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MLA office attacker appeals to overturn assault conviction

Michael Melvin Williams says appeal is ‘matter of principle’

Michael Melvin Williams was found guilty of assault on Jan 15 for attacking a gay MLA’s office staffer.  Credit: Jeremy Hainsworth

Michael Melvin Williams, who was found guilty of assault in the Feb 21, 2014, attack at Vancouver West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert’s office, appeared in BC Supreme Court May 6, seeking to have his conviction overturned.

“I’m filing an appeal on the grounds that without Mr Chandra Herbert’s hysterics in the press this would have never come to trial,” Williams tells Daily Xtra. “Aside from the door being broken it was a very minor incident and it wasn’t an attack.”

On Jan 15, 2015, Williams was found guilty of assault and given a suspended sentence and one year’s probation by Provincial Court Judge David St Pierre.

On Feb 21, 2014, Williams entered Chandra Herbert’s Denman Street office to complain about the Pride flag on display outside the West End Community Centre. When he was asked to leave, he damaged a door and punched constituency assistant Murray Bilida in the face

On Dec 18, 2014, Bilida testified in provincial court that Williams, who smelled of alcohol and slurred his words, asked him about “‘those fucking faggot flags on my library across the street.’”

Bilida said he told him that he didn’t know what the flags had to do with Chandra Herbert’s office. He said that Williams then pointed to the Pride flag that is also on display in their office and said, “you have a fucking flag right here.”

Bilida said he told Williams that it was probably best if they agreed to disagree, left his desk behind a counter, entered the reception area and pushed an automatic door opener as an invitation for Williams to leave.

“He took a swing at me and missed,” Bilida told the court. “His fist came to my right, missed me and went through the door behind me. He took another swing at me, and he connected his punch with my mouth. I went down; I collapsed onto the floor.”

Williams was arrested minutes later and charged with assault and mischief under $5,000.

In his ruling, St Pierre said he accepted that Bilida was injured but that it was difficult to find “some form of anti-gay sentiment” as a motive for the assault.

St Pierre ordered Williams to stay away from Bilida and from Chandra Herbert’s office, pay $225 restitution for the door and not to be intoxicated in public.

Speaking to Daily Xtra now, Williams still denies that he assaulted Bilida. He also denies using the words “fag” or “faggot.”

"The only thing I yelled was, ‘Get your hands off of me,’” he says.

“I could have just let it drop, as the judge just left it at probation,” he says. “But as a matter of principle I couldn’t because it’s based on a lie.”

He hopes that by defending himself against what he calls a “false conviction” he might help others in a similar situation.

“During the course of this I was summoned to the courthouse on Main Street about eight times and the area around the courthouse looks like a blast radius of human misery,” he explains. “The people look so beaten down and I wondered if the court had anything to do with why these people are in that position and wondered if this is what they are trying to do to me.”

In a statement to Daily Xtra, Chandra Herbert and Bilida say they respect the decision of the court in Williams’ conviction and sentence.

“As with any person convicted of a violent crime in British Columbia, Michael Melvin Williams has the right of appeal,” reads the statement.

Williams is scheduled to return to court May 27 to set a date for an appeal hearing.