Dramatic footage shows the night NRL players Latrell Mitchell and Jack Wighton were “targeted” by police and arrested.
All charges against the two – who are distant cousins and will soon be teammates – were sensationally dismissed in the ACT Magistrates Court on Wednesday, a day after a senior police officer involved in their arrests admitted to giving false evidence to the court.
Lawyers for the pair will now consider whether to launch further action against the ACT Police or the public prosecutor, while ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury is likely to consider a review.
NRL star Latrell Mitchell can be heard screaming about his shoulder as police arrested him outside an ACT nightclub in February. The footage shows friends of Mitchell and fellow NRL star Jack Wighton trying to diffuse the situation before both players are placed under arrest.
In body-worn camera footage submitted to the court, and now publicly released, Mr Mitchell can be heard shouting “I’m Latrell Mitchell” as he pleaded for help and cried in pain as police attempted to handcuff him in the early hours of February 5 in Canberra.
He could be heard yelling “because I’m a blackfella?” and “I’ve done nothing wrong”.
CCTV footage shows Mr Mitchell complying with police orders to get onto his knees, before a number of officers forced him onto the ground, pinning him with elbows and knees.
A number of police officers were on his back trying to restrain him as he was shouting, CCTV footage shows.
Mr Mitchell was that night charged with resisting territory officials, fighting in a public place, and affray.
Meanwhile, Mr Wighton had been charged with contravening an exclusion direction and fighting in a public place.
The prosecution’s argument came undone after CTTV footage from inside Fiction nightclub – where the duo and their friends had been celebrating Mr Wighton’s 30th birthday – failed to show the behaviour police had based their exclusion direction on.
Sergeant David Power had ordered Mr Wighton out of the club at about 3.45am after he “saw” the then-Raiders star “push and shove” another man, and perceived him to have “clenched fists” and an “angry expression” on his face.
Bodycam footage from the moment Raiders star Jack Wighton was excluded from a Canberra nightclub in February has been released by the ACT Magistrate's Court, after charges against him and fellow player Latrell Mitchell were dismissed on Wednesday.
Body-cam footage, tendered to court and now released publicly, shows police escorting Mr Wighton out of the club with his arms behind his back.
Outside, his friends attempted to talk to police and ask for an explanation as to why he had been kicked out. His friends had denied Mr Wighton had engaged in any aggressive behaviour.
In questioning Sergeant Power, Mr Wighton’s lawyer Steven Boland, was able to prove the claims were false.
Once Mr Wighton had been kicked out, his friends followed.
Police allege he and Mr Mitchell had a scuffle which prompted police to intervene and arrest the pair.
Pair ‘targeted’ because of status
Speaking outside of court, Canberra Raiders chief executive Don Furner said the pair were “targeted” because they were NRL players.
He said the hearing had been a “waste of time and taxpayers money”, and echoed the words of Mr Boland who, a day earlier, had suggested police had engaged in “an old fashioned stitch-up” and had been trying to “frame” the players.
Mr Furner said he had written to the Director of Public Prosecutions “a number of times” to question why the case was proceeding.
Mr Furner said he’d received a letter in response from prosecutor Sam Bargwanna, who had given them the advice that “should your client be willing to plead guilty to both charges and issue a public apology to both the responding police and the community for his conduct”.
“So I’m assuming Mr Bargwanna will give a public apology to Jack Wighton,” he said, holding a copy of the letter.
NRL stars Latrell Mitchell and Jack Wighton have spoken outside the ACT Magistrate's Court after charges against them were dismissed following a senior police officer's bombshell admission he had given false evidence to the court.
Speaking after the charges were dismissed, Mr Mitchell said “a job was brought here to be done, and it’s been served”.
“The last 10 months have been very hard,” he added.
Mr Wighton thanked the Raiders and his family for supporting him.
“There were a couple of big mistakes made and we’ve come to this result,” he said.
‘It could have been worse’: Lawyers
Mr Mitchell’s solicitor, Tom Taylor, said the outcome was “the right outcome”, but said it “could have been so much worse”.
“Mr Mitchell and Mr Wighton are proud Indigenous men, who have been subjected to the power of police acting oppressively, violently,” he said.
“Indigenous people are 17 times more likely to be arrested than non-Indigenous people. In 2021, Indigenous adults went to prison at 14 times the rate of non-Indigenous adults.
“There is a sobering reality. Three to four grown men forced themselves on top of (Mr Mitchell), face down in the concrete.
“We know Indigenous people are more likely to be incarcerated. We need to do better as a community.”
There is no suggestion that any of the arrests or conduct of the police officers was racially motivated.
He noted it was “galling” because Mr Wighton had been so involved in the Canberra community.
“They were targeted because they were NRL players,” Mr Furner said.
He said he was “really sad” that this would be Mr Wighton’s last memory of Canberra, and was “particularly sad” that Mr Mitchell’s memories of Canberra had been tainted.
In a statement the South Sydney Rabbitohs also welcomed the dismissal, and supported Mr Taylor’s comments.
“At no stage did Jack Wighton engage in violent or aggressive conduct, and there was no need for police to use the level of force that Mr Mitchell endured,” the club said.
“These charges have also weighed heavily on both players over the past eight to nine months. They have shown great courage and resilience in fighting to prove the charges laid were false and unwarranted.”
How the case unfolded
It was initially alleged that Mr Wighton had been given an exclusion notice after police observed him “pushing and shoving” a man inside Fiction nightclub, having “clenched fists” and having an “angry” expression on his face which made police think violence could ensue.
But on Tuesday, Sergeant Power – the supervisor of a group of officers involved in the incident – was shown a series of CCTV that Mr Wighton’s lawyer Steve Boland argued showed significant holes in the police’s description of the night.
Sergeant Power then told the court allegations he’d made about why he’d kicked Mr Wighton out of the club no longer seemed accurate.
Sergeant Power admitted: “What I saw didn’t line up with the footage” and conceded he had a “memory issue”.
“What I saw appears to have not happened, and my memory has failed me,” he said.
Mr Boland accused Sergeant Power of trying to “frame” his client by “inventing” evidence.
“It wasn’t a lie. It’s what I believed happened,” Sergeant Power said and denied misleading the court.
The sergeant later apologised to Mr Wighton in front of the court.
“Sorry Jack, if that’s what happened, mate. I thought I saw something different,” he said to Mr Wighton.
Under further questioning, Mr Boland asked if it was a “fact you’ve given false evidence”, to which Sergeant Power said it “appeared as so”.