COPS TAKE A BEAT­ING

Home in­vader roughed up by T.O. cops gets prison term dis­count

Toronto Sun - - NEWS - MICHELE MANDEL

For par­tic­i­pat­ing in a violent home in­va­sion in Ajax, Justin Acheam­pong de­serves to go to prison for 7½ years.

But the 23-year-old won’t be do­ing that much time af­ter all.

Thanks to “ex­ces­sive force” used by Toronto Po­lice ETF of­fi­cers dur­ing his ar­rest last year, an Oshawa judge has cut his prison term by two years.

“Justin Acheam­pong has pleaded guilty to be­ing in­volved in a se­ri­ous home in­va­sion rob­bery.

For that crime, he must be sen­tenced to a lengthy term of im­pris­on­ment in a pen­i­ten­tiary,” On­tario Court of Jus­tice Paul Burstein said in a re­cent rul­ing. “De­spite his ad­mit­ted in­volve­ment in that crime, Justin Acheam­pong did not de­serve to be vi­o­lently as­saulted by the po­lice dur­ing his ar­rest.”

Ac­cord­ing to the judg­ment, the first-time of­fender was an as­pir­ing chef ap­ply­ing to Hum­ber Col­lege when he fell in with old friends and de­cided to sell drugs to help sup­port his strug­gling fam­ily.

On the night of Jan. 19, 2017, two men forced their way into an Ajax home — in­clud­ing one who had a gun. Dur­ing their strug­gle with the home­owner, the men called in backup and Acheam­pong ar­rived with an­other friend.

While the armed man held a hand­gun to the wife’s tem­ple, Acheam­pong and his friend searched the bed­room for drugs they could sell. All four in­trud­ers then left the house.

Eight months later, shortly be­fore dawn on Aug. 30, 2017, masked

ETF of­fi­cers armed with ma­chine­guns used a bat­ter­ing ram to en­ter the Acham­pong fam­ily’s Toronto home and ar­rest the home in­va­sion sus­pect.

Acheam­pong said po­lice burst into his room scream­ing “Get the f--- down” and “Stop re­sist­ing” even as he knelt down on the floor.

He in­sisted that de­spite be­ing com­pli­ant, he was punched in the face sev­eral times and kneed in the leg and face.

“Im­ages taken of him hours af­ter the ar­rest show sig­nif­i­cant swelling all around his eyes and no­tice­able bruis­ing to both sides of his face,” the judge said.

While the ETF of­fi­cers tes­ti­fied Acheam­pong was re­sist­ing them, Burstein found that their “lax note­tak­ing” about their use of force and in­con­sis­ten­cies in their tes­ti­mony led him to “se­ri­ously doubt the cred­i­bil­ity or re­li­a­bil­ity of their ac­counts of the ar­rest.”

As a re­sult, he agreed with Acheam­pong that the po­lice used ex­ces­sive force to ar­rest him and his sen­tence had to be re­duced as a re­sult. The newly minted judge — the for­mer head of the Crim­i­nal Lawyers’ As­so­ci­a­tion was ap­pointed a year ago — ac­knowl­edged many won’t ap­prove of giv­ing a dis­count to some­one guilty of such a se­ri­ous crime.

“Some mem­bers of the pub­lic may ques­tion why Mr. Acheam­pong’s sen­tence of im­pris­on­ment should even be re­duced at all sim­ply be­cause of what the po­lice may have done to him dur­ing his ar­rest. Some may be­lieve that Mr. Acheam­pong

‘had it com­ing.’ If Mr. Acheam­pong had not will­ingly par­tic­i­pated in the home in­va­sion, the po­lice would not have needed to ar­rest him.”

The judge re­jected that ar­gu­ment.

“The sen­tence im­posed on Justin Acheam­pong must send a mes­sage that, as a so­ci­ety, we will not tol­er­ate the use of ex­ces­sive force to ar­rest ‘even the least de­serv­ing in­di­vid­ual.’ ”

Burstein said he also must take the man’s race into ac­count even though he didn’t be­lieve racism was a fac­tor in the po­lice mis­con­duct.

“The last­ing im­age of two heav­ily armed white po­lice of­fi­cers us­ing ex­ces­sive force to ar­rest an un­armed black man in his fam­ily’s home risks bring­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice into dis­re­pute. That too must be ad­dressed by the sen­tence im­posed,” he said.

“In an era where grass­roots or­ga­ni­za­tions like “Black Lives Mat­ter” have sprouted up across the coun­try in re­sponse to po­lice vi­o­lence against black per­sons, it is es­pe­cially im­por­tant for the courts to de­nounce ex­ces­sive po­lice force in a racial­ized con­text.”

So while 7½ years was a fit sen­tence if Acheam­pong hadn’t been beaten, the judge said the use of ex­ces­sive force by po­lice re­quired him to re­duce that term by two years. Any­thing less, said Burstein, wouldn’t send a strong enough mes­sage to po­lice about the need to change their con­duct.

Acheam­pong’s lawyer, Hi­lary Dud­ding, is hop­ing that’s a mes­sage they will fi­nally heed.

“It’s not an iso­lated kind of oc­cur­rence, which is not news to any­body,” she says. “The con­duct of the po­lice was to­tally un­ac­cept­able and they have to know they will be held ac­count­able.”

GETTY IM­AGES

Comments

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.