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Attempted kiss at center of police officer assault allegation

An off-duty male officer is accused of assaulting a female colleague after trying to kiss her girlfriend. His lawyer says it didn't happen that way
The Sault Ste. Marie Courthouse is pictured in this file photo.

A city police officer pleaded not guilty Wednesday to assaulting a female member of the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service and her girlfriend last summer.

Const. Jarrott Forsyth was off-duty — as was the complainant — when the alleged assault occurred the early morning hours of Aug. 27, 2016.

Det. Const. Melanie Roach, a seven-year member of the force, testified the altercation erupted after Forsyth cornered her female partner in their east-end residence and tried to kiss her.

The case is being heard by an out-of-town judge, Ontario Court Justice Richard A. Humphrey and prosecuted by Sudbury assistant Crown attorney Kaely Whillans.

Prior to the incident, the trio had been at a bonfire at the home of two other city police officers, where they all had been socializing and drinking, Roach told the prosecutor.

She said they left about 1 a.m. after Forsyth texted her, asking if the two women needed a ride home.

When they reached their residence, Forsyth asked if he could come in for a beer, as she and her girlfriend, Lindsay Palmer, got out of his truck, and Roach said she agreed.

The atmosphere was normal, as they each consumed two beers, and after about an hour and half, she and Forsyth decided to go back to the party, while Palmer opted to stay home, the first Crown witness testified at the trial.

Forsyth was going to drive them, but he took off without her and she started to walk in the distance she saw his truck go, she said.

As she walked, they exchanged text messages, and he asked why she was being a jerk and she told him to stop being an "asshole", that she was going to punch him in the face and to come back.

Roach said Forsyth told her to keep walking and he was going to come back to pick her up, but after waiting for about 10 minutes, she called him a second time and he responded that he was at her home.

"I was really annoyed that he told he was coming back to get me and I had walked all that way," she explained to Whillans. "I was frustrated."

When she returned to her house, as she went up the back stairs, she could see Forsyth "pressed up against Lindsay" at a counter in the corner of the kitchen and it looked like he was trying to kiss her, Roach said.

"She appeared like she didn't like it .... cringed," the officer said, describing Forsyth as having a "little smirk on his face."

Saying she was confused about what she saw, Roach said she asked what he was doing with her girlfriend and told him to get out of her house

Forsyth started to walk towards her, still smirking and "trying to laugh it off," as she repeatedly told him to leave, she told the court.

Eventually, the verbal confrontation became physical as Forsyth's demeanor changed, and he came towards her, saying she wasn't tough and "what are you going to do about it Roachie," the court heard.

Roach testified Forsyth was right in her face, bumping his chest out, and taunting her, trying to intimidate her, and she said she stood her ground and pushed back.

"I'm not sure if I hit him first or if he hit me first," said the five-foot-ten, 200-pound. woman, who described Forsyth as "physically bigger than me," at an estimated 6 ft. height and 230 lb. weight.

Roach said they exchanged punches, that she struck the left side of his head and "he hit me square in the mouth area."

The altercation continued with Forsyth pushing her multiple times as she fought back, telling him to get out of her house, she stated.

Lindsay came into the kitchen, asked Forsyth what he was doing, telling him "you can't keep hitting a girl, get out," Roach said.

"She stepped in and he literally picked her up and threw her against the wall."

Roach said "this made me mad" and "I punched him again and he punched me in the mouth again."

"I ended up on the ground, he's on top of me, saying you're not as tough as you think you are," she testified, adding he walked away as she was getting up. He yelled at Lindsay, that they were leaving, that she was going with him.

Palmer refused to go with him, he started yelling and swearing and then left, Roach said.

The officer said she then contacted the police service because "I wanted him to be held responsible for what he had done."

"I was hurt, Lindsay was hurt and what he did was wrong."

During cross examination by defence counsel Bruce Willson, Roach agreed that she had consumed seven beer at the bonfire and two more later at home.

"That's a lot of beer," he suggested.

"For me, no. I can drink more," she replied.

"You were drunk ma'am," Willson told the woman, who insisted she was feeling good.

Roach denied that she had asked Forsyth to come in for a beer, and that after one drink he refused a second and told her he was going home.

The defence questioned whose idea it was to go back to the party and she told him "we both thought it would be a good idea."

He suggested neither Palmer nor Forsyth wanted to go there, and "you got mad" and stormed out of the house.

"Absolutely not," she insisted, and rejecting his suggestion that she was walking back to the party.

She agreed that she was really annoyed when she was walking, and that she was so upset that she texted Forsyth that she was going to punch him in the face.

Willson maintained that when she saw Forsyth and thought he was "hitting on" her girlfriend she became angry. 

"I was shocked," she told him.

In "your drunken state what you saw was Jarrott hugging her and saying goodbye," he said. 

"Absolutely not" was her answer.

Willson then suggested she had hit Forsyth first, and she told him "I could have. It happened so fast."

"You were mad because you thought he was hitting on your girlfriend, he said he was just saying goodbye, you exploded and hit him. What you said didn't happen," Willson said.

The defence asked if his client had punched her twice in the mouth with "all his might" and when she said yes, he suggested that would have knocked her teeth out.

"That's what I was worried about," said Roach, who had received swollen lips and cuts in her mouth in the altercation.

Roach called it "farfetched" that Forsyth wanted Palmer to leave with him because he feared for her safety because of the state Roach was in.

She also disagreed that Palmer had gotten in between her and Forsyth because she was trying to stop the altercation. 

Palmer testified that she was cleaning up after Roach and Forsyth left to return the party.

About five minutes later, she noticed Forsyth standing in the kitchen, and "was shocked, confused and asked what he was doing there."

After determining Roach wasn't with him, she asked Forsyth to call her, and he told Mel he was at her house, she said.

Forsyth came onto her, pushed her up against the counter and kissed her neck, Palmer said.

"I asked him to stop," she told Whillans. "It seemed to come out of the blue. He just came on to me."

Roach came in, asking "what the hell was going on," and telling Forsyth to get off her girlfriend and to get out of the house.

Forsyth acted like it was a joke, laughing, they argued, and when he wouldn't leave "it turned physical," Palmer said.

When Forsyth realized Roach wasn't laughing "it turned ugly and nasty."

Palmer said she was scared and ran into the living room, and "could tell things were not pretty at that point."

She told the court she didn't want to be part of it, but when she heard punches, she looked around the corner and saw Forsyth punch Roach in the face. 

"I came back in the kitchen, yelling what are you doing. You just hit a girl in the face," Palmer said.

"I went up to Jarrott and said are you crazy."

Forsyth just grabbed her and threw her into the wall, and he and Roach continued fighting until he finally left, she stated.

The trial continues today with Willson cross examining Palmer.

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About the Author: Linda Richardson

Linda Richardson is a freelance journalist who has been covering Sault Ste. Marie's courts and other local news for more than 45 years.
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