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Mantler pleads guilty

In a surprise move, suspended RCMP Cst. Geoff Mantler changed his plea to guilty Wednesday afternoon.

Mantler's lawyer Neville McDougall made the announcement that Mantler was pleading guilty to one count of assault causing bodily harm, just as Mantler was fully expected to take the witness stand during his ongoing trial in Kelowna.

The move was so unexpected that everyone in the courtroom fell silent. The sentencing will now take place at a later date.

After spending some time in the court room Mantler, who appeared thin and tired throughout the trial, walked out but declined to comment.

Kelowna RCMP Superintendent Bill McKinnon said Mantler remains suspended without pay and is awaiting a formal disciplinary hearing.

No date has been set for the hearing. Typically they, (Ottawa), waits for completion of criminal charges when charges are brought before the courts, he said.

The suspended Kelowna RCMP officer was caught on video kicking Buddy Tavares in the face during a vehicle stop on Jan. 7, 2011. The video was taken by Kelly Hayes, a former Castanet reporter.

Tavares appeared disappointed by the outcome of the trial, saying he had been waiting a long time for this as he stood on the steps of the Kelowna courthouse.

"You tread water as long as you can, but then you eventually drown," he said. "I don't think he wanted to get on the stand."

He admitted to frustration, knowing what the judge could have sentenced him to.

"The courts have an opportunity to send a message to all the police because this is a problem in Canada, to make an example here to all the cops who like to kick people, beat up people," he said.

As for why Mantler pleaded not guilty in the first place, considering the video evidence against him Tavares said his guilt was never in question. He was grasping at straws and they ran out of straws and he was sinking fast.

Of great concern was the amount of money this has cost taxpayers, he said.

 Tavares basically put his life on hold, waiting around for the outcome of the trial. On Thursday he is going to Mexico,  he told reporters.

The Mantler assault trial began Nov. 26, with testimony from Hayes and Tavares. Hayes explained that he was driving to another assignment when he heard chatter on the police scanner about a possible domestic incident at the Harvest Golf Club and a man firing a gun. As he turned onto KLO he saw a pick up truck pulled over by an unmarked police vehicle. He reached for his iPhone and took a still picture before recording video of the incident

Later in the day, Tavares testified he had gone to the golf club and used his shotgun to scare geese from the fairways, something he did on a regular basis. He left the course and drove down KLO road before pulling over when he saw flashing lights. He got down on his hands and knees when he left the vehicle and the next thing he remembered was being in the back of a police car and completely disoriented.

Over the course of the trial, which ended Wednesday with the guilty plea, testimony was heard from other witnesses including police officers who responded to the scene, an expert in use of force and civilians.

Tavares' sister Pam Weiher expressed relief the trial was over, but said she and her brother were also shocked because he was hoping to hear what Mantler had to say.

As far as Mantler doing what he did, she said she thinks he saw how things were stacked against him and didn't think he had another choice.

"I thought he would defend his actions," she said. "But the video doesn't lie."

She expects Mantler could get upwards of 18 months house arrest, and her hope is he does not get hired back as an RCMP officer.

She said there will be a civil suit.

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