The Abuse of Power by Toronto Cops Could Cost Tax Payers $4.5 Million
Man acquitted after spending years in prison to sue Toronto police
A Toronto man who spent more than five years behind bars on drug and weapons charges before being acquitted in a new trial is launching a $4.5-million lawsuit against police.
Nosakhare Ohenhen, 36, is expected to file the lawsuit Wednesday against the five police officers who arrested him and the Toronto Police Service.
Ohenhen, who had previous drug trafficking convictions, was arrested in August 2008 after officers pulled him over and searched his Jaguar sedan, where they found a gun.
He was convicted on 17 charges and sentenced to nine years in prison, down to 4.5 years with credit for time served. He was released on parole in 2013.
An appeal court ordered a new trial last year, and in September, an Ontario judge acquitted Ohenhen, ruling that there was no legal reason for his arrest or the searches of his car and person, and that he had been denied access to a lawyer.
Toronto police said they had not yet been served with the lawsuit and therefore could not comment.
Ohenhen's lawyer, Michael Smitiuch, says the lawsuit is meant to hold the officers who arrested his client accountable for their actions and create awareness about what he calls abuses of power in law enforcement.
"He can never get back the time that he missed with his family -- the birthdays, the Christmases -- no amount of money will ever make up for that," Smitiuch said. "But it is an attempt to hold them accountable."
The eight-year ordeal has done "significant" psychological damage to Ohenhen, who was held in four different facilities during his incarceration, his lawyer said.
He would not lay out the specifics of the claim before the suit is filed, but said it would touch on the emotional distress his client endured, among other things.
The judge presiding over this year's retrial found Ohenhen's constitutional rights had been infringed, noting the case raised "very serious concerns about police misconduct."
In his decision, Justice Michael Quigley said any evidence found on Ohenhen or in his vehicle must be excluded because it was obtained illegally.
"The inability to trust the evidence of the police officers exacerbates the gravity of the violations and the very distinct possibility that the police planted drugs on Mr. Ohenhen given the factual circumstances even if not proven on a balance of probabilities is more than enough to require that the court disassociate itself from this egregious and bad faith police conduct," he wrote.
What's more, the officers had "no legitimate grounds" to make Ohenhen pull over in the first place, the judge found.
"The officers' evidence about carding practices in Toronto and the plain and legitimate concerns about racial stereotyping raises the concern that Mr. Ohenhen was pulled over at least in part because he was a black man driving an expensive car."
A news conference scheduled Wednesday is expected to lay out the details of the claim.