Surrey Mountie found not guilty of assaulting civilian

Too much conflicting evidence, judge rules.

He was charged with assaulting a man during a traffic stop three years ago, but a judge has found Surrey RCMP Const. Joseph Kane not guilty of the offense, ruling there was too much conflicting evidence in the case.

The alleged incident took place in January 2008 in the Fraser Heights neighbourhood, when police pulled over a car because there were arrest warrants out for the vehicle’s registered owner.

Bryan Pecchia was a passenger in the car, but officers could smell marijuana wafting from the window, and Kane was asked to arrest him.

Witnesses and another police officer said Kane wrapped his arms around Pecchia’s neck until he went limp.

Const. Timothy Cucheran testified he heard an argument between the two men and then watched Kane reach into the side and grab Pecchia by the neck and face.

Pecchia said that Kane punched him in the side of the face without any provocation, and then wrapped his hands around his neck as he tried to climb into the back seat to get away from the officer.

A neighbour watching the scuffle said she heard Pecchia pleading with Kane and then saw Pecchia go limp, and assumed he was unconscious.

Kane told the story differently, claiming Pecchia had punched him in the stomach and then kicked and elbowed him as he tried to get him under control and out of the car. He testified he only held Pecchia by the shoulders, placing a hand behind the suspect’s head to protect against a head butt.

Another officer, Const. Steve Lachapelle, testified Kane slid his arms under Pecchia’s and locked hands behind the suspect’s neck in a full nelson.

Pecchia was not arrested or charged, and suffered cuts to his mouth, scratches on his neck and damage to his teeth.

In acquitting Kane on Friday (July 8), provincial court Judge Kenneth Skilnick said the police officer showed “a lack of composure and an inability to control his anger.”

But he also said the “diametrically opposing evidence” about what took place made it impossible to tell how hard Pecchia was fighting and whether the force used by Kane was appropriate.

“All that can reasonably be concluded is that the accused demonstrated a loss of self-control to a degree that concerned his fellow officers, as well as reasonable members of the public who observed his behaviour,” Skilnick said in a written decision.

“While such conduct is regrettable, it does not equate with the commission of a criminal offence.”

In January, Kane was also cleared of a separate assault causing bodily harm charge. He had been accused of assaulting an acquaintance in an April 2008 incident when he was off duty. The judge in that case ruled Kane did not use excessive force against the alleged victim.

– with files from CTV

Surrey North Delta Leader

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