A Toronto court has ruled that, in light of comments made to Xtra, Jon Chaisson’s tale of a hate-fuelled gaybashing he suffered on a TTC platform is simply not credible.
The court, meanwhile, found Collin Dillon, the accused gaybasher, was the victim in the tussle, ruling that he acted in self-defence.
Chaisson pressed charges after an April 22, 2011, conflict between the two, with Dillon’s girlfriend present, on a TTC platform and later inside the car.
Chaisson’s story told of an unprovoked attack, in which a drunken Dillon lobbed homophobic slurs like “faggot” as he attacked. Chaisson said he responded in self-defence, landing one blow, and eventually cornered his aggressor after he tried to escape.
But Dillon’s time-line is different and never changed. He agrees that the two had an altercation, but says he was not drunk, and that Chaisson was the one who did the damage — hitting him at least four or five times, leaving bruises and cuts all over his face.
Chaisson later retooled his story, admitting that he hit Dillon many more times than he initially told Xtra reporter Rob Salerno. His recollection of the location of the fight — the platform, or the car — also changed. Chaisson subsequently refused to speak to Xtra after the inconsistencies in his story were published.
Both agreed on one detail — Chaisson, while leaving the scene of the conflict, shouted “I’m gay.” Dillon responded, “So what? You’re gay, I’m gay, we’re all gay.” Dillon’s lawyers were quick to point out that if Chaisson didn’t reveal his identity until after the altercation, then there is little evidence of homophobia in relation to the fight.
Nevertheless, Chaisson forged ahead in trying to get the case classified as a hate crime. But holes in his story ended up being the case’s undoing.
“The trial judge was not impressed with Chaisson’s credibility,” says Dillon’s lawyer, Michael Lacy. “He found he had an ‘agenda.’ He found that Chaisson was the aggressor and not my client.”
The judge was further suspicious of Chaisson’s attempts to frame the narrative of the story.
“He made reference to the fact that Chaisson sought out support in the gay media, advocated for it be treated as a ‘hate’ crime etc.” Lacy told Xtra in an email. “There was no evidence that this case involved any kind of attack on Chaisson because he was homosexual.”
While Chaisson approached Xtra with the story, during the course of the trial, Salerno’s reporting highlighted inconsistencies in Chaisson’s account. His reporting and notes were entered as evidence in the trial.
“Salerno did what a good reporter should do: a little investigation before accepting everything any one says,” says Lacy.
Salerno, for his part, recognized the inconsistencies early, and put them to the alleged victim.
“When I spoke to Chaisson to see how he responded to [Dillon’s] accusation that he was the aggressor, he told me he was outraged that I didn’t just take his side,” Salerno says. “He eventually swore not to speak to Xtra again — this isn’t the typical behaviour of an honest interview subject and victim.”
He’s not sure what Chaisson’s motivations were, assuming the judge is right and his version of events are fiction. Money is one possiblity — Chaisson was looking to have his medical bills covered by Dillon, even though there didn’t appear to be any — but there also appeared to be a very personal angle.
“Dillon spent a small fortune defending himself in the six-day trial, and now when he applies for a job, employers come up with stories from Xtra and CBC accusing him of being a gay-basher,” says Salerno.
“He may have also had a simple mission to make life miserable for Collin, which may have largely succeeded.”