A Toronto officer savagely beat a Black teenage boy until his eye ruptured was sentenced to nine months in jail by the Ontario Superior Court.
Const. Michael Theriault was cleared of aggravated assault but convicted of the lesser charge of assault. He was also found not guilty on the obstruction of justice charge, while his brother was acquitted of all charges. The former cop will also serve a year of probation and five-year weapons prohibition for his 2016 assault of Dafonte Miller.
Miller says he and two friends were walking down a residential street when the off-duty officer and his younger brother Christian Theriault confronted them. The brothers then chased him and beat him.
Miller delivered a victim impact statement read in court at Theriault’s sentencing, where he expressed the profound impact the assault has had on his life.
“I was handcuffed and charged, while Michael Theriault walked away completely free. No one questioned him. Only I was worthy of suspicion. I believe that this was because of the colour of my skin. Because of the colour of my skin, Michael Theriault could have got away with what he did to me,” he said.
During the vicious attack, Miller fled to the front door of a home seeking help. He pounded on the door and called for the family to call 911 as Theriault struck him in the face with the pipe. Miller suffered multiple injuries, included a ruptured left eye, which has since been replaced with a prosthetic.
Despite the sentence handed down to Theriault, Justice Di Luca sided with his version of events that Miller and his friends were “car hopping” — breaking into vehicles to steal valuables. The brothers then gave chase and assaulted Miller, the officer using a metal pipe on the young, unarmed Black teen.
“This is not a case where in the course of self-defense, an accused simply went too far,” Di Luca said. “This is a case where after any reasonable, possible threat had abated, the accused armed himself with a weapon and struck the injured and retreating victim.”
The judge also explained to the disgraced constable how his actions had left a permanent stain on the community.
“The Black community has suffered a history of inequality as a result of systemic and overt racism. It has affected the relationship between police and the Black community,” Di Luca added.
Theriault was suspended with pay after his arrest in 2017 but will no longer receive pay as he has been handed jail time. He faces a disciplinary hearing from the Toronto Police Service.