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Accused umbrella gaybasher acquitted in Vancouver

Judge finds perpetrator’s identity not proven beyond doubt

Judge Jodie Werier ruled there was no question that an assault took place and that gay slurs were used, but there was not enough evidence to find Sunjeet Singh Minhas was the perpetrator.  Credit: Thinkstock

The man accused of assaulting a Vancouver man with an umbrella was acquitted of all charges June 30.

Sunjeet Singh Minhas, 25, had been charged with one count of assault with a weapon and one count of uttering threats in connection with an alleged Davie Street gaybashing that took place in the early-morning hours of Oct 9, 2011.

Minhas bent his head down in relief and covered his face while a half dozen of his friends and family broke into scattered applause immediately after the decision was read in Vancouver Provincial Court.

Travis James Johnston, whose lip was split open during the assault nearly three years ago, stood up and left the courtroom immediately following the decision.

Judge Jodie Werier read her decision aloud, saying that the Crown had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. She said that while there was no question that the assault took place and that gay slurs were used, there was not enough evidence that Minhas was the perpetrator.

“The fact that homophobic slurs were uttered is shameful and concerning to me,” she said.

However, she rejected Johnston’s identification of Minhas to police, saying that he did so only after Minhas was in handcuffs.

She described Minhas as soft-spoken and calm during his testimony.

Werier also criticized the defence for not attempting to subpoena Wali Rahnumah until the last minute, during the final days of the trial. Although a material witness warrant was issued for Rahnumah, he never testified in court.

Minhas testified that it was Rahnumah who threw the umbrella, then left the scene before police arrived. Minhas said that he didn’t show up until after the assault took place and that he had only been trying to prevent an altercation between his friends and another group of men that night.

He also claimed that he would never use homophobic slurs and that he supports his gay friends.

Outside the courthouse, defence lawyer David J Taylor expressed his happiness with the acquittal. “It was clear that were some things done on that evening which everybody would agree are wrong. The defence case was simply that it wasn’t Mr Minhas who was at fault,” Taylor said.

“I think it’s up to the police to take some steps to trace down with a proper, thorough investigation who may have been at fault,” he added.