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Accused gaybasher back on the streets

Man convinced gay cult stalking him acquitted of all charges

An allegedly psychotic man accused of threatening a neighbour and assaulting two men he perceived to be gay is back on the streets after being acquitted of all charges and released from provincial court, Oct 18.

According to information Crown counsel provided the court in a Sep 29 hearing, Uma Deo became psychotic and convinced that a “gay cult is stalking him” in July 2004.

Less than a year later, he allegedly threatened a Downtown Eastside neighbour while brandishing a 20-inch machete.

“Mr Deo was calling him a fag, a loser and telling him he’d cut his head off and kill him,” Crown counsel Kathy Murphy told the court.

Police arrested Deo on Apr 3, 2005 and charged him with uttering threats and possessing a weapon. He was released on bail shortly thereafter.

While he was out on bail, Deo allegedly assaulted two other men.

On Aug 15, Deo allegedly approached a stranger on the street, spat at him, “called him a fag” and struck him with a metal rod, Murphy said.

The metal rod allegedly opened one-inch gashes on the victim’s cheek, the back of his head, his chin and his back.

Bleeding, the victim hid behind a car and yelled for police. When an officer arrived on the scene, a second man approached and said Deo had assaulted him too, two days earlier.

Police apprehended Deo as he was crossing the street a few minutes later. They found a metal rod in his backpack.

When approached, Deo allegedly told the police: “Those guys keep staring at me. I’m not gay, I have a girlfriend.” Then he added, “The short one told me he loved me.”

Deo was taken into custody and charged with two counts of assault with a weapon.

“These two offences are serious. He attacked people on the street with weapons and caused injuries,” the Crown told the court Sep 29.

Deo was scheduled to stand trial for the alleged machete incident on Oct 7. But the victim in that case did not appear to testify, so the charges were dropped.

Deo appeared in court again Oct 18 to face the two assault charges. One of the two victims in that case failed to appear as well, so Deo was acquitted on the first charge.

On the second assault charge, Savath Prum testified that he was waiting for the light to change at Jackson and Cordova Sts on Aug 13 at 7 pm, when someone came up behind him and hit him hard on the left shoulder with a metal rod. “Hit me very hard. I screamed,” Prum told the court.

Prum fell to one knee and saw a man put a rod in his black backpack and walk away.

He did not call for help, he said, “because I say like that, nobody help me.”

Two days later, on his way to see his doctor about his shoulder, Prum saw the man again. This time he approached a police officer.

“I’m sure” that was the man, he told her, though he could not offer descriptive details such as height or weight or facial hair, and later agreed that he had only gotten a quick look at his assailant.

But “I make sure I saw who hit me,” he told the court, repeating that he had registered the man’s skin colour, what the rod looked like and the colour of the man’s backpack.

When crossexamined by Deo’s lawyer, Prum was adamant. “I’m sure. I’m sure. That man there,” he said, pointing to Deo in his red prison outfit.

Deo, a 40-year-old Fijian-Canadian man with short, dark hair and a full dark mustache with streaks of grey, took the stand and denied it was him. He couldn’t have been Prum’s assailant, he said, because he stayed home on Aug 13.

Deo also said he could not remember having a metal rod in his backpack at the time of his arrest. He later told the judge he found the backpack in a dumpster.

“Do you have a problem with gay people?” Murphy’s colleague, Crown counsel Phillip George, asked Deo during cross-examination.

Deo’s lawyer, Glenn Lee, objected.

It goes to motivation, George argued. It’s the Crown’s theory in this case that the accused struck Prum because he “thought he was gay,” George told the court.

Judge Jocelyn Palmer would not allow it.

“The issue in this case is identification,” Lee argued. Prum cannot identify Deo beyond a reasonable doubt as the man who hit him.

Judge Palmer agreed. Though Prum seems to honestly believe it was Deo who hit him, he cannot “safely say” it was Deo, she ruled.

“On the issue of identification, I must find that the Crown has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore I have to acquit Mr Deo on count two as well.”

Had Deo been convicted, George told Xtra West he would have sought a psychiatric assessment to see if Deo needs psychiatric care.

Deo was released from custody, without a psychiatric evaluation, on Oct 18.