A judge has exonerated a woman charged with assaulting a police officer and said in his ruling earlier this month that it was the officer who was overly aggressive, leaving the woman crippled after an April 2013 incident.
The Toronto Sun reports Justice George Beatty said Ontario Provincial Police Officer Russ Watson “sucker” punched 48-year-old Maria “Tonie” Farrell and left her with “catastrophic” injuries, including a broken leg, a crushed knee, multiple bruises and a missing tooth.
Farrell, who still walks with a cane and suffers from daily pain, said through tears after the ruling was delivered Dec. 16 she was pleased.
“This is the best Christmas present ever,” she said. “I’ve been going through hell ... but I knew the truth would prevail.”
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Her defense attorney, Angela McLeod, agreed.
“The greatest injustice was righted today,” McLeod said.
The struggle that left Farrell injured occurred last year after her shift at a nearby restaurant. After having a couple of drinks at a local bar she was walking to a convenience store and heard a woman being assaulted behind a building. She ran to the woman’s aid and the assailants ran off.
When Watson responded to the scene, Farrell says she tried to give the officer information about what had happened.
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Watson maintains that Farrell was overly animated and he could tell she had been drinking.
Farrell testified in court that Watson told her to “shut the f*** up.”
Beatty wrote in his ruling that Watson is a “large and powerfully built man,” according to The Toronto Star. Beatty said he believed that when the 140-pound Farrell demanded Watson’s name and badge number he “kicked her to the side, a karate kick that snapped her leg.”
“She hit the ground head first, then turned and told Sgt. Watson, ‘You broke my leg,’” Beatty wrote in his ruling, recounting Farrell’s own testimony. “Sgt. Watson then jumped on her and punched her on the left side of her face. She turned face-down with both fists under her and Sgt. Watson kept kneeing her in the back and pulling on her left arm.”
“Ms. Farrell testified that she fell on her face after being kicked and tried to protect herself by putting her fists under herself. The fall would explain the crushing injury to her knee and banging her head,” Beatty’s scathing ruling continued.
Beatty said even if Farrell had been animated and intoxicated, Watson had the training to handle the situation without using violence.
Watson remains on the police force and has not been charged with a crime.
The OPP’s watchdog organization, the Special Investigations Unit, or SIU, conducted a month-long investigation into the incident last year, but then-director Ian Scott determined there was not enough evidence to charge Watson.
McLeod says that is unacceptable. She told the Canadian Online Explorer earlier this month she thought the SIU should reopen the investigation.
“My client has been permanently maimed,” McLeod said. “This officer should be charged with aggravated assault.”
“It's ludicrous,” she added. “The SIU has failed my client and it has failed the people of Ontario.”
She said she hopes Beatty’s ruling and denunciation of Watson’s actions will cause them to reconsider the case.
Jasbir Brar, a spokeswoman for the SIU, said the OPP’s new director, Tony Loparco, had been waiting for the judge’s decision and for a chance to read court transcripts before deciding whether to review the investigation.