A judge has found a police officer not guilty of breaking a drug-dealing reggae musician’s jaw with his knee during an on-street detention.
Ontario provincial court Justice Ann Nelson acquitted Const. Jason Goss, 36, of one count of assault causing bodily harm on Marvin Anthony Small, 31.
Small testified at the trial in July that a police officer kneed him “full force” in the jaw and broke it while he lay handcuffed on a west Toronto sidewalk on suspicion of carrying drugs at around 3 a.m. on April 23, 2008.
“I am satisfied that there was an opportunity, albeit a very limited opportunity, for someone other than officer Goss to have assaulted Mr. Small,” the judge said in her 67-page ruling, which she read out in an Old City Hall courthouse Tuesday.
Goss testified that neither he nor any of his fellow officers broke Small’s jaw in what he described as an uneventful arrest.
“Overall, Officer Goss was a strong witness,” the judge said She found Small’s testimony problematic, although there was powerful corroborating evidence for some of his story.
Small told different versions of how his jaw was broken on the morning it happened, Nelson said, noting “It’s almost as if Mr. Small’s story is being formulated as it is being told and retold.”
Small was in the courthouse, but left before the judge finished reading her decision. “There is no justice,” he said. “It’s like the system is against me and the system is going to stand up for police.” On the day of his arrest, Small said he was at St. Clarens Ave. and Bloor St. W. — an area in which he dealt drugs – when he saw two police officers driving by in an unmarked car.
He said he walked south on St. Clarens to avoid the hassle of dealing with the officers, even though he was carrying no drugs, but they pulled up. Small said he was tightly handcuffed and forced to lie with his face on the pavement as the officers demanded to know where his drugs were. The driver “came down with full force” on his jaw, he said.
When other officers arrived, the group pulled down his pants and searched him and he was kicked in the ribs and stomach, he testified. Eventually the officers took off the cuffs and told him to “get out of here and go home,” Small testified, adding that he was spitting blood. He said he made his way, in pain, to a hospital and was treated.
Medical evidence presented in court showed his jaw was broken. But Small failed to identify the officer in court, instead pointing to another police officer, in civilian dress, sitting among spectators. Defence lawyer Peter Brauti told the judge that this was “a significant hurdle” for the Crown to overcome.
In cross-examination, Small denied telling his girlfriend that he wasn’t sure who the people who beat him up were. Small also denied telling his uncle, as Brauti suggested he had, that the police put him in one of their cars and drove him somewhere. “I didn’t say that,” replied Small.
Small also denied Brauti’s suggestion that he told a security guard at the hospital where he sought treatment that he was thrown into one of the police cars and beaten.
Small also denied telling a dentist who examined him at Mount Sinai Hospital that five police officers kicked him for 15 minutes, one of them in the jaw, as the dentist testified. “I told her one of the officers kneed me in the jaw,” Small insisted.
Brauti pointed out that Small has given three different versions of whether the officer who broke his jaw was the same one who handcuffed him. Brauti suggested that Small, who is alleging racial profiling and is suing the police for $25,000, is motivated by money. Small replied that no one can repay the damage to his jaw and that he still feels pain.