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Letter to Canberra Raiders suggests Mitchell, Wighton were asked to admit guilt before going to court

Andrew Mathieson -

Latrell Mitchell and Jack Wighton were asked to deliver public apologies to ACT police before heading to trial or pleading guilty in exchange for more lenient sentences.

The pair fronted up to court last week over four charges, including fighting in a public place, outside of a Canberra nightspot, but after the evidence began to unravel prosecutor Sam Bargwanna subsequently dropped the case.

The police's most senior officer involved, Sergeant David Power, was forced to admit to providing false evidence in the arrest against the two Indigenous NRL stars.

But so convinced was the ACT Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions of the guilt of Mitchell and Wighton, who will join his cousin Mitchell at South Sydney next year, that the bold move was labelled unprecedented by multiple lawyers connected to Canberra Raiders.

The letter to the NRL club, who was acting on behalf of Wighton, was delivered on the same day that ACT Police minister Mick Gentleman told ABC Canberra that a number of police officers involved in the arrest on February 5 of this year had been referred to an internal standard panel regarding their actions.

Raiders chief executive Don Furner attempted to contact ACT police and the DPP on several occasions about the case, but he was ignored by both parties before the men were offered the plea deal.

"The prosecution considers that there's reasonable prospects of success in this matter, and it is in the public interest for the prosecution of your client to continue," the letter read from the DPP sent to Furner back in June.

"Should your client be willing to plead guilty to both charges and issue out a public apology to both the responding police and the community for his alleged conduct, the prosecution would not be heard against a submission that your client is remorseful and should be shown some leniency by the court on sentence."

"Of course, your client would be able to ask for leniency from the sentencing court on the basis that he has not required the matter to progress to a full-contested hearing, thus saving court time and public resources."

In the video tendered to court, police ordered Wighton to follow officers out of the club before he was soon after charged with ignoring an exclusion order.

Mitchell was additionally charged with affray and resisting police.

"We went to the police and DPP several times, requesting a reasonable explanation as to why they were taken out of a nightclub in the first place and arrested, and why the matter was progressing to court," Furner told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"From the vision we had seen, the players had done nothing wrong.

An annotated excerpt of the letter sent to the Raiders.

"We wanted to know if something had happened off camera; we take player misbehaviour seriously and wanted to get to the bottom of the matter.

"When we did hear back, the DPP told us they wanted Jack to issue a public apology to the police and community, and only then would they ask the judge to show leniency.

"I showed that letter to our board and several solicitors we know, and they had never seen a request like it."

Furner hinted that ACT police and specifically the arresting officers on that night had their own personal agenda amid a jurisdiction (in the ACT) that consistently has one of the highest incarceration rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.

"Our players don't ask for special treatment," Furner said.

"They just want to be treated like normal members of the public.

"But to march Jack Wighton up a set of stairs with his hands behind his back, pushing him against a wall, and for absolutely nothing … it was an easy narrative for them on the night.

"I'm actually so glad they got found out in such a spectacular way."

Lawyers acting for Wighton in a letter to the DPP on June 7 said they were more than willing to argue that the fact both men were Indigenous and high-profile sportsmen had "motivated police to act as they did".

Mitchell was quoted in the court of saying to police: "I've done nothing wrong but be a blackfella in Australia".

Furner added that the DPP and police had chances to save the public costs and authorities from embarrassment, but their "arrogance" and "dishonesty" were their undoing.

"It's completely up to Jack and Latrell what they do now, but I say they would be well within their rights to sue – most people would," Furner said.

Sergeant Power has already apologised to Wighton directly during court proceedings for providing the false evidence.


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