Judge acquits Winnipeg officer for trying to block his own speeding ticket despite ‘almost implausible’ defense

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A Winnipeg police officer accused of using his position with the photo radar unit to prevent the issuance of his own speeding ticket has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing.

During a trial last October, Patrol Sgt. Sean Cassidy has admitted to entering his own vehicle’s license plate into a Winnipeg Police Service system that exempts him from photo radar enforcement.

However, he denied intending to interfere with his ticket, which was issued the same day, and said he entered his plate to test the system.

Manitoba Provincial Court Judge Cindy Sholdice said that due to inconsistencies with some testimony, she had a reasonable doubt about Cassidy’s guilt.

“Mr Cassidy’s explanation for putting his plates on the secret plate list on the very day he received confirmation that a ticket would be issued – a ticket he felt he should not receive – is highly suspect, practical and almost implausible,” she told a Winnipeg provincial courtroom on Thursday.

But “when considering his testimony in the context of all the evidence, I remain in doubt as to his guilt and as such acquittals will be entered” for the charges of unauthorized computer use , fraud and obstruction of justice, the judge said. .

The allegations stem from a photo radar ticket Cassidy received on October 1, 2019.

Cassidy, a member of the force for more than 20 years, had been removed from the field and placed on desk duty following unrelated charges of assault and improper storage of a firearm brought against him earlier this that year.

The day he received the ticket, he had lunch with a few other officers and then went to check at a problematic intersection, driving his personal vehicle, according to testimony at trial.

His vehicle was surprised by a photo radar operator driving above the speed limit in a school zone. When he noticed the flash, he turned around and went back to talk to the officer.

Cassidy asked if the radar operator knew who he was, “telling him they were from the office,” Sholdice said.

The details of the encounter given at trial differed.

Cassidy described the interaction as pleasant, saying he had joked with the others in the van that the ticket would give him “something to do”, that he would dispute the ticket because he had performed duties of police and that he would not have received a ticket if he was driving a police vehicle.

Now-retired Constable Raymond Howes, who oversaw the photo radar unit, testified at trial that he heard reports that an officer tried to circumvent a traffic ticket.

But Sholdice said his testimony was based on hearsay and included two different descriptions of events.

The photo radar operator did not testify at trial.

List of Secret Plates

Once back at the station, Cassidy testified that he was given instructions to enter four new license plates into the special list of secret plates – a database of vehicles exempt from red lights and photo radar tickets .

He testified that he could not find one of the new plates he had just entered into the system, and so entered his own license plate as a test, to see if it would show up.

He did so again later the same day, but both times Cassidy testified that he canceled his plates from the list.

The photo radar software records who enters a plate into the system and when, but it does not record when a plate is deactivated.

Employees of the company hired by the City of Winnipeg to operate the photo radar system testified that they later found Cassidy’s discarded traffic ticket.

But the lack of evidence about when Cassidy’s plate was inactivated and inconsistencies in the evidence about how and when the ticket was entered and rejected by the system left reasonable doubt over Cassidy’s guilt. , Judge Sholdice said.

Lisa LaBossiere, who represented Cassidy, said he “has always maintained that he never intended to obstruct the course of justice or abuse his position of public trust and authority.” .

The court’s decision was thorough, she said in an email to CBC Friday.

“Our client is ready to move on. »

A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Police Service said it had no comment on Cassidy’s acquittal at this time.

Cassidy has already faced criminal charges.

He was charged in January 2019 for an incident that took place in March 2017, where he punched and kneed a 32-year-old man while trying to help other agents stop him. This case is still before the courts.

The man, injured in the head, filed a civil suit, arguing that he was illegally arrested and beaten by the officer, who was off duty at the time. A statement has been filed in this case, but no defense has been filed.

In August 2019, Cassidy was charged with unsafe storage of a firearm and possession of a restricted weapon in an unauthorized location.

He pleaded guilty in June 2020 to unauthorized possession of a restricted weapon and received an absolute discharge, according to court records. A stay of proceedings was issued that month on the unsafe storage charge.

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