Previous Montreal stabbing sufferer’s testimony is unreliable, defence argues

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Danièle Roy made her closing arguments at the trial of Nicola Spagnolo, a man with alleged ties to the Montreal Mafia who is charged with aggravated assault.

Five police officers were able to say that Nicola Spagnolo was near the crime scene before the stabbing occurred. Five police officers were able to say that Nicola Spagnolo was near the crime scene before the stabbing occurred. Photo by John Kenney /Montreal Gazette

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The case against a man accused of stabbing a person outside a club in Old Montreal is based on the testimony of an unreliable complainant and recording of the attack that is barely visible, a defence lawyer argued Wednesday.

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The attorney, Danièle Roy, made her closing submissions Wednesday at the Montreal courthouse where Nicola Spagnolo, 47, is charged with aggravated assault. He is alleged to have stabbed a man during an argument outside the Boho cocktail bar on St-François-Xavier St. on Aug. 1, 2020.

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Prosecutor Matthew Ferguson also made his submissions on Wednesday and began by reminding Quebec Court Judge Yves Paradis of the evidence presented back in April.

Spagnolo did not present a defence, but Roy attacked the two main elements of the Crown’s case; the victim’s testimony and video footage of what happened that was recorded by a surveillance camera outside a building on St-François-Xavier St. The camera was positioned a long distance from where the Crown contends the stabbing occurred.

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“We have a complainant whose reliability is lacking with a camera that makes it difficult to (see what happened),” Roy said at the start of her arguments.

The victim’s name cannot be published due to a publication ban.

Roy noted that the victim’s description of the man who attacked him does not match Spagnolo on three different key elements; the length of his hair when the stabbing occurred, his height and the way the attacker spoke.

“He said that everyone there spoke Québécois. But there is an admission from the police, who have known Mr. Spagnolo for numerous years, that he is an Italian anglophone who generally expresses himself in English and when he speaks French it is with an English accent,” the defence lawyer said.

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Spagnolo is alleged to have ties to the Montreal Mafia. During two recent murder trials, an informant who worked for the Sûreté du Québec testified that Spagnolo was on a hit list that brothers Andrea and Salvatore Scoppa kept while they sought to eliminate their rivals in the Rizzuto organization. The informant said Spagnolo’s father, Vincenzo, was killed by mistake when the hit was supposed to be carried out in Laval in October 2016. The elder Spagnolo was a close friend to Vito Rizzuto, who was the leader of the Montreal Mafia.

Another problem with the victim’s testimony, Roy said, is how he recalled being stabbed while he was standing in front of the club. The Crown’s case is that the video shows the argument between the two men began in front of the club but continued several metres down St-François-Xavier St. and that the victim was stabbed there. The victim saw the video for the first time while he was testifying in April.

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“His story, is it corroborated by the video, or is it more that it evolved with the video,” Roy said. “I would suggest it evolved with the video.”

Spagnolo was initially charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault. The attempted murder charge was eventually dropped following a preliminary inquiry held in August last year.

Ferguson argued that while eyewitness testimony is sometimes unreliable, the victim’s testimony is corroborated by other evidence.

“In this case, the evidence doesn’t rely exclusively on the victim’s eyewitness identification. The dangers and pitfalls associated with honest but mistaken identification are practically absent,” Ferguson said, while noting that five police officers were able to say that Spagnolo was near the crime scene before the stabbing occurred. A security camera inside a bar next to the club where the victim went with friends on the night in question captured images of Spagnolo before the argument began.

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“Did Your Honour have the impression that the victim exaggerated his evidence, or that he was being evasive during the cross-examination,” Ferguson said. “Was his version of events drastically different from what we can observe on camera?”

The prosecutor also argued that video footage recorded by another camera, inside Spagnolo’s home when he arrived there after the stabbing, confirms that he was the same person recorded by the camera on St-François-Xavier St.

Paradis said he will deliver his decision in December.

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  1. Nicola Spagnolo, at the Montreal courthouse in Montreal Tuesday, April 19, 2022. He was beginning his trial for an aggravated assault on a man in Old Montreal in August 2020.

    ‘I was convinced I was going to die,’ Old Montreal stabbing victim testifies


  2. Reputed mafioso Vincenzo Spagnolo shot dead in Laval

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