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2012 Villain: Michael Bryant

Nominated for: an astonishingly tone-deaf response to a tragic death.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. From December 10 to 19, we’ll unveil the nominees, grouped by category. Vote for your favourites from each batch, every single day! On December 19 and 20 the winners from each category go head-to-head in the final round of voting, and on December 21, we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

Whether we agree with the final court ruling or not, all charges against former Attorney General Michael Bryant in the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard have been dropped. An investigation into the fateful 2009 encounter between the two men found Sheppard, a 33-year-old bike courier with a history of violent outbursts, to have been the instigator in the incident. The reported facts of the altercation: after being struck by Bryant’s Saab, an enraged Sheppard clung to the side of the car, sending Bryant into a blind panic. Bryant eventually drove Sheppard into a Yorkville fire hydrant; Sheppard fell, hit his head, and died. Arguing the right and wrong of the decision to dismiss the case is of little consequence now. But anger still lingers among those who feel that the wrong side won.

Bryant knew this when he published his memoir, 28 Seconds: A True Story of Addiction, Tragedy and Hope. The book chronicles his former alcoholism, his marriage’s breakdown, his brother’s death, faults in the judicial system, and, of course, Darcy Allan Sheppard. He knew there would be critics, he knew there would be protests, he knew many would see it as a flashy, high-profile attempt to resuscitate his public profile.

Throughout the media coverage that Bryant received because of the book, he had plenty of opportunity to address these concerns. He didn’t. He even portrayed himself as the victim.

“I can’t control what people think about the book. I explained before why I wrote it. It’s an offering and an effort to try to help other people,” he said to the Grid. When pressed about why he had yet to reach out to Sheppard’s father, he said he didn’t know. When asked if he was sorry for killing Sheppard, he said he was sorry for “what happened.” He skirted protests by leaving through back doors at book launches.

The book is his memoir, and he’s obviously entitled to his own perspective. In fact, a memoir is a fine way of discussing a particular event from a first-hand point of view, especially one of so much interest to the public. And Bryant is not the first former politician to hire a PR agency to help promote a book, or to manage his image.

But as the debate continues over whether Bryant’s reprieve was right or wrong, there is one indisputable fact: a man met an untimely and painful death. And the man on the surviving end wrote a book about it, without paying the deceased, his family, his friends, and his supporters, due respect.

See the other nominees in the Dividers category:

Sue-Ann Levy

Using her position to deride instead of reason.
  James Pasternak and QuAIA Alarmism

Undermining Pride Toronto, and Toronto’s commitment to diversity.
  Frances Nunziata

Treating her colleagues like wayward schoolchildren.

Unsubstantiated “Safety Concerns”

Using race as an indicator of crime.
  Yunel Escobar

Homophobic slurs and frustrating non-apologies.
  Doug Holyday

Trying to turn an already divided house even more against itself.

Cast Your Ballot


  • Arleigh Crawford

    You refer to the “final court ruling” but my biggest problem with the way this was handled is that it never went to the court. The crown decided not to proceed and dropped the charges.

    • d

      Because the special prosecutor (an extremely respected senior criminal counsel brought in from BC to ensure independence) didn’t think there was any basis to bring charges, and that going to court would itself be an injustice. Which on the evidence isn’t surprising. It’s the exact same reason I’ve never “gone to court” for committing murder.
      I think Bryant’s a total sleazebag and agree he merits inclusion on this list for his self-serving conduct, but the underlying act of panicking when being assaulted by a batshit crazy guy on the street, who then dies when knocked off your car, which he was only on in the first place because he climbed onto it to assault you and your wife, =/= “killing him”. The desire to see Bryant punished notwithstanding the circumstances is mob rule, plain and simple.

      • Anonymous

        “Because the special prosecutor didn’t think there was any basis to bring charges…”


        Charges were initially laid because the facts demanded them. Charges were subsequently dropped because the prosecutor doubted his chances of obtaining a conviction. Given the Navigator-spun media vilification of the victim here, that may well have been an accurate assessment.

