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Things heat up on opening day of Const. Joe Smyth's trial
There were a lot of accusations of wrongdoing being thrown around in a heated opening day of RNC Const. Joe Smyth's trial Monday.
But not just against Smyth.
The complainant, Sayed Husaini — the 35-year-old motorcyclist who was pulled over by Smyth on a busy east-end street in St. John's last spring and issued four traffic tickets — also came under fire.
Smyth, 40, faces a charge of obstructing justice by issuing the tickets when no violation had been committed.
"He got very close to my face. … He was happy he gave me all those tickets."
— Sayed Husaini
As the first witness to take the stand in the trial at provincial court in St. John's, Husaini testified that when Smyth stopped him at 5 p.m. on May 12, 2017, the officer was aggressive, rude, threatening and unprofessional.
"He was very angry," Husaini said. "He got very close to my face. … He was happy he gave me all those tickets."
But defence lawyer Jerome Kennedy implied Husaini was the rash one, suggesting he was a dangerous driver who only pursued charges against Smyth after finding out he was the officer who fatally shot and killed Don Dunphy on Easter Sunday in 2015.
The traffic stop happened a month after the public inquiry into Dunphy's death had concluded, but the final report had not yet been released.
"Did you look him up on the internet?" Kennedy asked Husaini.
"Very briefly," he replied. "I went by what people told me."
Kennedy pointed out Husaini didn't make a public complaint about Smyth until later.
Smyth was charged in July after an investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), a civilian-led police oversight agency. He has been suspended without pay since then.
Smyth had handed Husaini tickets for running a red light (at the intersection of Highland Drive and Torbay Road), improperly passing vehicles, driving between vehicles and driving with a defective tire.
Husaini — who has lived in this province since 2015, at which time he obtained his motorcycle licence — denied he violated any rules, except perhaps having a defective tire, which he insists was still safe riding at lower speeds
Husaini had a camera mounted on his motorcycle. Video recorded that day, from the driver's view, shows that the light was green when he went through the intersection.
The camera also picked up some of the conversation between Husaini and Smyth. After the traffic stop on Torbay Road, the two agreed to move up the road to the Irving gas station on Stavanger Drive. Husaini recorded some other parts of the conversation with his iPhone.
During the exchange, Smyth is heard saying that a motorcycle similar to his orange Repsol Honda was spotted fleeing from police about a month earlier. He said, "If I could identify the driver, you would be under arrest right now."
In court, the exchange between Kennedy and Husaini got heated at times when Husaini refused to answer certain questions, such as where he was born, what countries he has lived in, where he obtained his first university degree, where he was pursuing his second degree, where he bought his motorcycle and how much he paid for it, and questions about his finances.
Judge Mike Madden agreed Husaini's personal background was not relevant to the case. Husaini later said he bought the motorcycle in Quebec.
When Kennedy asked about Husaini's statement to police, he pointed out Husaini told officers that Smyth is "good at hiding who he really is."
In a 15-page typed document, which he gave to ASIRT investigators, Husaini said Smyth used various tactics against him, including intimidation, manipulation, shifting blame and lying. He said Smyth falsified notes to cover up his behaviour. He went on to say that driving above the speed limit sometimes is exhilarating and that lane splitting (riding between vehicles) is a common practice in Europe and should be allowed here.
Smyth and his wife sat in the courtroom's first row, not far from members of Don Dunphy's family, including his daughter, who were there to observe the proceedings.
An ASIRT investigator is expected to take the stand when the trial resumes Tuesday. The trial is expected to wrap up Wednesday.