News
4 min

Closing arguments made in case of alleged attack on MLA’s office

Judge’s ruling scheduled for Jan 15

“It’s true I had a pet peeve about the rainbow flag at the library,” Michael Melvin Williams testified. Williams told the court he had previously spoken to Vancouver West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert about having a municipal flag at the community centre. Credit: Jeremy Hainsworth

UPDATE: Dec 20, 2014, 9:25am

Michael Melvin Williams, 54, returns to Vancouver Provincial Court Jan 15 for a judge’s decision on charges of assault and mischief under $5,000 related to the Feb 21 assault on a constituency assistant at MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert’s office.

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The man accused of assaulting Spencer Chandra Herbert’s constituency assistant was obsessed with the Pride flag at the West End Community Centre and wouldn’t let the issue go because he was not allowed to speak to the MLA, the Crown prosecutor told a provincial court judge during the trial of Michael Melvin Williams on Dec 19.

The result was violence, prosecutor Mark Jetté told Judge David St Pierre. Williams is charged with assault and mischief under $5,000.

“It’s true I had a pet peeve about the rainbow flag at the library,” Williams testified. Williams told the court he had spoken to Chandra Herbert several months earlier about having a municipal flag at the community centre. He testified he found out there was a city flag and had gone into the MLA’s office to tell him.

The defence has suggested the entire situation has been blown out of proportion in a bid to make examples of those accused of homophobic actions.

Constituency assistant Murray Bilida told St Pierre Dec 18 that Williams came into the politician’s Vancouver office Feb 21 and shouted about “faggot flags,” assaulted him and damaged a door before leaving.

Jetté asked Williams if he thought the flag represented a special interest group. “If it was the Hells Angels or Jehovah’s Witnesses or the United Shoe Workers of Taiwan, it would be the same problem,” Williams said. Jetté suggested to Williams that the flag was symbolic to him of preferential hiring of gays at the library.

“Yes,” Williams said.

Jetté asked if Williams thought gay views were being promoted at the library to the exclusion of others. Williams said he wouldn’t say to the exclusion of others but agreed gay views were promoted at the library.

“I suggest to you, you were in fact obsessed with the fact the rainbow flag was on the library,” Jetté said. “Obsessed? No sir,” Williams responded.

Jetté suggested Bilida had thwarted Williams’s mission to talk to the MLA about his obsession. “He was trying to stonewall me and be a bit of a power-tripper,” Williams testified, adding that he “wasn’t interested” in talking to Bilida. “I was getting slightly irritated. It wasn’t my intent to get into some kind of argument.” He said he took Bilida’s first suggestion to leave as further “stonewalling.”

Williams said that Bilida grabbed his upper arm, causing pain to his injured shoulder. “I tried to strike him with my right hand,” Williams testified, saying he hit the door behind Bilida, who released his hold. Williams said he then fled.

“You were trying to defend yourself?” Jetté asked. 

“I was trying to get him to let go,” Williams said.

“I’m going to suggest to you, you threw two punches, if not more,” Jetté said. “Do you deny that?”

“Yes, I do,” Williams said. Later, Williams said, “I could have handled it a bit more diplomatically.” Jetté told St Pierre the situation escalated quickly because Williams was not getting his own way.

Bilida had testified the man who allegedly assaulted him had left and stood outside having a cigarette. Jetté said photographs taken outside the office by Bilida show Williams apparently pointing at his lip. “You just punched this man in the mouth. You were mocking him,” Jetté said.

“That’s not true, sir,” Williams said.

Chandra Herbert testified he heard the man outside talking to an unidentified man about “fag flags.” Jetté said the fact Williams remained talking about it after what had happened indicated the depth of the obsession.

“If you are familiar with the acronym WTF, that’s what was going on in my mind,” Williams said.

Constable Tom Hall testified Dec 18 that he arrested Williams on Denman Street.

Defence lawyer Terry La Liberté told the court that Williams was arrested without any on-scene investigation taking place and that he was handcuffed and taken to jail. Jetté said Hall testified Williams had called him “Chandra Herbert’s boy.”

“It’s my recollection I said, ‘You’re Chandra Herbert’s dog,’” Williams said. “I verbally abused [Hall] quite a bit,” Williams had testified several minutes earlier.

“You told us you never used the word ‘fag’ or faggot’ at any time. Is that correct?” Jetté asked. Williams agreed. “I was not shouting or using profanity,” he said.

In closing arguments, La Liberté suggested there was no evidence to corroborate Bilida’s testimony alleging Williams had said “fucking flag across the street” or “those fucking faggot flags on my library across the street” at the West End Community Centre. La Liberté also suggested Chandra Herbert’s and Bilida’s past activism on homophobia issues caused them to see the situation as a way to advance their agenda, a suggestion both denied on the witness stand Dec 18, Chandra Herbert going so far as to call the idea “insulting.”

La Liberté asked for an Xtra article from the March 13 to 26, 2014, issue to be entered as evidence after it was shown to Chandra Herbert when he was on the stand Dec 18. In that article, Chandra Herbert said he wouldn’t be taking down a rainbow flag in his office. “We’ll keep standing up to hate,” the MLA told Xtra Feb 21.

“Mr Chandra Herbert has taken political advantage of this,” La Liberté said. “They’re using this for political purposes,” he argued. “They’re using this man as some kind of hatemonger.”

“These ‘faggot’ words were not used,” La Liberté said. “My client denies it.” La Liberté said Bilida overreacted to the situation and was the cause of the problem.

St Pierre said the news article had no evidentiary value and would not enter it into evidence.

St Pierre asked that a court date for a ruling be scheduled in the new year.