawful, but Nicholas said she didn't believe that was the case.

Both officers said they arrested Vieira-Rodrigues under the Mental Health Act because they viewed him as a danger to himself or others.

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