The lawyer forthe man accused of launching an unprovoked attack against a gay man outside Fly nightclub early one morning in September says her client is a victim of a system that failed to supply him with the medication he needs to control his mental illness.
Maureen Addie of the Toronto criminal defence firm Fromstein Law says Roy Edward Deans has been diagnosed with schizophrenia but he was off his medication at the time of the alleged attack because he could not afford to pay for it.
“In that respect this was a systemic failure,” says Addie. “The great tragedy is that if we had the right system in place for people with mental illnesses and could properly supply people with the medications they need there would be fewer of these kinds of incidents.”
Chris Bell and his boyfriend Ben Pearcy allege that Deans approached them and a friend as they were sitting in the parkette adjacent to the Gloucester St nightclub between 4am and 5am on Sep 2. Deans allegedly began shouting antigay slurs, pushing and punching Bell and threatening to kill him. After Bell finally punched back the two allegedly ended up on the ground in a brawl that, according to Bell, lasted about 10 minutes. During the altercation Deans allegedly shouted, “This is the last face you’re going to see tonight, faggot, because you’re going to die.”
Deans allegedly left the scene after Fly security called police and pried Deans off Bell. While police were on the scene Deans allegedly returned brandishing hedge clippers and threatening to use them as a weapon. Bell and Pearcy say they identified Deans as the attacker and police handcuffed and arrested Deans.
Bell didn’t seek medical attention but he says he was left with multiple bruises, scars and scratches on his face and body.
Deans was charged with two counts of assault and one count of threatening bodily harm in connection with the incident.
Addie says her client is not a homophobe even though the words he reportedly used the night of the attack make him sound like one.
“I’m a lesbian myself so I’m sensitive to the issues of the homophobic comments he allegedly made,” says Addie. “But the thing to focus on in this instance is that Mr Deans is not some sort of skinhead homophobe going around targeting gays and lesbians. He’s a mentally ill person who was unmedicated and just happened to be in [a gay] environment. If he had been in another neighbourhood the attack could have seemed racially motivated. These charges against Mr Deans are part of a ripple effect of a systemic failure to properly care for the mentally ill.”
“I just think that’s crap,” says Pearcy. “It’s just an excuse. The feeling that I felt that night was like nothing I’ve felt before. It was scary. He looked at my boyfriend and said, ‘This is the last face you will see, faggot. You are going to die tonight.’ I think his doctor should be charged.”
“If someone is that big of a threat to society or the public when they’re not on their medication they shouldn’t be out there,” says Bell. “They can be harmful to anyone or themselves. If they don’t have their meds someone should be there to monitor that and ensure they get it. Although he was let down by the system it’s not my fault. I was minding my own business. I think he should be institutionalized, it’s that simple.”
“It’s always dicey for defence counsel to talk to the press and I only did it in this case because of my connection to the community and wanting to allay fears and try to head off any hysteria or fear that there is a predator,” says Addie who emphasizes that Deans has not pleaded guilty and has not been convicted in connection with this incident.
As Xtra goes to press Deans is out on bail under the conditions that he not enter the Church-Wellesley neighbourhood and that he take his medication as prescribed. He is scheduled to undergo a psychiatric evaluation in December. His next court appearance is set for January.
Addie says if Deans is found to be not criminally responsible due to his mental illness he will be sent to a facility. He would not be released until the Ontario Review Board finds that he is no longer a danger to himself or the public, which could take years, says Addie.
“For a person to be found not criminally responsible, or NCR, is often more serious than a criminal sentence, which is finite,” says Addie. “But sometimes the benefit is that they get the treatment they need.”