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Micheal Bryant walks from Old City Hall court in Toronto on Tuesaday May 25, 2010. The Crown has withdrawn charges against Mr. Bryant in the death of cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard. (FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)
Micheal Bryant walks from Old City Hall court in Toronto on Tuesaday May 25, 2010. The Crown has withdrawn charges against Mr. Bryant in the death of cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard. (FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

All charges dropped against former Ontario A-G Michael Bryant Add to ...

The Crown has withdrawn charges against former Ontario attorney-general Michael Bryant in the death of a cyclist.

Mr. Bryant was charged last September with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving in the death of bike courier Darcy Allan Sheppard.

Police alleged Mr. Sheppard, 33, died after grabbing onto a car in downtown Toronto following an altercation with the driver.

Mr. Sheppard death's led to an outcry from the city's cycling community and raised questions about whether or not Mr. Bryant had received preferential treatment.

To avoid a conflict of interest, Vancouver lawyer Richard Peck was brought in as a special prosecutor in the case.

Mr. Peck withdrew the charges today, saying there's no reasonable prospect for conviction.

In a lengthy address to the court Tuesday, Mr. Peck said Mr. Sheppard had about twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood according to the post-mortem toxicology test.

He also provided details of other incidents between Sheppard and drivers, four of which happened the same month as the Bryant incident.

"The evidence establishes that Mr. Sheppard was the aggressor in the altercation," Mr. Peck's executive summary reads.

Mr. Peck said that in order to be found responsible for dangerous driving a defendant's conduct must be a "marked departure" from reasonably prudent driving standards. The clearly threatening behaviour of Mr. Sheppard, and the fear and exposure Mr. Bryant and his wife felt, were factored into the Crown's decision that no criminal liability could be found.

Police have said the Aug. 31 incident began with a minor collision between Mr. Bryant and Mr. Sheppard on a busy downtown street which resulted in Mr. Sheppard grabbing onto the side of a car.

Mr. Sheppard then fell under the vehicle, suffering fatal injuries.

Mr. Peck told court Tuesday that Sheppard was struck when he blocked Mr. Bryant's car. That angered Mr. Sheppard, and the two men struggled for control of the vehicle, Mr. Peck said.

Mr. Bryant's car stalled a few times during the incident, which made him panic, court also heard.

Mr. Peck told the court that video evidence conflicted with witness statements over how fast Mr. Bryant's car appeared to be driving, and that the sparse witness accounts of the incident varied over whether the car swerved onto the curb.

Criminal negligence causing death carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, while dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death carries a maximum 14-year term.

Owen Young, a bicycle courier for the past six years, said he fears Mr. Bryant's acquittal will mean "it's open season on cyclists." He said the former attorney general should have acknowledged his role in the events that led to Mr. Sheppard's death.

"He has to take some responsibility because there's a man who is dead," Mr. Young said outside the courthouse. "It doesn't matter if he's a courier, a cyclist or somebody on the street; there's still one person on the face of the Earth who's not here because of the man inside there today."

Mr. Bryant sat mostly still in the court room, occasionally glancing back at his wife. The couple tearfully embraced when the session ended.

Defence attorney Marie Henein said Mr. Bryant co-operated fully with the Crown, because of their belief in the "complete, unwavering and unequivocal strength in our case."

The Harvard-educated lawyer, who served as Ontario's youngest attorney-general, was once considered a top contender to succeed Premier Dalton McGuinty.

He announced his departure from politics in May 2009 to take the high-profile job at Invest Toronto.

Mr. Bryant stepped down from that job just days after he was charged, and in a letter announcing his resignation declared his innocence.

During his 10 years at the provincial legislature, the father of two also served as minister of aboriginal affairs and minister of economic development.

With files from Anthony Reinhart and Liem Vu

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