        The idea that Sheppard ever attacked Bryant is not supported by the street-level witness statements or forensic evidence contained in the voluminous police report that was buried when the charges were dropped.

        These TPS findings explain why the disgraced former attorney-general also attacked the police in his incredibly self-serving book, the sole purpose of which seems to have been to “restore” Mr. Bryant’s already spotty reputation.

        When the police report eventually becomes public, and it will, many people who readily accepted Bryant’s spin as fact will hopefully take the opportunity read the documents and then re-evaluate the events of Aug. 31/09.

        Darcy Allan Sheppard, not Michael Bryant, was the victim here, along with notion that all Canadians are treated fairly in our justice system.

        Many of those members of the public who have continued to pursue the truth in this tragic case have no desire to see Bryant punished further. He is seen as a pathetic, self-destructive individual who continues to dig himself a deeper hole every time he opens his mouth.

        Rather the goal has always been to discover the truth about what happened that night and challenge the legal bureaucracy that allowed Bryant’s unsupported, unchallenged version of events to be entered into the record as fact.

        If that goal is achieved Bryant may well fall into further disrepute but only as collateral damage, plain and simple.

        • d

          “Charges were initially laid because the facts demanded them.” – Ah, so initially laying a charge, in the immediate aftermath of the event, in itself justifies pursuing subsequent prosecution? Rather than assessing the merits of prosecution on the basis of considered review of the facts? I don’t think I could come up with a more succinct recipe for wrongful prosecutions/convictions if I tried.

          “Charges were subsequently dropped because the prosecutor doubted his chances of obtaining a conviction.” – Wrong. Charges were dropped because the prosecutor reached a positive conclusion that there was “no reasonable prospect” of a conviction. As in, no merit to the charges.

          In response to your earlier comment about a “more committed” prosecutor, I don’t think there is a more highly respected criminal lawyer in the country than Rick Peck.
          But keep up your good work preventing the dissemination of “misinformation”.

          • Anonymous

            Your “highly respected criminal lawyer”, independent prosecutor “Rick” Peck was consulted as to the laying of the initial charges.

            Still, one would suggest we might want to delay assessment of the respect both he and Mr. Mark Sandler command until after the police report hits the fan.

            “No reasonable prospect of conviction” does not translate as “no merit to the charges”.

            Why would you pretend it does? Especially since you would have us believe you have inside knowledge of such matters?

            But thank you for your kind words about our mission to prevent the public “dissemination of misinformation”. It is a thankless but sadly necessary duty, that we shall pursue tirelessly, until the facts in this unusual case are clearly presented to the public.

            Thankfully, that day is close at hand.

      • Anonymous

        I find curious your side of the story. Darcy Allen Sheppard was trying to stop a man that had just hit him and was trying to leave the scene of the crime. The only proof given that there was an assault in progress was from Michael Bryant. 98% of the witnesses said differently as did the police report.

  • Anonymous

    The thing with Michael Bryant is that many of his opponents will not truly be satisfied with anything he does unless and until his head is mounted on a pike as a warning to the others.

    You aren’t wrong to describe the entire situation as altogether murky, but there’s a core of fringe activists in the city who earnestly believe that cyclists are uniformly innocent until proven guilty–and even then are probably just being framed. Add the eat-the-rich branch of the anti-poverty campaign (Wealthy, powerful dude [the Attorney General, in fact] hits bicycle courier with his BMW. Gets away with it because the prosecutor refuses to press charges. The narrative practically writes itself.) and you’ve got an intractable situation.

    What exactly is Bryant supposed to do? The judicial system has found him so utterly innocent that he cannot even be tried. And nothing he can say or do will satisfy his critics–who earnestly believe him to be guilty and do not care to hear otherwise.

    Castigating him for failing to do adequate outreach to an unreachable constituency is circular and silly.

    • Anonymous

      “The judicial system has found him so utterly innocent that he cannot even be tried.”


      The charges were dropped because the independent prosecutor doubted his ability to obtain a conviction.

      Bryant has never been absolved of wrong doing in Sheppard’s slaying.

