A lawyer representing a man who suffered two fractured ribs after an RCMP officer kneed him in the back while in jail has withdrawn an allegation of police misconduct.
Last week, lawyer Jay Bran asked judge Garth Malakoe to play a video he said would show his client Michael Cotchilly being kneed while handcuffed on the floor by Const. Chris Alward.
Crown prosecutor Billi Wun, who had called for a six-month jail sentence, told Malakoe that he had no problem with the video being played in court, but he wanted the opportunity to call the officer to testify and introduce expert evidence on the reasonable use of force.
“This evidence is necessary as police are trained professionals and must be judged according to the standard of a reasonable police officer,”Wun told the court before Bran withdrew his police misconduct complaint. “If the court is looking to make a finding of misconduct then those involved should have an opportunity to testify and explain their actions.”
Wun also took issue with Bran’s assertions that Cotchilly was not given a blanket nor a pillow in the cell and was not monitored he returned to custody from Stanton. Wun said those allegations simply were not substantiated.
Meanwhile, Cotchilly said he will use all options available to him to make sure the RCMP officer is held responsible for allegedly injuring him in RCMP cells.
Cotchilly made the comment in front of the courthouse after he was released from custody a week ago.
Alward’s actions that night are the subject of an Edmonton police investigation.
“I have requested a copy of the video. I’m going to hold onto to that for evidence in this case,” Cotchilly said.
“I am considering legal action against the officer and as soon as I get the video I will be contacting authorities down in Edmonton in regards to this case.”
The video of the incident ultimately was not played in court even though Bran had called for a lighter sentence because of the police actions he said the video showed. Territorial court judge Garth Malakoe said playing the video in court would have required a separate hearing. That would have kept Cotchilly in custody until such a hearing was held. Bran said his client was more concerned with getting out of jail than he was in having the video played in court and that was why he withdrew his request. Malakoe ruled that because Bran also withdrew his allegation of police misconduct, he would not allowed the video to be played in court because it was not relevant to Cotchilly’s sentencing.
Malakoe sentenced Cotchilly, 42, to time served after Cotchilly pleaded guilty last month to assault for spitting blood on the officer’s sleeve and threatening to kill him. He also pleaded guilty to breaching his court conditions earlier this year by showing up to serve a weekend sentence at the North Slave Correctional Centre while intoxicated.
Cotchilly had served 70 days in pre-trial custody for which he was given 1.5 days credit, meaning his sentence totalled 105 days.
“Spitting on the officer was a humiliating, disgusting, vile thing to do but there was no health risk to the officer,” Malakoe told the court in sentencing Cotchilly.
Court heard Alward was with Cotchilly on July 17 after Cotchilly was removed from a downtown apartment following an altercation. That’s when Cotchilly spit blood on the officer’s uniform and threatened to kill him. Defence attorney Jay Bran said Cotchilly had blood in his mouth as a result of the earlier fight.
Bran said Cothchilly was taken to RCMP cells where his hands were cuffed behind his back. Bran alleged he was cooperating when Alward knee-dropped him twice, fracturing two ribs and injuring his lung. Bran said he has seen video of the incident.
Cotchilly was taken to Stanton Territorial Hospital twice, receiving treatment the second time. He was then returned to cells.
Alward’s actions in the cells are being investigated by Edmonton police. It is standard RCMP practice that when there is an in-custody injury or death an external police agency is brought in to investigate
Outside the courthouse, Cotchilly said he was happy to be out of jail and added that he felt the judge’s sentence was appropriate. He also said that he wants the video made public. He admits that he might not have been entirely cooperative when he was first taken to cells, but he insisted his actions did not warrant the officer injuring him. Cotchilly said that even though he was already under arrest and handcuffed he may have pulled away from the officer while on his back in the cell. He is adamant however that his actions did not warrant getting his ribs fractured.
Cotchilly said that police in Edmonton contacted him shortly after they were brought in to investigate. However he did not speak to them about the case, saying he did not want to do that without his lawyer while his own charges were still before the court. He said he also may file a complaint with Yellowknife RCMP.
Cotchilly said that even though he was already under arrest and handcuffed he may have pulled away from the officer while on his back in the cell. He is adamant however that his actions did not warrant getting his ribs fractured.
Yellowknife RCMP refused to provide Yellowknifer with a copy of the video, instead suggesting the newspaper file an access to information request. Marie York-Condon, civilian media liaison with Yellowknife RCMP, stated in an email that Alward remains on active duty while the Mounties await the completion of the investigation by Edmonton police. A media spokesperson with Edmonton police said no information about the case would be released while it remains under investigation.