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Dafonte Miller exits the Durham Regional Courthouse, in Oshawa, Ont., on Nov., 5, 2019.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

In the nearly four years since Dafonte Miller, a Black teenager, was beaten with a steel pipe by a white off-duty Toronto police officer, he has been on edge, reclusive and unable to hold down a job, according to a victim-impact statement read in court at his attacker’s sentencing hearing.

Toronto Police Constable Michael Theriault, who in June was convicted of assaulting Mr. Miller in December, 2016, on a residential street in Whitby, Ont., was in Oshawa court on Friday for his sentencing hearing.

“Since the assault, I have become withdrawn and have isolated myself from my friends and family,” Mr. Miller wrote in his victim-impact statement, which Crown lawyer Linda Shin read in court. “The assault has robbed me of the simple joys of life. I have not been able to gain meaningful employment or go back to school.”

In the statement submitted to Ontario Superior Court Justice Joseph Di Luca, Mr. Miller described bickering over small things with his family. His mother, Leisa Lewis, confirmed the tension in her home in her own statement, also read by Ms. Shin.

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“Since the assault, there has been a heaviness that has hung over my house and members therein,” she wrote. “Everyone feels like they are walking on eggshells, not sure what to say to Dafonte, not sure how to help him heal from this.”

The Crown is seeking 12 to 15 months in jail for Constable Theriault (the maximum sentence for assault is five years in prison). Defence lawyer Michael Lacy has requested a discharge with probation or a suspended sentence. At most, he said, his client should serve a 90-day conditional sentence in the community.

Constable Theriault and his brother Christian Theriault, a civilian, were charged in 2017 with aggravated assault and obstruction of justice stemming from an altercation with Mr. Miller. They caught Mr. Miller in their parents' unlocked truck (he had been looking for valuables in vehicles with friends, court heard) and pursued him on foot, which led to a violent struggle in which Mr. Miller suffered injuries including a fractured wrist, fractured nose and a ruptured left eye. After Mr. Miller sought help at a nearby house, Constable Theriault struck him with a steel pipe as he retreated.

Because Justice Di Luca believed Mr. Miller might at some point have wielded the pipe against the Theriault brothers, which made it possible they beat him in self-defence, he said there was enough reasonable doubt that he could not convict either of aggravated assault.

Christian Theriault was acquitted, while Michael Theriault was convicted of the lesser charge of assault.

Constable Theriault said in a prepared statement to the court: “I have been vilified, called a racist and put forward as an example of another police officer abusing his position and targeting a young Black man for no reason. That is not who I am.”

He apologized to Mr. Miller and Mr. Miller’s family, saying he “never intended to seriously hurt Mr. Miller.”

During the two-week trial, Mr. Miller testified that for two months after the assault, he slept in the same bed as his mother so she could clean off the blood and fluid that seeped from his eye wound at night. He now wears a prosthetic.

Every victim-impact statement read in court stressed the importance of taking Mr. Theriault’s role as a police officer into account in sentencing.

“A message must be sent that justice does not have special treatment for police officers,” Ms. Lewis wrote.

Mr. Lacy emphasized that despite the intense public interest in the case, his client’s crime was not racially motivated, and “Michael is not to be punished for the sins of the larger policing community.”

But Crown attorney Peter Scrutton said if Mr. Miller’s race is coincidental in this case, and the race of other young Black men who are assaulted by police is also coincidental, “an aggregate of these coincidences amounts to a systemic problem."

Justice Di Luca will sentence Mr. Theriault on Nov. 5.

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