A Quebec City lawyer’s video of his aggressive citizen’s arrest of an elderly woman he caught stealing cat food on the porch of his home in early February 2013 went viral. He’s now been found guilty of assault, in part because of the video evidence.
In his ruling last Friday, Quebec Court Judge Jean Asselin found the defendant, lawyer Bernard Corbeil, had used excessive force to subdue the woman, a neighbour who had been taking the food Corbeil left out for feral cats in the Quebec City suburb of Charlesbourg.
“His muscled, aggressive intervention was completely disproportionate to the circumstance,” concluded the magistrate.
In the video, which Corbeil made and presented as proof that he had made a proper arrest, the woman is seen approaching the lawyer’s back door, then bending over to pick up a container with the cat food in it.
The lawyer suddenly rushed out of the house, put a towel over the woman’s head and threw her to the ground face first, causing a nose bleed.
Corbeil then straddled the bleeding woman and bound her hands behind her back using plastic tie wraps.
Corbeil testified that he read the woman her rights as he subdued her, then called police and gave them the video when they arrived.
However, instead of charging the neighbour, who they reportedly found to be “terrified and bloodied,” police charged Corbeil with assault.
Corbeil’s a veteran lawyer who made headlines a decade ago when he successfully defended the owners of a Quebec City swinger’s bar, called L’Orage, against charges of keeping a common bawdy-house.
In this case, Corbeil argued he had meticulously planned and executed the arrest of the cat food thief according to his rights under the Criminal Code of Canada.
But the judge found the force used “was clearly unreasonable,” since it was clear the woman was unarmed and did not pose a threat to Corbeil or his wife, who was also present.
“By foreseeing the worst during the planning stages of his strategy, the accused, in flagrant fashion, lacked both judgement and discernment,” wrote Asselin.
However he granted the lawyer an absolute discharge after the lawyer agreed to make a $500 donation to a local charity that helps troubled youth.