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Gaybashing trial inches forward

Nearly a year after the original trial of two Squamish men accused in an alleged gaybashing was derailed by a courtroom mix-up, the Crown is still trying to finalize its witness list so that a new trial can proceed.

At a second trial confirmation hearing held Aug 21, Crown counsel Alison De Smet told the court she hasn’t been able to confirm the appearance of two witnesses, including the victim of the alleged attack, Russell Young, and requested “a few weeks to do so.”

A third trial confirmation hearing is now set for Sep 7.

Meanwhile, defence counsel Chandra Corriveau entered a not guilty plea on behalf of one of the accused, Ravinder Toor, but declined to enter a plea for the other defendant, Randeep Cheema, whose attorney Reg Harris was not present at the hearing. Cheema and Toor were charged with assault causing bodily harm following the alleged attack on Young near the Esso service station at the corner of Burrard and Davie Sts in the early morning hours of Jul 30, 2005.

Young says he was sitting on a bench having a snack after a night at Numbers when two men got out of a taxi and allegedly said something like: “We hate your kind.”

“The next thing I know, I’m getting beaten up,” Young told Xtra West shortly after the alleged incident. “I was down on the ground knocked out and they just put the boots to me.”

The attack left Young with a deep cut to his upper lip, swelling to his nose, internal bleeding and a badly fractured lower right leg for which he has undergone multiple surgeries.

When Young, the key witness, showed up at a fifth floor provincial courtroom for the original trial on Sep 26, 2006, he was not told the proceedings had been moved to another courtroom as a result of judicial rescheduling. In Young’s absence, Crown prosecutor Elliott Poll asked that the charges against Young’s alleged attackers be stayed.

The charges were subsequently reinstated following a review of the case. A new trial is scheduled to begin Oct 3, pending confirmation of the Crown’s witnesses.