Flames prospect charged in bar fight to be tried in higher court
Crown opts for direct indictment without preliminary hearing
Calgary Flames prospect Michael Ferland, who played for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL for five years, is facing assault charges after a fight outside a Cochrane bar last summer.
Photograph by: Dean Bicknell, Calgary Herald
The Crown’s office has opted to send Calgary Flames prospect Michael Ferland to trial in a higher court without a preliminary hearing on assault charges regarding a fight outside a Cochrane bar last summer.
Ferland had elected to face his trial at provincial court in Calgary and the dates were set for June 24-28, Then, in early June, defence lawyer Michael Bates notified the Crown that his client had chosen to have the trial heard at Queen’s Bench and the trial dates were changed to a preliminary hearing.
Very quickly, prosecutor Ron Simenik applied to the Justice Minister’s office to have the charges go by direct indictment without a preliminary hearing and the hearing was cancelled.
Ray Bodnarek, Deputy Minister of justice, signed the new indictment on June 14 and the Crown went ahead with the process. The provincial court charges were then stayed on July 3.
Ferland, 21, will now have the charges heard at the higher court by a judge and jury, as is the case with all direct indictments.
Recently, the Crown has been issuing a lot more direct indictments to eliminate preliminary hearings, which are used to determine if there is sufficient evidence for trial at Queen’s Bench.
“They’ve made it clear they’ll do their level best to avoid preliminary hearings and direct indict,” Bates said on Wednesday. “I thought we were going ahead with the preliminary hearing until this happened.”
Ferland is scheduled to be in Court of Queen’s Bench criminal appearance court on July 19, likely to set a trial date, said Bates.
Chief Crown prosecutor Lloyd Robertson said he could not comment about the Ferland case, but pointed to a section of the Criminal Code that is going to be used more often in the future.
The section notes that the Crown can apply to the Alberta Justice department at any time before the proceedings, stay the charges and reinstate them to go directly to the higher court.
Robertson said the process had seldom been used in the past couple of decades.
Ferland, currently taking part in the Flames’ prospect summer camp, is accused of assault against Wesley Bunn and aggravated assault against Jayson Eyma during the alleged incident outside Stageline Saloon on July 29, 2012.
Police have said a victim was struck in the face after trying to help a man who was pushed to the ground. The victim was taken to hospital with a fractured orbital bone around the eye, police said. The offender ran from the scene before police arrived.
Ferland, who played five years of junior with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League and spent time last season with the Flames’ top farm club, Abbotsford Heat, has always claimed he is not guilty of the offences.
In a written statement submitted to Bates late last year, Ferland maintained his innocence.
“It frustrates me to see that a court trial may be the only way to bring out the truth. Unfortunately, I can’t control what other people say or do. All I ask is that the police, the prosecutors and the court look at the evidence the same way they would if I wasn’t a professional hockey player,” said the statement.
Bates said at that time the defence was seeking additional witnesses. He said he was aware of at least two witnesses who have alleged someone other than Ferland committed the assaults.
“It’s not surprising to me, as a criminal defence lawyer, the versions of what happened are many and varied,” he said.
Ferland, picked in the fifth round by the Flames in 2010, playing briefly last season for Abbotsford, with no points in seven games before returning to the Western Hockey League.
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