Boris Petkovic (2nd from left) poses for a outside of the courthouse at 361 University Avenue in Toronto, Ont. on Wednesday Feb. 6, 2013.
Credits: Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency
TORONTO -- A Toronto police officer was elated Wednesday after a jury acquitted him of an aggravated assault charge stemming from the shooting of a suspect who he feared was trying to run him over.
Both Crown attorney John McInnes and defence lawyer Joanne Mulcahy jointly urged that the jury acquit Const. Boris Petkovic.
Madam Justice Gladys Pardu then instructed the jury to clear the 36-year-old officer of assaulting Phabien Rhodius, who suffered a minor wound, which resulted in the court case.
“It was a fair and just ending to these proceedings,” said Pardu, immediately after the jury returned its verdict within minutes. “You should not have a moment’s hesitation to acquit.”
The directed verdict brought the seven-day trial and a 3 1/2-year legal ordeal to a sudden, happy ending for Petkovic.
It was a surprising turn of events after the prosecution had closed its case.
“Rhodius was determined not to be arrested and instead he drove at Const. Petkovic who discharged his firearm lawfully because he honestly and reasonably believed he had to do so to save his life,” Mulcahy told the jury.
Petkovic’s actions were “legally justified,” she said.
Mulcahy argued forensic evidence -- ballistics -- never supported Rhodius’ version of events, that Petkovic fired through the open driver’s side window.
Court heard that the convicted criminal’s web of lies and the ballistic evidence disputed his account, undermining the prosecution’s case to the point the Crown had no reasonable prospect of conviction.
Petkovic pulled over Rhodius as he was driving on Eglinton Ave. E., near Victoria Park Ave., at 5 a.m. on Aug. 20, 2007. The prosecution had alleged Petkovic shot Rhodius, grazing him near his left armpit and beneath his bicep after he swiveled his body to reach his bail papers.
Rhodius, now 26, was on bail on firearms charges in Brampton at the time.
Rhodius gave Petkovic a false name -- his cousin’s -- and later pleaded guilty to obstructing police for providing the misinformation, Mulcahy said.
Yet Rhodius testified last week he never provided the false name, which Petkovic typed into his CPIC that day, noted Mulcahy.
“How do you reconcile that? He couldn’t have shown Petkovic his bail papers with his cousin’s name. His story made no sense, forensically or on any basis,” Mulcahy said.
Petkovic, a 10-year police veteran, admitted he fired the shot that wounded Rhodius. Mulcahy said he “was thrilled with the outcome.”