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Gaybashing trial resumes one year after it began

Accused tells Vancouver court it’s a case of mistaken identity

Alleged gaybasher Sunjeet Singh Minhas told Vancouver Provincial Court June 12 that police arrested the wrong man in 2011. Credit: Thinkstock

Alleged gaybasher Sunjeet Singh Minhas took the stand in his own defence June 12 in Vancouver Provincial Court, claiming that the charges against him are a case of mistaken identity.

Minhas, 25, is charged with one count of assault with a weapon and one count of uttering threats in connection with an alleged Davie Street gaybashing that took place in the early-morning hours of Oct 9, 2011.

“I thought I was being targeted for no reason,” said Minhas, describing how he felt baffled, confused and angry when police officers put him in handcuffs and questioned why he had thrown an umbrella at another man.

Under questioning from defence lawyer David J Taylor, Minhas testified that he didn’t show up until after the assault took place and that he had only been trying to prevent an altercation between two of his friends, Wali Rahnumah and Jeffree Hunter, and another group of three men that night.

He explained that he saw Hunter and Rahnumah facing the other group and that the two groups were yelling at each other when he arrived. He claimed he tried to physically pull his friends away from the confrontation by their jackets.

He said that when he asked what was going on, Rahnumah replied, “Nothing. These guys are pussy faggots.”

Minhas told the court that Rahnumah left shortly before the police arrived. He also said that until he was arrested, he didn’t realize that anyone had been hurt.

He said he heard an officer say that the victim didn’t want to press charges and so he was subsequently released. He said the first time he saw the man with the bloody lip was well after he had been arrested and was about to be released.

Minhas repeatedly reviewed his cellphone records for the night during his testimony, to reinforce his memory of the timeline.

Judge Jodie Werier heard the fourth day of testimony in the case more than a year after the trial first began in May 2013. Minhas’s trial had been slated to continue Oct 16, 2013, until his defence applied for and was granted an adjournment Sept 27, 2013.

The trial began last year with three days of testimony from witnesses for the Crown and the defence. Travis James Johnston testified then that an Indo-Canadian man called him a faggot, then threw an umbrella overhand at his face, splitting open his lip.

Taylor opened this round of the trial with defence witness Manpreet Atwal, who said he was out on the night in question at the Caprice Nightclub, on the Granville strip, with Minhas and a group of friends.

Atwal, 25, told the court he was “not that drunk” that evening, though he admitted he hadn’t kept track of how many drinks he consumed.

He testified that he was not present during the alleged assault but that later in the evening, after the incident, he, Minhas and Jeffree Hunter picked up Rahnumah in a taxi near Science World. 

According to Atwal, Rahnumah admitted to throwing the umbrella and apologized to Minhas for getting him in trouble. Atwal was unable to recall any other parts of the conversation that happened during the cab ride. He also said he couldn’t recall either his own reaction or Minhas’s reaction to Rahnumah’s alleged admission, citing his tiredness that night and the fact that it happened nearly three years ago. 

Atwal also testified that despite knowing Rahnumah since kindergarten, they are no longer in contact, because Rahnumah allegedly let Minhas take the blame.

“I don’t need a friend like that in my life,” he told the court.

Taylor told the court that while Rahnumah had been available to testify as a witness during the first three days of the trial last May, his process server had been unable to serve him with a subpoena for the current session. 

Taylor also provided evidence that Rahnumah appeared to be attempting to evade being served. In response to the defence’s application, Judge Werier issued a material witness warrant for Wali Rahnumah.

Minhas is expected to continue his testimony on the trial’s fifth day, June 13.