Michael, who is a Toronto police officer but was off duty at the time of the attack, was convicted of assault on Friday but was found not guilty of aggravated assault and obstruction of justice, and Christian was acquitted of all charges, according to the CBC.
The two men left 19-year-old Miller bloody, beaten and blind in one eye after attacking him on December 28, 2016, in Whitby, Ontario. Both sides presented vastly different versions of what happened before the assault.
Off duty Police Officer Michael Theriault has been found guilty of assault for the brutal attack on Dafonte Miller. Theriault beat Mr. Miller with a pipe, causing him to lose an eyeball. #BlackLivesMatter #BlackTwitter pic.twitter.com/fcB3LJxwUf— Rob Gill (@vote4robgill) June 26, 2020
Miller told the court during his testimony that he was walking down a street early in the morning with two friends when Michael and Christian approached him and demanded to know why he was there. He kept walking, but Michael and Christian chased him, eventually catching up with him and attacking him with a pipe.
The two men punched, kicked and hit Miller with the pipe so bad that he was covered in blood when authorities found him.
The teenager ran to the front door of a home and banged on it for help, but no one came out. The two men continued to beat him on the front lawn of a home.
The homeowner, James Silverthorn, the district chief with Toronto Fire Services, told the court that he heard Miller screaming and looked out his window to see the two men violently beating the teenager.
"It was continuous. It was very hard," Silverthorn said during his testimony, adding that one of the men was using an object to hit Miller as he writhed on the ground.
In their version of events, Michael and Christian told the court that they feared for their lives after they caught Miller attempting to break into their parents' car and wielding a pipe.
The two said they were scared and were defending themselves from Miller, but Michael admitted that he was punching the young man as hard as he physically could, CBC reported.
The case led to protests in Toronto and discussions about racist attacks, as well as policing in Canada. During the closing testimony, the lawyer for the Theriaults said "this case is not about race."
Ontario Superior Court Justice Joseph Di Luca read the decision and explained that while race and policing "should be further examined," he could only base his determination on the facts heard in court.
“I want to make one thing very clear: I am not saying that race has nothing to do with this case. Indeed, I am mindful of the need to carefully consider the racialized context from which this case arises. One could well ask how this matter might have unfolded if the first responders arrived at a call, late one winter evening, and observed a Black man dressed in socks with no shoes, claiming to be a police officer, asking for handcuffs while kneeling on top of a significantly injured white man,” Di Luca said.
Di Luca begins by talking about his role. Saying he welcomes the attention the case has gotten, he also says his task "is not to be swayed or influenced" by larger factors like public opinion. Notes this is not a public inquiry into race and policing.— Wendy Gillis (@wendygillis) June 26, 2020
“I am satisfied that Michael Theriault’s initial intent was likely not to arrest Mr. Miller, but rather to capture him, and assault him,” Di Luca added.
The court proceedings were streamed on YouTube and watched by nearly 20,000 people.
After the verdict, Miller and his family held a press conference where he thanked the community for supporting him and helping him move past the traumatizing situation.
"It's meant a lot to me in these last few years. It's helped me go forward. Now, we're in a situation where an officer has been held accountable to some extent. There's a lot of people who are in my position who don't get the same backing that I got and don't get to have their day to really have any vindication for what they're going through," the 22-year-old said.
Toronto police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray told CBC that Michael is on paid suspension and that an internal police disciplinary process could start now that the case was over. Michael will be allowed out of jail on bail while he waits for his sentencing hearing on July 15.
The case caused widespread controversy in Canada because of the actions of police before the case began. Despite being beaten so severely that doctors had to remove his eye, Miller was arrested at the scene by police, and officers at the scene allowed Michael, who was off duty, to handcuff Miller, according to The Toronto Star.
The newspaper reported that police officials refused to hand the case over to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which typically handles all cases where citizens accuse the police of abuse. It took demands from Miller's lawyer to even get the SIU involved in the case.
It took months for the SIU to charge Christian and Michael despite the facts of the case. It also took a significant amount of time before the court threw out an assault charge levied against Miller.
“We are asking you to accept that a retreating Dafonte Miller was the victim of a vicious, two-on-one assault perpetrated by Michael and Christian Theriault that left him with life-altering injuries,” prosecutor Linda Shin told the court during the trial.
Activists told The Star that they were not happy with the verdict considering the permanent damage done to Miller.
“I’m in pain, I’m enraged, I’m upset,” said Cristal Hines, a protester who led “Justice for Dafonte” and “Black lives matter” chants outside the courthouse.