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Barrie officer gets year in jail and one year probation; suspended without pay

Tracy McLaughlin

By Tracy McLaughlin, Special to QMI AGENCY

A Barrie courtroom erupted in applause Thursday when a judge sentenced a city police officer who was captured on video laying a vicious beating on an innocent man was sent to jail for one year.

“This type of conduct will not be tolerated. Not now, not ever,” Justice Lorne Chester said in his sentencing, Thursday. “This law applies to everyone – me, the king and the common man.”

He sentenced Const. Jason Nevill to 12 months in jail for assault causing bodily harm, obstructing justice and fabricating evidence in his notes to make the innocent man appear guilty.

The victim, Jason Stern, who was 25 at the time, was returning to Barrie's Bayfield Mall to retrieve his lost wallet when two burly security guards told him to wait for police because Stern’s friend had broken a Christmas ornament earlier that night Nov. 20, 2010.

A seven-minute video shows Stern patiently waiting for the police with the two guards.

“I thought, 'What’s the worst that can happen?',” Stern said during his testimony at the trial. “I would just offer to pay for the ornament.”

But in the video the large, muscular Nevill arrives, walks up to the smaller Stern and within a few seconds attacks him. The officer throws Stern to the ground, cuffs him and continues the beating while the two guards – who were never charged or never called to testify at the trial – assist the officer by holding Stern face-down in a pool of his own blood.

The judge noted that Nevill has shown no remorse for his crime and dragged the case through a lengthy trial.

“He says he didn’t do anything wrong,” said the judge, who noted the victim was thrown around by the officer like a “rag doll” while he was handcuffed.

Stern suffered a concussion, several cuts and bruises and required stitches to his head.

Three days later, when more bruises developed, Stern was “black and blue, his body covered with goose eggs and he was barely able to walk,” said the judge.

Stern still suffers from memory loss and his concentration has also been affected.

Initially, the officer fabricated the evidence and charged Stern with assaulting a police officer.

Stern, who has never been in trouble, was terrified to learn he was facing two years in jail, but his parents hired local lawyer Mike Millar, who was able to obtain the video.

The fact that Nevill lay a beating on Stern, then tried to have him charged with a crime “adds insult to injury,” said Crown attorney Brenda Cowie. “This shakes the very foundation of the justice system. … If it were not for that video, none of us would have ever known what happened that day.”

The officer’s lawyer, David Butt, urged the judge to give less time in jail.

“Jail is a dangerous place for a police officer to be,” Butt said. "There are people there who hate police officers and those jails are overcrowded and understaffed."

To prove his point, Butt used his laptop to call up a Sun Media news story where the video was first published and referred to graphic comments made by readers.

"What a piece of human waste," one reader wrote about Nevill. "He deserves weeks of torture."

Butt insisted the video should not taint Nevill's character completely.

"This was an officer who was very good at dealing with people," said Butt, while muffled guffaws could be heard in the courtroom. "Do you judge a man by one seven-minute video captured when he is at his worst? Or do you judge him by the big picture?"

Butt also noted Nevill, who has been on paid suspension, will "almost certainly lose his job" if he goes to jail.

Butt says he will appeal the case, which means Nevill could be out of jail within a few days.

Outside court, the soft-spoken Stern, flanked by his mom, dad and family, said he is pleased with the sentence.

“It’s a victory for the people of Barrie,” Stern said. “To have somebody like that off the streets and not harassing people.”

However, Stern said he was disappointed that Barrie police had Nevill on the streets in the first place.

“You can’t have people like that squeaking through the system,” he said, noting Nevill had been the subject of public complaints in the past. “This problem could have been avoided, but it wasn’t.”

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