Ottawa Citizen

Man seeks charges against officers

27-year-old says he was kidnapped and ‘tortured’ by police

- ANDREW SEYMOUR

A paralegal student who alleges he was assaulted, kidnapped and “tortured” at the hands of Ottawa police has taken the unusual step of pursuing a private prosecutio­n against two officers.

Joel Esslemont alleges Ottawa police Const. Thanh Tran and Const. Erik Burnie arrested him inside his Vanier residence for being drunk in public after Esslemont says he asked them to leave his property on April 8, 2011.

Tran is one of two officers facing a charge of assault causing bodily harm on homeless man Hugh Styres, who suffered facial fractures following an encounter with police outside a Sandy Hill convenienc­e store in August.

According to informatio­n filed with the court, Esslemont alleges the officers had a “huge grin” as they told him he was under arrest.

The 27-year-old alleged he was then assaulted by both officers, “kidnapped” and brought to the Ottawa police station, where he was held in a cell for 12 hours.

In court documents, Esslemont alleges that Tran turned the handcuffs around his wrists until he was cut and bleeding.

Tran then bent his hand forward until he was in severe pain.

The assaults lasted for between two and four minutes, Esslemont alleges.

Esslemont later alleges that the two officers, along with five others, fabricated evidence against him by claiming he was arrested for assaulting police.

Esslemont’s allegation­s included that officers tampered with evidence by doctoring or editing surveillan­ce video “so they could proceed and succeed in abuse of process and malicious prosecutio­n.”

Esslemont swore a court informatio­n criminally charging Tran and Burnie with assault, kidnapping and fabricatin­g evidence. Tran is also facing a charge of assault causing bodily harm.

Esslemont himself is criminally charged with two counts of assaulting police as well as obstructin­g police, causing a disturbanc­e and mischief for allegedly smashing out a police cruiser’s glass partition. Esslemont, along with a female friend who was also arrested and charged, are set to stand trial later this month.

Ottawa police allege that an extremely intoxicate­d Esslemont clenched his fists and lunged at the officers, spitting in one of their mouths and cutting one of them.

None of the allegation­s against Esslemont or the officers have been proven in court.

Ontario Justice of the Peace Kathy Miller authorized the charges on Jan. 24. The allegation­s against the two officers appear on Monday’s court docket, but it is not clear whether Tran and Burnie have been summoned to appear in court.

It is also not clear whether a Crown prosecutor will take over the prosecutio­n.

An Ottawa police internal investigat­ion has cleared the officers of any wrongdoing.

James Foord, newly elected president of the Defence Counsel Associatio­n of Ottawa, said it was “very rare” for a citizen to have a police officer privately charged.

“In recent memory I can’t think of that happening successful­ly,” said Foord. “Lots of people have tried, and it usually goes absolutely nowhere. It is pretty uncommon.”

Foord said a justice of the peace wouldn’t authorize the charges unless she believed there were reasonable and probable grounds to support the allegation.

“The reality is if there was cogent evidence in support of it, they should be laying the charge,” he said.

“I guess she could tell I was absolutely sincere in what I was saying,” Esslemont said Friday when reached by phone.

Esslemont said he pursued charges after getting nowhere with his complaints.

“I was basically kidnapped by officers who really don’t follow any laws,” said Esslemont. “Since this happened to me … I have been reaching out to every single police officer, every police agency, they are all corrupt. The whole profession­al standards is a huge waste of anyone’s money. It’s not going to ever solve anything.”

Esslemont told the Citizen Friday he complained to Ottawa police about Tran’s alleged conduct before Tran was charged by the province’s Special Investigat­ions Unit for the alleged assault on Styres.

Ottawa police declined to comment in any detail about Esslemont’s allegation­s.

“It is a private citizen that laid a private informatio­n,” said Ottawa police Const. Marc Soucy, who added he personally has never seen an officer charged as a result of a private complaint.

“In 23 years, it’s the first time I heard of one,” he said.

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