POLITICS

Montreal cabbie found not guilty of running down man in incident caught on video

04/23/2015 11:16 EDT | Updated 07/20/2015 12:59 EDT
MONTREAL - A Montreal cab driver says he's more than relieved at being acquitted after running over an aggressive client in an altercation that was caught on video and widely shared on social media, including YouTube.

Guercy Edmond said he feared for his life on April 29, 2012 — a feeling he still hasn't been able to shake.

"I continue (to drive), but I can tell you that each time I pick up a client, it troubles me and I wonder if that person is going to attack me," Edmond, 50, said after his acquittal Thursday.

"I'm still scared every time I pick up a client."

Quebec court Judge Genevieve Graton found Edmond not guilty of aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and dangerous driving.

She had earlier acquitted him of a hit and run charge, saying the Crown failed to prove he had committed a crime.

Much of the incident was captured on various personal and surveillance videos, including the widely viewed footage of Edmond's cab running over Benoit Kapelli, a French national who suffered a perforated bladder, broken ribs and a large cut on his chin.

It began with an argument over a fare inside the cab after closing time and quickly escalated.

Kapelli was intoxicated and aggressive and repeatedly struck and kicked the taxi after exiting it.

The trial saw video of the cab being surrounded and attacked as Edmond drove erratically around an intersection before Kapelli was run down.

In another video taken at street level, one man jumped atop the vehicle and stomped on it. Kapelli was seen kicking the car one last time as he appeared to lose his balance and get caught under its wheels.

Defence attorney Yves Vaillancourt said the videos helped buttress his client's version, which Graton agreed with — that Edmond was scared, acting in self-defence and trying to flee when he accidentally struck Kapelli.

Graton said the Crown failed to back up its argument he acted deliberately and out of anger.

"The tribunal concludes the behaviour of the accused does not constitute a marked departure from the actions of a reasonable person in the same situation," Graton said in a ruling that took about 40 minutes to read.

Much of the encounter, which lasted about 10 minutes, was caught on film but the judge noted the witnesses offered unreliable accounts of the events.

"It counted a lot, it made a big difference," Vaillancourt said of the videos. "The interpretation of the witnesses was very different from the videos that we saw."

He said the case showed the importance of not jumping to conclusions, as many did shortly after viewing the videos in 2012.

"When we saw the first video, it could have been interpreted in a different way, but after looking at other videos and putting it all together, I think we must be careful not to take a decision too quickly," Vaillancourt said.

Edmond thanked fellow cab drivers, Quebecers and Canadians who rallied to his cause.

"More than relieved," he said of the verdict. "During these three years, I have lived a life of misery."

Prosecutor Josiane Laplante said she'll study the judgment closely before deciding whether to appeal.

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