40 years of faulty wiring

28 Seconds and 3 years Later, Michael Bryant is a Changed Man…Maybe

Admittedly I have been taking pot shots at Michael Bryant in this blog, perhaps unfairly since the whole Darcy Sheppard thing. You michael-bryant-cp-300-72467 know, the tragic tale where Bryant supposedly dragged Sheppard with his car for several metres, slamming him into a mailbox and finally killing him. On August 31, 2009, Bryant was charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death. Days later he resigned as CEO of Invest Toronto, while maintaining that he was innocent of the charges. On May 25, 2010, all charges against Bryant were withdraw when prosecutors cited the cyclist was the aggressor in the incident and that the charges would be impossible to prove or disprove. At least this was the story back then.  Here is a youtube video (admittedly it is quite grainy).

In his book 28 Seconds: A true Story of Addiction, Tragedy, and Hope. The story now unfolds like this:  According to Bryant his vehicle stalled when he stopped behind Sheppard on Bloor Street. His car then lurched forward from his attempts to restart the vehicle which brought the car close to, or in contact with, Sheppard’s tire. Expert analysis of security camera footage confirmed the car’s headlights dimmed in a manner consistent with this explanation and that the vehicle had a “sensitive and light clutch”. No damage to the bicycle’s rear wheel rim was evident. Witnesses said that Sheppard confronted Bryant and his wife “loudly and aggressivelywhile they “remained passive.” The car’s next movement resulted in Sheppard ending up on the hood of the car. The car travelled 30 feet, lasted 2.5 second, the car’s speed was between 9 and 13.4 km/h and brakes were applied after 1 second. According to Bryant he was looking down trying to restart the vehicle and applied the brakes when he saw Sheppard on the hood. This was the initial accident, and in all truth that’s what it was at that point; an accident. It was when Sheppard grabbed onto the sideview mirror in an effort to continue his attack, that Bryant’s behaviour turned criminal.

mikeThe crown determined there was no evidence Sheppard was seriously injured at this point and there was not enough evidence to justify a separate charge based upon Bryant’s driving. The fatality occurred when Bryant drove away and Sheppard grabbed hold of the side of the vehicle. The car veered into the opposite lanes, Sheppard’s body struck a fire hydrant knocking him off the car and his head hit the pavement. There were witnesses who said it appeared Bryant had attempted to knock Sheppard off the car by striking him against trees and mailboxes. There were also witness reports that Sheppard reached into Bryant’s convertible and grabbed Bryant or the steering wheel.  Bryant parked his car around the corner and called 911. Sheppard later died of his injuries in hospital.

Bryant gave TVO an interview with Steve Paikin in 2012 about his book. He looks haggard; grey-haired, slumped and thinner, large bags under his eyes. The cocky politician from previous years is nowhere to be seen. Nonetheless, Bryant opens up. “People want to Bryant_Michael-760x429talk about it. It is very awkward…’oh you’re that Michael Bryant,’ I  wanted to talk about it because sometimes, not often, I would go into a social setting and suddenly it was a wake, or a shiva…until somebody makes the first joke it’s just tense.” Here’s a mind-blow: Sheppard was the drunkard who got dragged, but Bryant himself is an alcoholic. Paikin  says frankly, “so you were the Attorney General, an alcoholic and as the cliche goes ended up in the gutter sometimes and you managed to do your job.” Bryant responds correctly “there are some people who are high-functioning alcoholics in this world.” I agree with him. I know this to be true. “I had basically someone hold up a mirror to me and it’s when you undergo that rigorous honesty with yourself, and then you see what’s really going on, that’s when one comes to realize you’ve just got to give up.” Talk about opening yourself up to public scrutiny. Bryant’s full admission leaves him with nothing to hide behind. Forrest Gump said it best, “sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks.” 

Obligingly, Bryant reads his account of the fateful 28 seconds to Paikin:

I put the SAAB in reverse. As I was looking back Sheppard hurled his backpack containing a heavy bike lock at us. It went sailing over my head. I put the car in first gear and tried to drive around him. Outraged, he raced toward the front of the car. I remember Susan bryant1screaming ‘oh my God’ over and over. Chasing after us, he leapt at the SAAB as if in slow motion, Sheppard landing hip-first to break his fall, the way you see stuntmen as cops do the hood-slide on crime shows [they should clean up that video and make it into a CSI episode] . It made a crunching noise. I felt the impact of a man over 200 pounds landing on my car. He then grabbed the windshield wiper and bent it back towards him. He began pulling himself toward me hand over hand, as if the wiper were a rope. The strength of the man was extraordinary. he seemed almost superhuman [gasp from audience]. His upper torso was now on the hood’s edge of the driver’s side, the car moving forward. He swung around, put his right arm inside the door, his left arm hid around the side mirror. He held up his legs, a feat of some strength no doubt assisted by the adrenaline that I later learned Darcy so often sought. [wtf?] The car suddenly swerved sharply to the left almost 45 degrees. I have no recollection how that happened. He must have grabbed the wheel.[i wonder what Sheppard’s account would say to that].  In wrestling for control of the car we crossed to the other side of the street, heading westbound into the eastbound lane. Then he said to me with a crooked grin, after we had stopped for a moment, ‘you’re not getting away that easy.’ [it’s all fun and games until Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark shows up], then he started climbing in the car. Susan grew louder and more frantic. ‘No, no, no, stop, stop, stop, stop!’ This was the only physical contact between us. The car remained stopped while the shoving was going on. I was struggling with Darcy Sheppard for control of the vehicle then he was gone. All of a sudden I just didn’t see him there. I didn’t see him fall. I heard a sound, maybe a groan.

