News Local

Crown reminds officer that suspect had right to remain silent

Tracy McLaughlin

By Tracy McLaughlin, Special to QMI AGENCY

The case of a Barrie police officer, on trial for an assault on a 25-year-old Barrie resident over a Christmas ornament, is now on hold until April.

Const. Jason Nevill is charged with assault causing bodily harm, fabricating evidence and obstruction of justice in connection with an alleged beating that was captured on video outside the Bayfield Mall on Nov. 20, 2010.

The disturbing video played in court shows Jason Stern being held down by two security officers and repeatedly punched and kneed in the head by Nevill.

Stern testified he fell unconscious and at one point in the video he appears to be limp, face down with his hands cuffed behind his back while the punching continued.

He received stitches to his head, several bruises and a concussion from the incident.

The video also shows how, moments earlier while walking through the mall, Stern’s friend, Simon, reached up to swipe at a Christmas ornament hanging from the ceiling, which breaks.

Security then called police.

In court, Stern testified he told his friends to go ahead home, but he remained at the mall because he forgot his wallet.

But security officers refused to allow Stern to get his wallet and told him to wait for the police to arrive.

The video shows Stern waiting patiently for several minutes with the security officers until Nevill arrives.

“I figured he would just make us pay for the ornament,” Stern testified. “He asked me who broke the Christmas ornament and I said I didn’t want to tell him.”

In court, Crown attorney Brenda Cowie reminded Nevill that Stern had the right to remain silent.

Seconds later on the video, Stern is physically taken down as the two guards quickly join in to assist Nevill. The tape shows at least a dozen punches and knee strikes to the head and a pool of blood on the pavement.

Later, Nevill used his cellphone to take a photograph of Stern’s battered face.

“You do realize this was about a Christmas ornament, a low-level property offence?," the Crown asked.

Nevill insisted Stern was “belligerent and drunk” in a public place, an allegation Stern flatly denies.

“I was fighting for my life here,” Nevill said. “I feared my safety was at risk.”

Nevill testified he had to use punches, knee strikes and “brachial strikes” to subdue Stern because he feared there might be a weapon in his pocket – although there wasn’t.

Brachial strikes involve a blow to the neck area near the carotid artery and jugular vein and are used in police defense tactics as well as military combat.

Initially, Stern was charged with assaulting a police officer and he testified he didn’t know why.

“I was terrified,” testified Stern. “I was so confused.”

Faced with a two-year prison term, Stern’s parents hired a lawyer. Several months later, their lawyer succeeded in obtaining the video from the mall. The officer was then charged with assault causing bodily harm, as well as falsifying his notes.

The Crown also questioned Nevill on why he has had so many public complaints made against him over the 12 years that he has been a police officer.

“We’re not just talking one or two,” said the Crown. “You have been the subject of a number of complaints.”

“Everybody is,” explained Nevill in response.

It is not the first time Nevill – a 230-pound weightlifter and mixed martial arts fan – has been accused of using excessive force.

In 2008, Nevill testified in another case that he had to strike 19-year-old Jeremiah Eggerton, who was “hog-tied” and put in a cruiser after he was arrested on an attempted suicide call. The complaint against Nevill was made by a nurse at the hospital who testified she saw Nevill strike the patient in the face while his legs were in restraining devices and his hands were cuffed behind his back. Another witness testified he heard Nevill tell the teen, “If I had my way I would break your f-----g neck.”

Nevill testified Eggerton spat at him and was eventually found not guilty of assault in that case.

In another case, in 2006, Nevill testified he had to use the brachial strike on a 16-year-old who was arrested for becoming unruly.

The mall video has sparked much discussion from the public in the form of online posts and in letters to the editor. Dozens of comments show that people are wondering why the two security guards captured in the video were not also charged with assault.

The security guards, one identified as “Mr. Over,” were never charged, nor were they called by the Crown to testify.

Bayfield Mall operations manager Mark Motereen said he was aware of the video, but said he could not comment.

Citizens are also asking why an officer with a history of public complaints over the years remained employed to protect the public.

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman said he could not comment until the trial has ended.

The trial continues April 5.

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