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Policeman wins credibility contest

Found not guilty of assaulting suspect

Henry Lavallee

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Henry Lavallee

A Winnipeg police officer has been found not guilty of injuring an inmate inside a Public Safety Building holding cell.

Queen's Bench Justice Joan McKelvey delivered her verdict Monday in front of a standing-room-only crowd, which included many uniformed police officers out to support their colleague.

Const. Ryan Law, 30, was accused of aggravated assault and faced the likely end of his career if convicted. But in a 62-page written decision, McKelvey said the Crown had failed to prove the incident happened as the victim, Henry Lavallee, claimed.

In a credibility contest between a career criminal and a cop, the cop won.

"There is no question that Lavallee suffered a serious injury. However, there is reasonable doubt that the injury was inflicted by Law," McKelvey wrote in her verdict.

Law was accused of assaulting Lavallee by kicking him in the abdomen on Nov. 22, 2008. Soon after leaving police custody, Lavallee was rushed to hospital from the Winnipeg Remand Centre and underwent emergency surgery for a tear in his bowel.

In closing arguments last month, Law's lawyer called Lavallee a "pathological liar" whose report of officer misconduct can't be believed.

Law testified on his own behalf, denying assaulting the 49-year-old Lavallee, whom he and his partner had arrested as a suspect in a vehicle break and enter in the Exchange District.

"I have no difficulty in reaching the conclusion that I believe Law's evidence that he did not commit the offence," McKelvey said Monday. "Further, even if I do not believe Law's evidence, I am left with a reasonable doubt about his guilt. Henry Lavallee's testimony was in many areas difficult to accept and not credible in nature."

One of the key witnesses was Lavallee's ex-girlfriend, who told court he admitted to her he'd lied about what happened in an attempt to sue the police.

Law's lawyer, Richard Wolson, claimed Lavallee lied as many as 25 times in his testimony.

"Do you call police officers little b --s?" Wolson asked Lavallee during intense cross-examination. He was referring to notes his client had indicating Lavallee went on a profane tirade at the time of the alleged incident.

"Maybe he is. Maybe you are," Lavallee replied.

"Are you calling me a little b -?" said Wolson.

"Maybe you are," Lavallee answered.

It was just one of numerous confrontations as Wolson tried to paint Lavallee as a foul-mouthed, cop-hating liar who would say anything to protect himself.

Wolson also noted how Lavallee was paraded from the holding cell in front of Law's supervising sergeant just before being taken to the remand centre and didn't complain of ill health or other concerns -- minutes after he was allegedly severely kicked by Law.

Lavallee testified he couldn't walk and had to be dragged by police, but Wolson claimed the evidence showed the opposite. It was only after being delivered to the downtown lockup Lavallee made a claim of being attacked by Law, in the presence of remand staff.

Independent Crown attorney Kerry UnRuh said Lavallee disclosed what happened when he felt safe to do so in front of corrections personnel.

-- with files from James Turner

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