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South Sydney fullback Latrell Mitchell told police during his arrest in Canberra earlier this year that “I’ve done nothing wrong but be a blackfella in Australia”.
Mitchell and close friend Jack Wighton appeared at ACT Magistrates Court on Monday morning contesting charges from an early morning street brawl during celebrations for Wighton’s 30th birthday in February.
South Sydney player Latrell Mitchell arrives at the ACT Magistrates Court.Credit: AAP
Mitchell’s defence will revolve around the heavy-handed police conduct during the arrest that resulted in both men being charged with failing to comply with an exclusion direction and fighting in a public place. Mitchell was also charged with resisting a territory public official.
Prosecutor Sam Bargwanna accused the duo of fighting outside the Fiction nightclub after Wighton was removed from the venue by police due to his upset facial expression, angry demeanour and clenched fists.
Police then allegedly intervened to break up the fight and arrest Mitchell, while reminding Wighton he had been issued with an exclusion direction and to leave the area.
Wighton allegedly responded “lock me up with him, you’re f—wits”, before he was also arrested.
South Sydney recruit Jack Wighton was all smiles arriving at court on Monday.Credit: AAP
But Mitchell’s lawyer Jack Pappas said the police had acted inappropriately in their dealings with the men, suggesting it was “a sad parody of what proper police conduct needed to be”.
Footage from police body-worn cameras will show Mitchell encouraging people filming his arrest to share it on social media, Pappas told the court.
Other footage of the arrest shows four police officers on top of Mitchell when arresting him while the fullback yells “my shoulders, my shoulders”.
A lawyer for Wighton said Mitchell had been “reduced to a weeping mess” and was worried “he might die”.
“Mr Wighton heard all of it, saw all of it … it was confronting to see … he’s accused of not turning his back on his cousin and walking into the night,” Wighton’s lawyer told the court.
The pair sat next to each other in court and were very friendly with one another.
They were all smiles when confronted by a media pack when they arrived at the building on Monday morning. The hearing is scheduled for three days.
The duo, who are distant cousins and close friends, have previously played together for NSW and Australia, but will be club teammates for the first time next year after Wighton signed with South Sydney in April.
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