OTTAWA — A former Canadian soldier who received one of the country’s highest decorations for bravery was released on bail Friday in Cornwall, Ont., in an unfolding legal tangle that has ensnared his parents.
Collin Fitzgerald, 35, a former master corporal who received the Medal of Military Valour during a perilous battle in Kandahar, was charged in June with criminal harassment and intimidating a police officer.
Fitzgerald, who was also charged the following month with breaching his bail conditions, suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and has spent more than a month at the Royal Ottawa Hospital.
In May 2006, he saved the lives of three platoon mates by dragging them from a burning armoured vehicle during a Taliban ambush.
Fitzgerald of Morrisburg, Ont., took his release from the military a few years ago, but has since faced a number of legal problems.
His father, Bryan, was charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly not getting out of the way fast enough when the Ontario Provincial Police took his son back into custody last July.
He says police consider his son a threat to public safety and claims they’ve been harassing him.
“He is not a threat to society by any means,” Bryan Fitzgerald told The Canadian Press prior to Friday’s hearings. His son’s doctors have signed a letter to that effect, he added.
Fitzgerald was re-arrested in July for allegedly breaching an earlier bail condition that required him to go nowhere near the home he and his estranged wife own in nearby Iroquois, Ont. — an allegation his father disputes.
Police allege multiple witnesses saw Fitzgerald in the vicinity of the house one night in late July, but his father insists the two of them were at his home together on the night in question.
Bryan Fitzgerald says he presented police with video evidence of his son’s whereabouts, but they refused to look at it.
The young soldier has led a troubled life since returning from Afghanistan.
Fitzgerald was beaten up at a bar in his hometown south of Ottawa in March 2007, just months after receiving the military’s third-highest decoration for bravery.
He was arrested six years later following a five-hour standoff with police at his home in Iroquois.
His father says that, until recently, he co-operated with police whenever they made inquiries, or were looking for his son, but that ended in June with the latest series of arrests and the eventual charges against him.
Bryan Fitzgerald claims to have done nothing wrong and denies allegations that he obstructed the arresting officers, who raided his home in full tactical gear.