He finishes with an abrupt nod.

During the first months after Darcy Sheppard’s death, Bryant was in a daze. One of the conditions of bail was that he couldn’t drive so he bought a bike at Duke’s Cycle on Richmond West. As he walked around the store checking out different models, the room fell silent. When he handed over his ID to take a test ride, the clerk read the name with disbelief. “Yup,” he said to his gobsmacked co-worker, “it’s actually Michael Bryant.” Bryant bought the bike. Stay away from Bloor Street.  Toronto Life magazine insists in the months after Sheppard’s death Bryant found himself at loose ends. He filled his days like a 1950s housewife: picking up the kids from school and meeting friends for lunch. The city seemed much louder than it had before. His marriage underwent considerable strain. Once a power couple, Bryant and his wife Susan Abramovitch, avoided public parties. Dressing up and socializing seemed gauche and so they stayed in. Eventually they divorced. Then there was the pesky matter of those criminal charges. Bryant knew Edward Green­span but he wanted a lawyer who ignored the media. In other words, not a media star. Where does the irony end? He went with Marie  Heinen, an amoral defence lawyer who got David Frost, the notorious Brampton pedophile and Michael Danton’s former hockey coach, acquitted of twelve sexual assault charges against him upon children as young as 14.  Perhaps there are times you have to make a deal with the devil. Thankfully, not everyone feels that way.

Then people began to come forward to say they saw photos of Sheppard on the news and believed they’d bryant-sheppard-prevbeen harassed by him in the past. In six incidents, detailed by Henein’s defense team and later in the court summary, motorists recounted stories of Sheppard violently intimidating them, spitting on them, hitting the windshield with his fists. In some cases, he threw things at their cars or reached inside the open window to grab the steering wheel. Photographs depict a shirtless man with a mohawk reaching mena­cingly into the car as he clings to the vehicle’s running board were sent to Henein. It was the pictures that persuaded the court that Bryant was not the aggressor, but the victim of an assault.  In a courtroom packed with media, lawyers, and friends and family of Sheppard and Bryant, Peck announced his decision. In a detailed, 11-page court summary, he concluded that the evidence brought forward by the defense established Sheppard was the aggressor and the Crown had no prospect for a conviction. The reaction was one of approval and outrage.

A reader of Toronto Life commented “I had a run in with this cyclist years ago…as a witness to his craziness…He ran into a car, on his bike, then after raging at the driver, an older Asian gentleman, for about 10 minutes, he picked up a concrete block and hurled it at the car. He missed me by inches…he doesn’t deserve our sympathy. Our sorrow perhaps…but from reports, this was a common occurrence with him.” Indeed.

Bryant admits the book seems like a PR stunt. Paikin informs him there were many people who disliked him before the incident and no michael_bryant_1354116204_48amount of explanation or contrition will convince them otherwise. “Time will tell, right?” Bryant says to Paikin. Paikin dwells on Bryant’s life in politics after the reading. He probes into Bryant’s background and when the time seemed right for him to pursue a political career. Bryant admits the ambition began in his teens, probably the reason he made youngest ever AG at the tender age of 37.

Although after the Sheppard incident he was hired into Ogilvy Renault’s energy department, he left for the post of Minister of Aboriginal Affairs (or AA, ironically). Yes, another connection that got him a secure cabinet position, however Bryant has a background in Aboriginal Affairs ( a PhD) and insofar as the House is concerned, his position is actually a demotion. I believe Bryant is unfulfilled outside of politics.  This is his league, it’s what he knows best (that and reckless driving). When McGuilty – oops – Dalton McGuinty offered him Aboriginal Affairs, Bryant is adamant he saw it as an opportunity. If he didn’t have the background I’d say it was an opportunity to get out of the gutter and back into the House. However, knowing his graduate educational background centres around AA presents it as another kettle of salmon.

Bryant remains a media darling, albeit a cloudy one. He isn’t one to shy away from the limelight even when it consists of lemons. McGuinty wasn’t pleased with this behaviour since Bryant was AG. He wanted Bryant’s public persona dampened (although certainly not tarnished). One wonders if McGuinty had an “couldn’t have happened to a nicer politican” moment upon hearing about the Sheppard incident. Meow. If I sat on the Cabinet they’d have to pass me a saucer of milk to shut me up. The book is hard to put down. There are melodramatic moments of course, but Bryant has a knack for keeping his readers’ attention, every bit as much as he captivates the media. Recovering alcoholic notwithstanding, he can’t run too dry. People will lose interest.

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October 20, 2013 - Posted by | Bizarre yet True, Crime and Punishment, Politics | , , , , ,

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