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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Edmonton cop gets new trial after zapping jaywalker

November 1, 2007
TONY BLAIS, Edmonton Sun

An Edmonton police officer was awarded a new trial today after successfully appealing his conviction for zapping a jaywalker with his Taser. And the judge who quashed the lower court decision said not only were there a couple of judicial errors, but he felt the Crown had failed to prove its case in any event.

“But, that’s my own opinion,” said Court of Queen’s Bench Justice James Lewis, after stating he was “not satisfied” the Crown had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that “excessive force” was used by Const. Aubrey Zalaski, 35.

The 12-year city police veteran was convicted of assault with a weapon on April 27 and handed a conditional discharge with one year of probation on June 8.

When provincial court Judge Brian Fraser convicted Zalaski, he said the Aug. 9, 2004, Taser assault on Paul Cetinski Jr., was an “excessive” and “gratuitous” use of force during an unlawful arrest. At trial, court heard Zalaski had spotted Cetinski, the son of a retired city police detective, as he jaywalked across 103A Avenue, near the downtown police station, and asked “have you ever heard of a crosswalk?” When Cetinski ignored the remark and went into the Brownlee Building, Zalaski pursued him and ordered him to show his driver’s licence and return to his cruiser. Once there Zalaski told Cetinski to sit on the curb, but the man refused to comply. Zalaski then approached Cetinski and told him to put his hands on the car, which he did. As Zalaski tried to put handcuffs on Cetinski, the man partially turned to face the officer. Zalaski then jumped back, pulled out his Taser and twice zapped him in the back, resulting in Cetinski defecating in his pants.

Lewis ruled Fraser made a mistake by accepting Cetinski’s version of events as a result of it being corroborated by two other police officers when those cops never actually witnessed how the incident began. Lewis said Fraser also made a “critical” error by ruling Zalaski had no legal authority to detain Cetinski, despite that being conceded as part of some agreed facts.

A trial date is slated to be set on Nov. 22.

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