There’s more to a Montreal hit-and-run case than two graphic YouTube videos of the altercation would imply.
After videos depicting cab driver Guercy Edmond running over pedestrian Benoit Kapelli were uploaded to YouTube, the 47-year-old driver was charged with aggravated assault causing bodily harm, leaving the scene of an accident in which someone was injured, assault, and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
But was the driver’s guilt really so cut and dry? Not so, claimed a Quebec judge who released Edmond on bail. The judge said Edmond had clearly panicked after being attacked.
At Edmond’s bail hearing, Montreal detective Frederic Gagne said there was more to Sunday’s incident than the cameras picked up.
Edmond picked up the three “very drunk” passengers as bars were emptying in the early morning, National Post reported. The roads were fairly congested and the passengers became irate as the cab inched along with the meter running.
According to testimonies, the altercation stemmed over a fare dispute and a conversation about race and rituals like voodoo and female circumcision. Edmond is of Haitian origin. His passengers were white.
Gagne said witnesses told police that one of the “drunk” passengers, Benoit Kapelli, punched Edmond in the chest and exited the taxi, then started kicking the mirror and door at the driver’s side of the car. Edmond then exited, brandishing a snow brush and drinks bottle, said his lawyer.
Defense attorney Yves Vaillancourt added that Edmond then got back in the car as the other two passengers exited and started kicking the car, blocking Edmond’s path.
Gagne recalled Edmond as saying he lost control of the car when it crashed into a street lamp close to where Kapelli was standing. It was at this point that the incident began to be captured on the very graphic video.
Meanwhile, Quebec Court Judge Jean-Pierre Boyer criticized prosecutor Josiane Laplante for not having seen either of the videos.
"The entire population of Quebec saw it," Boyer said, according to CJAD. "It's a bit bizarre that the accused hasn't been able to see it. He's been held for four days."
Boyer criticized the Crown for detaining Edmond “unjustifiably” for four days leading up to the hearing.
Edmond was released on a $3,000 bond. He was ordered to return to court June 20 and was told not to pick up passengers between 9 pm and 6 am close to where the incident took place in Montreal’s Plateau district.
Photo via Leonid Mamchenkov