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Minhas trial concludes without key missing witness

Crown dismisses as hearsay allegation that another man is to blame

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

The trial of alleged gaybasher Sunjeet Singh Minhas concluded June 16 in Vancouver Provincial Court, with the Crown and defence offering their closing submissions.

Minhas is charged with one count of assault with a weapon and one count of uttering threats in connection with the alleged Oct 9, 2011, Davie Street gaybashing of Travis James Johnston. 

Defence lawyer David J Taylor closed his case, deciding not to apply for an adjournment until a missing witness could be located. 

Judge Jodie Werier had issued a material witness warrant for Wali Rahnumah on June 12, but police were unable to locate him. Taylor had indicated June 13 that he intended to apply for an adjournment to the trial until Rahnumah could testify. When Taylor decided to close his case, the judge vacated Rahnumah’s warrant.

Taylor told the court that a combination of poor lighting, alcohol consumption and adrenaline all contributed to the misidentification of his client as the man who threw an umbrella at Johnston. He also pointed to inconsistencies in the testimonies from Crown witnesses as reasons their statements shouldn’t be given weight. He characterized witness Steve Yu’s testimony as bizarre and argued that it was unreliable. 

Yu testified in May 2013 that he was acting goofy on the night in question and had run ahead of his friends because he had just eaten a donair. At the time, Taylor asked if he always acted so excited when he was sober. Yu replied that he is hyper and that he really likes donairs.

In his closing submissions, Crown prosecutor Bernie Wolfe argued that the content of a series of text messages between Minhas and Rahnumah, and witness accounts that Rahnumah had apologized and confessed that he had thrown the umbrella, should be considered hearsay and should not be admissible.

Wolfe also suggested that it didn’t make sense that Minhas hadn’t told police that Rahnumah had been at the scene the morning of the assault.

Judge Werier said she expects to hand down her decision June 30.