Lawyers for Winnipeg police officer accused of assault call for acquittal

WINNIPEG — A Manitoba court heard closing arguments in the trial of Winnipeg police officer Sean Cassidy whose counsel is now calling for the charge to be acquitted.

Cassidy’s defence lawyers and Crown Prosecutor Brett Rach presented their closing arguments in the trial for the long time police officer in provincial court on Monday.

Cassidy has been charged with one count of assault causing bodily harm. He has pleaded not guilty.

In their arguments, both the defence and Crown agreed Cassidy’s admitted use of force on Jamie Cote is not in question — two punches to the left side of Cote’s face and a shin pin.

“The issue at the end of the day…is whether the force used by Patrol Sergeant Cassidy was justified in these circumstances,” Cassidy’s defence lawyer Lisa LaBossiere said.

LaBossiere asked Judge Sidney Lerner to place himself in Cassidy’s shoes, and look to the events leading up to the arrest — events that started earlier that night in La Salle

In reviewing of Cassidy’s testimony, LaBossiere said Cassidy had been driving his van to his home in La Salle following his shift at the police headquarters in Winnipeg.

She said on his way home, Cassidy noticed an unknown truck and finding it suspicious, followed it and called 911.

Cassidy previously testified the truck had aggressively spun around and began chasing him at high speeds through La Salle and into Winnipeg.

LaBossiere said Cote’s actions in chasing Cassidy constitutes dangerous driving and an assault with a weapon — both indictable offences.

Rach argued there were no grounds for Cote’s arrest.

“Ultimately, what the Crown is suggesting is that Mr. Cassidy employed poor judgment in dealing with the entire situation with Mr. Cote from the beginning,” Rach said.

Cote had previously testified he had been following the van to see what the driver wanted.

Video evidence recorded by Cote that night shows a van — driven by Cassidy — swerving on the Perimeter Highway, not allowing them to pass. Cassidy previously told the court he did not allow the truck to pass him because he feared the driver may have a gun.

LaBossiere said aspects of Cote’s testimony don’t make sense — saying he had many opportunities to call 911 or drive away, but instead continued to follow Cassidy.

“He didn’t disengage because he was chasing Patrol Sergeant Cassidy,” LaBossiere said.

She argued Cassidy’s subjective view of the danger he faced was reasonable, and has asked the court acquit Cassidy.

No date has been set for when Judge Sydney Lerner will deliver his decision.

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