After being acquitted on a charge of uttering threats stemming from an incident in which he allegedly threatened the life of a local business owner, a former Merritt city councillor said he looks to move forward from what he said was a racist and political attack.
Mike Bhangu, 45, was cleared of his charge by Judge Raymond Phillips in a Kamloops provincial courtroom on Tuesday (March 8), after it was alleged that Bhangu threatened the proprietor of a local moving service in June of 2021 after the individual was called by Bhangu’s ex-partner to assist her in moving out of the former councillor’s residence. Phillips found the complainant’s story was tainted by a racist remark made to RCMP.
David Prest, the mover named in the case, told Merritt RCMP at the time of the complaint that Bhangu was of Indian descent, saying that “he’s East Indian and they treat their women like s–t.” While under cross-examination by Bhangu’s lawyer, Joe Killoran, Prest said the remark was simply mirroring a similar one made by Bhangu’s ex.
Phillips noted he was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt Bhangu was guilty of the crime he has been accused of, and ultimately acquitted him on the charge, citing the racist remarks as one of the reasons behind his decision.
Prest was allegedly hired by Bhangu’s former partner to help move her belongings out of the former councillor’s basement suite. Bhangu was accused of threatening Prest, who testified at trial, claiming Bhangu charged at him “like a bulldog.” Prest accused Bhangu of identifying himself as a city councillor, before threatening to kill him and run his business out of town. While the former councillor admitted to yelling at Prest and using an expletive, he denied threatening the mover.
“I’d like to thank ‘The Spirit’ and all who stood by me through this racist and political attack,” said Bhangu in a statement to media following his acquittal.
“Moreover, I’m grateful to Judge Phillips for seeing through the setup and highlighting that prosecution wasn’t working with credible evidence.”
Bhangu served as a city councillor from 2018 to 2021, at which time he resigned, citing a lack of confidence in the thenn-mayor Linda Brown’s leadership. Bhangu was charged with uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm in June of 2021, while still in office, and ultimately went to trial late last year. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor in October 2022, just one month before his trial began.
“Through the process, I felt many times treated as a second-class citizen,” said Bhangu.
“But this is nothing new, it’s the curse of a painted face, and I’ve experienced the many manifestations of racism since childhood. In this case, if I was treated fairly, I would not have endured a criminal charge and trial. I feel nearly two years were taken from me, and I’m now left picking up the pieces.”