Crown seeks jail time, probation for Edmonton police officer who assaulted Indigenous man

·4 min read
Edmonton police Const. Michael Partington was found guilty of assault in relation to the August 19 arrest of Elliot McLeod, captured on video by a witness. (Submitted - image credit)
Edmonton police Const. Michael Partington was found guilty of assault in relation to the August 19 arrest of Elliot McLeod, captured on video by a witness. (Submitted - image credit)

An Edmonton police constable whose violent assault on an Indigenous man during a 2019 arrest was captured on video should receive 60 to 90 days in jail followed by probation, a Crown prosecutor told a courtroom Wednesday.

In a submission lasting more than one hour, Crown prosecutor Carla MacPhail stressed the need for a jail sentence for Const. Michael Partington that would send a message of general deterrence to other police officers. She cited numerous cases in which officers were jailed for assault.

MacPhail stressed the "gratuitous" nature of the August 2019 assault on Elliot McLeod, who she said was defenceless and vulnerable. She said the assault was a breach of public trust and Partington's duty to protect citizens.

A witness filmed the assault on a cellphone. The video, which circulated online in June 2020, shows McLeod lying face-first on the ground with arresting office Const. Curtis McCargar holding both of McLeod's hands behind his back on the front lawn of a house in Edmonton's inner city.

Witnesses previously confirmed McLeod's testimony that he was not struggling or resisting arrest and that his hands were behind his back.

Partington, the second officer to arrive on the scene, strides up to the pair, and without warning, drives his knee with the full force of his weight between McLeod's shoulder blades.

McLeod screams in pain and pleads with the officers to stop the beating while yelling for help. McCargar later can be seen punching a handcuffed McLeod in the back of the head before McLeod is placed in a cruiser.

In August, provincial court Judge Peter Ayotte found Partington guilty of an "unnecessary and gratuitous" assault on an "unresisting" McLeod.

Ayotte rejected the entire narrative created by Partington and McCargar to justify the assault. He found the testimonies of both constables unreliable and at times, an outright fabrication, noting the video directly contradicted major parts of their accounts.

WATCH: Arrest video of Elliot McLeod

Defence seeks conditional discharge

Defence lawyer Mike Danyluik argued Wednesday for a conditional discharge for Partington, saying even a suspended sentence would be extreme, based on other precedents. He drew a distinction between the prolonged, aggravated attacks by police officers in the cases MacPhail referenced and Partington's "momentary lack of judgment."

Danyluik told the court Partington has had an exemplary personal life and career and has passed all the tests to become a firefighter. A criminal record would likely end his chances at a job offer, he said.

Characterizing the assault as a "one-second impulsive act," Danyluik said the "exceptional" media coverage of the case serves as a general deterrent to other officers.

In closing, Danyluik recommended a conditional discharge with 12 to 18 months of probation and 120 to 180 hours of community service, or a suspended sentence.

MacPhail, however, contended the notoriety caused by media coverage of the case, and the subsequent effect on Partington's reputation, should not be a factor because the reporting was accurate.

She noted Partington didn't disclose his use of force to his superior or in a subsequent written report and had expressed no remorse for the assault, instead minimizing the degree of violence and its impact on McLeod.

Partington has been suspended without pay since June 2020 when the arrest video went public.

Ayotte will deliver his sentencing decision on Dec. 2.

Victim suing officers and EPS

McLeod is now suing Partington, McCargar, and the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) for $250,000.

A lawsuit filed in August alleges Partington and McCargar manufactured charges against McLeod to cover up the assault and EPS then withheld the assault video from prosecutors for nearly five months, forcing McLeod to be "falsely imprisoned."

While McLeod was in prison, and while the EPS had the video, the Crown had offered McLeod a plea deal of three months in prison, which he rejected. The charges against him were dropped on Dec. 31, 2019, after EPS turned over the video to prosecutors.

The lawsuit alleges that the incident was the product of profiling, called "proactive policing" by Edmonton police, a practice the lawsuit alleges was common in the EPS northwest division.

"Individuals, usually vulnerable in some way, were arbitrarily detained and interrogated or otherwise coerced into providing information about themselves and others without due respect for their charter rights," the lawsuit states.

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