March / 15 /2012
Can you afford to keep up?
Former Attorney General has charges of negligence causing death ‘dismissed’.
August 31 / 2009, former Attorney General, Michael Bryant was charged for criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death. The victim was identified as Darcy Allan Sheppard, 33. A father of three who was employed as a bicycle courier. The arrest of Mr. Bryant began that evening with a collision between a bicycle and luxury Saab Convertible in Toronto’s most illustrious shopping development, late the evening of August 31 / 2009. The incident began as a minor dispute, then quickly turned deadly, leading to the injuries and subsequent death of Darcy Sheppard.
Bryant, 45, is a former public administrator and former politician in Ontario, Canada. He was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and a Harvard-trained lawyer, representing the electoral district of St. Paul’s for the Ontario Liberal Party from 1999 to 2009. Bryant served until May / 2009, as a member of (Premier) Dalton McGuinty‘s provincial cabinet, first as Attorney General. Bryant was the province’s youngest-ever to serve that position. He then stepped down to take a position as President and CEO of Invest Toronto, an agency set up by the city to promote investing.
That being said, Bryant also worked to enforce stricter traffic laws for Ontario’s roads, ironically enough. His main targets were street-racers. In 2007 police were handed the power to seize and destroy modified cars meant for street racing, even if no charges were laid on the owner. Bryant said these were “as dangerous as explosives”, and “We will crush your car. We will crush the parts.” Later in 2007, the province passed a bill to regard any vehicle travelling more than 50 kilometres an hour faster than the speed limit to be racing. This includes immediate vehicle seizure.
On the evening of August 31, 2009, Bryant and his wife were driving home after an anniversary celebration. They passed cyclist, Darcy Allan Sheppard, who, according to an interview with Bryant, was “tossing garbage and holding up traffic by executing figure eights.” As they neared an intersection, Sheppard pulled in front of Bryant’s car. Bryant claimed his car stalled when he stopped behind Sheppard.
As Bryant tried to restart the car, it lurched forward, which brought the car into contact with Sheppard’s tire. Analysis of security camera footage confirmed the car’s headlights dimmed in a manner “consistent with this explanation” and the vehicle had a “sensitive clutch”. The Crown determined that there was no damage to the bicycle’s rear wheel rim.
Witnesses said that Sheppard (Right) confronted Bryant and his wife “loudly and aggressively” while they “remained passive.” The car’s next movement resulted in Sheppard ending up on the hood of the car. The car travelled 30 feet, lasted 2.5 second, the car’s speed was between 9 and 13. km/hr and brakes were applied after 1 second. According to Bryant he was looking down trying to restart the vehicle and applied the brakes when he saw Sheppard on the hood. The Crown determined that there was no evidence Sheppard was seriously injured at this point.
In the next instant, when Bryant attempted to drive away, Sheppard grabbed hold of the side of the vehicle, and refused to let go. Bryant, in what witness describe, appeared to be an attempt to shake the cyclist from his vehicle. Bryant sped into oncoming lanes, which resulted in Sheppard being slammed into trees, lamp posts and mailboxes, before hitting a fire hydrant, flying from the car and hitting his head on the pavement. Once Sheppard was on the pavement, the rear tire of Mr. Bryant’s car ran over the bleeding man. The Saab Convertible sped off, leaving the man on the ground, into the driveway of a nearby hotel, where police arrested Bryant a while later. (Above Left)
Reports say that about an hour before the incident, Sheppard had been questioned by police on an unrelated matter. He was found then to have been drinking, and at the time of death, his blood alcohol level was double the legal limit. It is also said that Sheppard had wrangled with six other motorists in less than a month before his encounter with Bryant. Witnesses also claim that Sheppard was throwing traffic cones in front of cars at the corner of Bloor and Yonge less than twenty minutes before the incident.
Bryant, spent the night and next morning in custody and was released the next day by the police on his own recognizance – without a bail hearing. He appeared in a suit and tie to read a prepared statement to the media, where he maintained that he was innocent of the charges and extended condolences to Sheppard’s family. A veteran defence lawyer suggested that “anyone else would have been taken to bail court and forced to stand in the box, unshaven and dishevelled”. The terms of Bryant’s release required him to abstain from driving, surrender his passport and remain in Ontario until all was said and done. Bryant also resigned as CEO of Invest Toronto, saying that the arrest would act as a distraction for the corporation. Staring directly ahead, he left the Traffic Services police station at about 2:30 p.m. the day after the incident, amid a flash of cameras and throng of questioning reporters.
Dressed in a suit, Bryant appeared distressed and haggard, he read a brief statement:
“May I ask for your understanding in not making a statement today on last night’s tragic events. At an appropriate moment I will of course speak to you. I would, however, like to extend my deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Sheppard. To all those who have offered support to my family in the past 12 hours, thank you,” Bryant said, with a flicker of emotion. (Below)
Bryant was next to appear on October / 19 / 2009. The case was adjourned six times. On May /25 / 2010 the prosecutor (Richard Peck) withdrew all charges against Bryant, noting there was “no reasonable prospect of conviction.” Peck said that “Bryant was attacked by a man who unfortunately was in a rage. Bryant was legally justified in his attempt to get away.”
After his release, Bryant made a statement, shown in this video release, sharing his condolences for the family and friends of Sheppard.
This story raises many questions and concerns. Should this case have been “terminated” because one man was defending himself from another? Did Bryant get away with vehicular manslaughter? Was there preferential treatment involved in the final decision? Where is the justice for a man whose life was cut short? Who then, is responsible?
Will some people never be forced to take responsibility for their own actions, and will yet others forever be condoning of the behaviour of ‘favoured citizens’ in today’s society? Yes, we see that perhaps Mr. Sheppard was behaving in an obnoxious manner, but for that, did he deserve to die? He too, just as the man in the expensive suit was, human. What if the tables were turned, and Mr. Bryant was the unfortunate victim that fatal night? It matters not who the victim was, but that there was a victim at all, is disturbing. There are family and friends who are left to mourn the life lost on that doomed August night.
Again, are we seeing the elements of society being skewed? We have two people here, with two different backgrounds and professions. Does society see one as more ‘valued’ than the other? Possibly. Does that mean that one life is valued more than another as well?
My deepest gratitude to Ant World for this topic and thought-provoking discussions that supplied much of the content in this Post.