Three days after a warrant was issued for his arrest, the youth charged in connection with an alleged gaybashing off Commercial Dr turned himself in Sept 22 and pled guilty to assault causing bodily harm in a case the Crown reiterated was “very, very old.”
A Vancouver youth court judge issued the warrant after the youth failed to show up in court Sept 19. Crown counsel Ann Seymour told Xtra that the youth, who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, thought his next appearance was Sept 26, hence his no-show on Sept 19.
The warrant was just the latest action in a case dogged by delays since the December 2009 incident in which a man, who would only give his first name as Billy, was allegedly punched, kicked and repeatedly called a faggot after a Christmas party in the area of Commercial Dr and 3rd Ave.
On Sept 22, the youth’s lawyer, Evi dos Santos, told the court he spent half an hour with his client going over the statement of fact describing the incident point by point, which the youth agreed was accurate and later signed.
Judge Rosemary Gallagher immediately turned to the youth, who appeared in court dressed in a red T-shirt and dark pants and asked him if he was aware of the consequences of his plea. The youth said yes.
But Gallagher said she wanted some time to review the signed statement. She was hesitant to accept the youth’s latest plea right away, she said, since he has, since the outset, changed his plea from guilty to not guilty, and now back to guilty again.
On returning from a 15-minute break, Gallagher asked for the statement to be read into the record in the youth’s presence.
Reading from the statement, Seymour said the youth had been making periodic phone calls to a female friend of Billy’s in the early hours of Dec 13, 2009, asking to meet with her. Seymour later informed the court that the youth and the woman had had a child together.
According to the statement, the youth showed up outside the house where the woman and Billy were attending a party, and when they emerged with another woman, he began to follow them. The woman told the youth to “go home to his parents.” Billy also tried to dissuade the youth from following.
Seymour said the youth, who knew Billy was gay, told him to “shut up, you faggot.”
“He called him a fucking faggot,” Seymour repeated, adding that the youth also asked Billy, “What are you doing with these girls?”
The youth then kicked and punched Billy for 10 minutes, even as Billy was calling the police, who arrested the youth at the scene, Seymour said.
The statement indicated that eyewitnesses and police observed blood on Billy’s face. It also noted that Billy’s jaw was broken in two places, that he underwent surgery on Dec 14, 2009, to have it wired shut and that he was given cutters to sever the wires in case he had to vomit.
Gallagher stopped Seymour not long after this point in the statement and, once again, asked the youth if he understood the consequences of his guilty plea, including that there would be no trial. He said yes again and then formally pled guilty, which Gallagher accepted.
“I will say that the assault was partially caused by bias based on sexual orientation,” Seymour told Xtra when asked if she plans to seek a hate crime designation at sentencing.
The youth was released following the Sept 22 hearing with conditions, including that there should be no contact with Billy.
The latest hearing signals the beginning of a resolution in a case that has dragged on for nearly two years.
A trial was initially scheduled for July 2010 but was delayed as a result of conflicting reports of the alleged offence. The youth then changed his plea to not guilty, fired his lawyer and hired a second lawyer for a spring trial.
A March trial date had to be rescheduled as the youth’s then-lawyer was doubled-booked. The trial was rescheduled to three days starting Aug 22 but was put off again after the accused fired his second lawyer. He subsequently took on dos Santos, his third lawyer.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov 22 at 1:30pm in Room 102 in Youth Court at Robson Square.