      In fact, he could be charged again, if a more committed prosecutor were involved. Or if the public demands it, once the buried police report surfaces.

      The question remains, why are people like “mikehatedit” and “d” (above) still trying to misinform the public about this tragic event? Do they really believe what the general public has been mainstream media-fed about Bryant’s role in the horrific death of a fellow citizen?

      Or are they still being enlisted to run interference for a skittish, self-absorbed killer?

      • Anonymous

        If there were a case, the estate or successors would be well within their rights to pursue the matter in civil court, the will of the prosecutor be damned. And in the case of a public figure (and an independently wealthy man) like Michael Bryant, the financial rewards and other payoffs for doing so would be considerable, never mind the whole bringing-a-killer-to-justice thing.

        In the mean time, you’re basically buttressing my point.

        • Anonymous


          Are you referring to the fact that the former attorney general maintains in his “novel” that the Toronto Police Service conspired to blame him for the tragedy?

          Have you read the full police report yet?

          If not, it might wise to wait until you have before repeating any more misinformation publicly.

  • Wil M.

    What this article neglects to mention, and also why I have to disagree with a few of the comments below, is that Bryant immediately hired one of the biggest PR firms to slander Sheppard and try to show MTP did not follow protocol. If it had been anyone else they would be in jail or have serious restrictions through restitution right now. MTP did in fact follow the same protocol they have in the past with these situations. Bryant WAS given preferred treatment. His ability to slander Sheppard in the publics eye was the key issue in his ability to have the charges dropped. If I drive to Kingston and murder Bernardo I would still be a murderer. The “blind panic” defense is BS as well. Bryant is trying to tell us he was first nervous when behind Sheppard and slipped his clutch sending the car into Sheppard. If they had a previous heated vocal exchange why the hell would he get so close to him again? Then to say he was in a blind panic when Sheppard responded to being hit just baffles me. If you can’t control your actions to prevent a further altercation and can’t control your actions when under stress, how the hell do you become the AG in the first place?

    • Anonymous

      What baffles me is how people who weren’t there and have only read third-party reporting in the media somehow feel that they’re intimately familiar with the case, its circumstances, and the events therein, to such a point where they’re content to essentially declare the entire affair a conspiracy simply because it doesn’t align with their layperson’s assumptions.

      • pitbulladvocate

        Would have been nice to been able to go to trial eh? Had that happened there would not be so much discord or opinion. Too much was let open to read as a white wash.

      • Fayclis

        There are video’s of eye witness accounts AND of the incident. U R kidding right?

      • Debbie Black

        If anyone of these comments are based on widely reported “main stream media”, it seems to me that it would be yours.
        On the other hand your comments seem to intentionally suggest that you have inside information. If that is the case, you should declare your sources.

        I know that many citizens who have had no previous opinion of Bryant whatsoever believe that he most certainly received preferential treatment to say the very least.

        As it seems you have some insight into courtroom proceedings I will assume that you are aware that they are a matter of public record in order to safeguard the public’s interest in fair and democratic judicial system.
        Since the proceedings have been observed first hand by some and certainly the raw videos have been viewed by a large number of regular citizens i don’t see where you can validly accuse people of forming opinions based on “lame stream media”.
        I have a bias against Bryant because I have first hand experience with his “macho attitude”, to me, playing the “victim card” doesn’t sit well

        I am very aware that i don’t know everything that happened that night, but one thing that I personally believe is that a portion of it had to do with Bryant’s anger management issues.

        The media, influenced by Navigator, went into great detail about the perceived character and past of the courier, yet, no mention of Bryant’s alcoholism and only a few mentions of his reputation as a “hot tempered” guy.

        He has close friends in the media, they knew about his problems.

        Why are we only hearing about it now, when Bryant is selling a book?

  • Fayclis

    Bryant is a self confessed alcoholic and was while holding one of the TOP JOBS in the Ontario government. McGuinty HAD to know this joker had a serious drinking problem and Dalton gave him the position of ATTORNEY GENERAL of ONTARIO?