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Red Deer lawyer pleads guilty to assaulting RCMP officer

Assault happened during 2023 traffic stop near Innisfail
Red Deer Court of Justice (Advocate file photo)

A Red Deer lawyer pleaded guilty on Friday to assaulting an RCMP officer during a 2023 traffic stop near Innisfail.

Laura Phypers, 38, entered her plea in Red Deer Court of Justice before Edmonton-area Justice John Maher.

Reading from an agreed state of facts, Crown prosecutor Robert Morrison said Phypers was a passenger in a vehicle driven by another woman that was pulled over by an RCMP officer who suspected impaired driving near the Innisfail overpass at Highway 2 on June 2, 2023.

When the officer approached the vehicle, he spotted an open bottle of liquor and when he tried to apprehend the driver an altercation occurred. Phypers clenched her fists and took a fighting stance before she was taken to the ground. She tried to punch the officer and eventually struck him on the left side before being handcuffed.

During the scuffle, Phypers was punched a number of times, suffering a broken nose, bruising and other injuries. She was later charged with assaulting a police officer, obstructing a police officer and uttering threats.

Defence lawyer Christian Manucci said Phypers was struggling with alcohol, stress and a troubled upbringing that involved poverty and being surrounded by drinking.

"This is an individual who has overcome significant adversity."

Manucci said Phypers, who is Indigenous and is a well-known advocate for First Nations people in central Alberta, was not immune to her past and upbringing and alcohol got the better of her on the night of the altercation with police.

Many lawyers and people she had helped wrote letters of support for the mother of two boys.

Since the incident, Phypers has quit drinking and embraced her Indigenous heritage by becoming a sun dancer, an honoured role that requires strict commitment to sobriety while practising respect for oneself and others.

The Crown prosecutor, who was brought in from Lethbridge to handle the case, told the judge that as a lawyer Phypers should have known the officer was acting lawfully.

"Her interactions interfered with the lawful process."

The defence and Crown submitted a joint submission for 12 months probation followed by a conditional discharge if all conditions are met. That would mean Phypers would not have a criminal record.

Justice Maher said he needed more time to review the letters of support and other material before sentencing, which was set for June 18.

The National Police Federation (NPF), which represents 20,000 RCMP officers across Canada and internationally, said in a statement it was pleased with the guilty plea.

"It is never OK to attack or injure a police officer lawfully executing their duties," said NPF Prairie Region director in a statement. "Our members, and all police officers in Canada, work a challenging, often thankless job and they deserve to go to work and end their shifts healthy."

The driver, Desiree Friesen, has been charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and refusing to provide a breath sample. She returns to court on June 20 to set a trial date.



Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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