All criminal charges against Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly have been dismissed after a trial that lasted roughly an hour and a half Monday morning in London, Ont.
“The case against Mr. O’Reilly is completely over,” assistant Crown Attorney George Christakos told The Buffalo News early Monday afternoon.
The trial began one year and two days after O’Reilly was accused of slamming his pickup truck into a Tim Hortons cafe outside London, Ont.
The criminal case against O’Reilly apparently unraveled after Mary Smith – who turned out to be the only trial witness – testified on cross-examination that she didn’t see anyone in the truck after the crash, according to courtroom tweets from London Free Press reporter Jane Sims.
“It was a mystery driver,” Smith told the court, according to Sims’ tweet.
Christakos confirmed that he initiated the dismissal of all charges against O’Reilly.
“We heard from the first witness, and after that, I invited the court to dismiss the charges against Mr. O’Reilly,” Christakos told The News. Justice Thomas McKay then agreed to dismiss those charges.
When asked why the case dragged on for more than a year with apparently no eyewitness identification, Christakos declined comment. He also wouldn’t discuss why the prosecution couldn’t have relied on other evidence, such as the damage to the truck.
The legal proceedings were considered especially important to the Sabres because if O’Reilly had been found guilty, he also could have faced a suspension from the National Hockey League for an unspecified number of games.
O’Reilly’s arrest came less than a week after he signed a seven-year $52.5 million contract extension that was the largest in franchise history. That deal was signed shortly after the Sabres acquired him from the Colorado Avalanche in a blockbuster trade last summer.
Police tracked him down about a mile away from the scene after his vintage 1951 Chevrolet pickup truck allegedly rammed into a Tim Hortons cafe in Lucan, Ont.
Earlier in the courtroom proceedings, O’Reilly had pleaded not guilty to impaired driving and a related blood-alcohol charge, the Free Press reported. A third charge, of fail-to-remain (at the scene), was not being considered at the trial because it’s similar to a traffic ticket.
The trial began – and ended – with the testimony of Smith, who was cooking breakfast inside the restaurant last July.
“Somebody drove through the window at Tim Hortons,” Smith told the court, according to reporter Sims’ tweet.
Smith also testified that she called police after the incident, ran outside and saw the truck leaving quickly from the scene, the Free Press reported.
The witness also told the court that she yelled to the driver that police were called. The driver yelled, “I’ll be back,” the reporter quoted the witness as saying. Smith also testified that the driver was “very polite.”
But on cross-examination, the prosecution’s case began to unravel over the identification issue.
“Crown is folding,” Sims tweeted a few minutes before the acquittal. Then, “No reasonable prospect of conviction. No more evidence.”
Finally, at about 11:45 a.m., Sims tweeted, “Not guilty! We’re done.”
O’Reilly’s case had seven adjournments, not considered unusual in the Canadian judicial system, before a trial date finally was set in late December. Authorities had said that if found guilty, he could have faced up to six months in jail, fines and a suspended license.