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MTC Inmates Not Guilty in Beating.

Jury finds trio not guilty in beating of super-jail inmate
July 07 09 2004
Roberta Avery: Special

Three men charged with severely beating a fellow inmate at the Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene were found not guilty Thursday.

The jury at the trial got a glimpse of life behind the high-wire fence of the so-called superjail.

During the four-day trial, which started June 30 in the Superior Court of Justice in Barrie, the nine-woman, three-man jury was told that the victim Thomas Smuck, was savagely beaten while serving time in the superjail for sexual assault and forcible confinement.

His attackers grabbed him while he lined up for the evening snack - called jug-up - on April 27, 2002. They covered his head with a pillow case and as he passed in and out of consciousness dragged him into a cell where they stabbed him 47 times with a filed-down toothbrush.

Smuck told the court he didn't know who his assailants were, but one sat on his chest while another punched him in the face.

Then, with his feet hanging over the edge of the bed, another jumped repeatedly on his legs and broke both of his ankles.

As well as the broken ankles and the stab wounds, Smuck suffered a broken thumb, three broken ribs, severely bruised knees and bruises to his face.

The Crown's key witness was another inmate who told the court that Bradley Cox, 25, Brandon Saville, 22, both of Oshawa, and Duane Lee, 39, of Bracebridge, planned the attack with an intent to kill Smuck because they mistakenly believed he was a child molester. The witness told the court that Lee turned up the television so that Smuck's screams could not be heard when the other two men grabbed him.

Justice Michael Brown warned the jury in his charge about the credibility of the inmate witness and told the jury members to treat his evidence with the "greatest care and caution." The inmate witness initially denied knowledge of the attack and, when he later told police that he had witnessed the attack he tried to use his knowledge as a bargaining chip to get his own sentence for arson reduced. No such deal was made but the inmate was called to testify at the trial.

The inmate told the court that he didn't tell police initially because 32 inmates in that wing of the jail were told by the attackers that anyone who spoke up would get beaten up "twice as bad."

The jury members were obviously having a difficult time coming to a verdict. Before being sequestered overnight Wednesday, they came back into court and asked five questions of the judge and also asked for transcripts of the testimony of the key witnesses.

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