Dog owner not guilty of ranger attack

Tim EdmundsAlbany Advertiser
The Albany Justice Complex.
Camera IconThe Albany Justice Complex. Credit: Laurie Benson

The actions of two City of Albany rangers have been thrown into question after an Albany man was found not guilty of stabbing one of them during a confrontation on his property.

Dylan Byron Ronald Cassells, 25, was yesterday found not guilty of stabbing ranger Cliff McLaughlin in a scuffle at Mr Cassells’ house last year following a four-day trial.

The Albany District Court jury took just over an hour to acquit Mr Cassells of assaulting a public officer after it was disputed how the ranger received the wound to his head.

The court heard rangers Mr McLaughlin and colleague Michael McCaffery had gone to Mr Cassells’ house in April last year after his staffy-pitbull cross dog Turbo was spotted by them wandering the streets untethered in Lower King.

In testimony last week, Mr Cassells admitted he swore at the rangers and was in an agitated state when he opened the door to speak to them about his dog.

The events that followed were disputed throughout the trial with State prosecutor Lisa Boston accusing Mr Cassells of brandishing a knife and cutting the head of ranger McLaughlin.

Mr Cassells told the jury Mr McLaughlin attempted to film him on his mobile phone which led to him grabbing at the phone before he was pushed against the wall of his own home and threatened with arrest as the scuffle developed.

Mr Cassells said he had a filleting knife in his pocket as he was cutting up meat for his dog before the knock on the door and denied cutting Mr McLaughlin.

Mr Cassells said he only brandished the knife in a threatening manner once he was punched and kicked by ranger McCaffery in the scuffle and believed Mr McLaughlin received the head wound from falling back against the brickwork.

But Ms Boston argued Mr Cassells never told the rangers to leave the property until Mr McLaughin received the wound to his head she said occurred from the knife.

Giving evidence last week, Mr McLaughlin said he pushed Mr Cassells against the wall to restrain him in fear after spotting the knife in his pocket. It was then he said Mr Cassells drew the knife and repeatedly lunged at him and felt the force of the knife on his head.

In cross-examination, Mr McLaughlin said he only “felt the impact” of the knife and Mr McCaffery said he never saw the alleged act.

In his closing address, defence lawyer Graeme Payne said the two rangers were trespassing on the property because his client had told them to leave and further escalated the situation by threatening to arrest him and pushed him.

Mr Payne said the wound was not consistent with a knife injury and pointed to the evidence of City manager of ranger services Tony Ward who said Mr McLaughlin told him the day after the incident he was not sure if the wound was from the knife or wall.

In her closing address Ms Boston said the rangers were at all times performing a function of their office.

She said ranger McLaughlin’s actions were “completely justifiable and not an excessive use of force”.

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