Surprise witness halts verdict
Riley Dooley, 20, of Angus, who has limited communication skills, is pictured in hospital after being treated for a shattered tibia and broken fibula. Postmedia/Handout photo
BARRIE - A Simcoe County support worker charged with breaking the leg of a severely autistic student had the verdict in his case come to a sudden halt Tuesday after a surprise witness came forward.
Justice Robert Gattrell was ready to render his judgment in the case of support worker Corey Stibbard, of Angus, when the unexpected witness came forward with a story that would strongly bolster the case in Stibbard's favour.
Stibbard has pleaded not guilty to assault causing bodily harm. His student, Riley Dooley, 20, of Oro-Medonte Township, was rushed to hospital for surgery after the incident in a Barrie dollar store Dec. 4, 2014. He was wheelchair bound for five months.
During his trial, Stibbard testified it was Dooley who had attacked him, then fell in the process.
"It was self-defence," Stibbard insisted on the witness stand last June. He explained Dooley got angry because he did not want to give up a tiny toy dinosaur and put it back on the store shelf, so he took a swing at Stibbard.
He said he raised his hands to block the swing.
"It made a smack on my hand," he testified. He said he took a couple of steps backward when Dooley then tried to kick him. "I raised my foot to block the kick."
He said Dooley then turned and fell.
"His foot was twisted and really, really bent. I saw blood. The bone was sticking out."
Stibbard admitted he initially "lied" when he told authorities Dooley simply slipped while walking and only later changed his story to say he was attacked. He explained he lied because he was afraid of losing his "dream job" with the Simcoe County District School Board.
Earlier in the trial, a surgeon testified the blow to cause such a severe injury would have had the impact of a karate kick.
A co-worker also testified he was suspicious, so he secretly recorded phone calls from Stibbard, who asked him to make false entries in the classroom day journal to say Dooley had improper footwear that day.
"Any way you can write in the book that Riley's shoes were poor?" Stibbard begs in the call that was played in court.
"I'm on my knees right now, like, I'm s---ing you off "¦ like I am so f--ked," Stibbard says.
The trial ended last July and the judge was ready with his decision. However, the lawyers must now consider what to do with the new and unexpected evidence.
"This new information has to be considered and we will have to conduct an investigation," defence lawyer Mitch Eisen told the judge.
Outside of court, the surprise witness, Corey Robinson, of Barrie, a self-described former crack addict who survives on welfare and lives on the streets, described a scene that almost exactly matched Stibbard's testimony.
"I was in the dollar store, and I saw Dooley take a punch at Stibbard ... Stibbard raised his hands to block it," he said. "I could hear the smack." He said Stibbard then took a couple of steps backward, "then Dooley tried to kick Stibbard." However, he said he never saw how Dooley fell or came to have a broken leg in two places.
"I left," he said. "I didn't see anything else."
There is no video from the store of the incident.
The witness said he has never met Stibbard and saw the news story on Google last July and decided to come to court to tell his story.
"I'm just being a Good Samaritan," he said.
The case is now on hold while lawyers decide if the trial should be reopened.