Ontario's former attorney general says he is innocent of the criminal charges laid against him yesterday after he was involved in a fatal accident that ended with the death of a cyclist.

Michael Bryant, who has been charged with criminal negligence causing death, declared his innocence in an open letter sent Wednesday to Toronto's Mayor David Miller. He also used the opportunity to resign from his post as CEO of Invest Toronto, saying the position requires full attention.

"Let me be clear. I am innocent of the very serious accusations made against me," the letter said. "It would however, be unfair to you, the board and above all, the residents of Toronto to allow this event to distract from the vital efforts of Invest Toronto."

Bryant took no questions from reporters on Tuesday when released from police custody. He has hired Navigator Ltd., a Toronto public affairs firm, to advise him. It orchestrated the release of his letter to Miller and the media contact listed was a Navigator employee.

Bryant's resignation takes effect immediately.

The B.C.-born Bryant spent 10 years in provincial politics before resigning to take a position with Invest Toronto, an agency created to lure investment dollars to the city, earlier this year.

In the letter, Bryant thanked the board for their support and said he is stepping down with "considerable regret."

"I do not believe, however, that I can continue in this position on account of the circumstances of the past two days," he said.

Miller also released a public statement Wednesday saying he has accepted Bryant's resignation and thanked him for his work and "obvious" commitment to the organization. "He is a dedicated public servant with a unique gift that will be missed at Invest Toronto," the statement says.

The mayor expressed his sympathies for the family of the deceased cyclist and said his thoughts are with Bryant's family at this "difficult time."

Toronto police have also charged Bryant with dangerous driving causing death.  That offence has a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison, while the maximum for the criminal negligence charge is life in prison.

New video

The sequence of events appears to be this:

  • sometime around 9:45 p.m. on Monday, Darcy Allan Sheppard was cycling westbound on Bloor Street near Bay Street
  • he became involved in a minor collision with Bryant's black Saab convertible, which had the top down
  • Sheppard wasn't hurt, but he was angry. There are reports he slammed a bag down on the hood of the car
  • Bryant -- returning home with his wife, entertainment lawyer Susan Abramovitch, after celebrating their 12th wedding anniversary -- pulled away
  • Sheppard chased him on foot and grabbed the vehicle on the driver's side. The reason for his actions aren't clear
  • the car veered to the left of a construction work site, putting it in the eastbound lanes

Some security camera video obtained by CTV Toronto shows the car passing the construction site before returning to the passing westbound lanes.

Bryant would then turn north on Avenue Road and stop at the Park Hyatt hotel. He contacted 911 to report the incident.

CTV's Tom Hayes said one key question could be whether Sheppard was hanging onto the steering wheel or otherwise interfering with the driver's ability to control the vehicle.

Some witnesses have alleged that the Saab appeared to be trying to knock Sheppard off the vehicle. The Saab partially mounted the sidewalk and brushed several objects. Sheppard struck a mailbox and let go of the vehicle.

Paramedics took Sheppard, who was bleeding from the mouth and nose, to hospital. He died about an hour later.

Sorting out the evidence will be the job of Vancouver criminal lawyer Richard Peck. He has been hired by Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General as independent counsel to conduct prosecution of the case.

No allegations against Bryant have been proven in a court of law.

Cyclist spoke to police

Meanwhile, there is more information coming to light about the victim, Darcy Allan Sheppard, a bicycle courier.

The 33-year-old man was involved in a confrontation with his ex-girlfriend less than an hour before he was fatally injured.

Police arrived at the home of Sheppard's former girlfriend on George Street, just after 9 p.m. on Monday. Officers were reportedly there to deal with a disturbance of some type.

Toronto police Const. Tony Vella said officers escorted Sheppard away from the scene and there were no allegations of criminal activity.

Vella also said there were no indications that Sheppard was intoxicated.

 In an email Wednesday to The Canadian Press, Misty Bailey said Sheppard was drunk when he showed up at her door. Other people have also suggested it appeared Sheppard had been drinking.

"He rested and slept a bit then he insisted on (leaving) to go home," she said in the email, adding she didn't ask him to leave.  "I would have loved for him to stay where I knew he was safe."

Police had Sheppard in the back of a cruiser for a time. Bailey said she asked police to drive him home, but they let Sheppard go.

About an hour later, Sheppard got entangled in the incident that led to his death.

Sgt. Tim Burrows of the Toronto police's traffic unit said a toxicology scan will be part of the autopsy to be carried out on Sheppard's body. That scan can determine how much alcohol Sheppard may have had in his blood, he said.

One former partner of Sheppard, who is mother to one of his four children, said he spoke to her on Sunday about his drinking problem.

"He said he just realized he needed help and he was going to get it," Jodie Schendler said from Hinton, Alta.  "He was going to get well."

Her son Andrew turned five on Saturday, and now the father he never really knew is dead, she said.

The Globe and Mail reported Sheppard had 61 outstanding warrants for his arrest in the province of Alberta at the time of his death.

The warrants were related to allegations of cheque forgeries that were exchanged for cash at Money Marts, the newspaper reported.

With reports from CTV Toronto's Tom Hayes and Reshmi Nair and files from The Canadian Press, the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail