3 min

Not a hate crime

But judge still gives youth the maximum

The second youth to plead guilty to manslaughter in the Nov 17, 2001 beating death of Aaron Webster was sentenced to two years in custody plus a year’s house arrest Apr 21. It was the maximum sentence he could have received in youth court.

The youth, who cannot be named because he was 17 at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty Jan 22.

While youth court Judge Jodie Werier imposed the same maximum sentence on the second youth as Judge Valmond Romilly did on the first youth to plead guilty in the case, she did not declare it a hate crime as Romilly did.

In describing the crime, Werier said the youths stalked “a previously unknown human victim who they beat to death with baseball bats for no apparent or articulated reason.”

It was, she said, an “unfathomable act.”

“[Webster] was then left by these young people to die in the park,” Werier continued.

“This is an extremely aggravated case of manslaughter.”

Werier then sentenced the now 19-year-old youth to two years in jail and a third year in the community under tight supervision.

The sentence was what the Crown had sought. Defence had asked for a shorter sentence totalling 28-32 months.

Reading from a youth worker’s report, the judge said the youth “denied that his actions were motivated by hate towards homosexuals.”

Werier did, however, designate the crime a “serious violent offence.”

She also said the youth was clearly an active participant in the tragic beating.

“He chased Mr Webster and hit him with the bat at least three times, the last time while Mr Webster was already on the ground,” she said.

The judge also noted that the youth has been involved with the justice system since he was 15. He was on probation for possession of stolen property and operating a stolen vehicle at the time of Webster’s death.

The youth’s lawyer, Phil Rankin, had asked the judge to give his client a shorter sentence because both his client and the first youth have agreed to testify against the two adults charged in connection with this case.

But Judge Werier said the youth’s willingness to testify now was undermined by his previous refusal to come forward.

The second youth only cooperated with police after the first youth implicated him, two years after the incident, she pointed out.

In recounting the facts of the case, Werier said the youth and four of his friends drove to Stanley Park in the early morning hours of Nov 17, 2001. The vehicle had baseball bats and golf clubs in the back of it.

She said the youth acknowledged it was not the first time the group had gone to the park-ostensibly to “beat up peeping toms.”

When the group arrived at Stanley Park, they walked along the seawall. They encountered the naked Webster on a trail and began to chase him through the woods and into a parking lot where his car was located.

Werier said the first youth, whom Judge Romilly sentenced last December, was the first to strike Webster as he attempted to flee. The others then began to attack him as well.

The assault continued after Webster fell to the ground beside his car.

Werier said a couple driving through Stanley Park saw a group of males in the parking area just west of Second Beach.

One of the witnesses noted a male wielding a baseball bat swinging at the head area of another male who was knocked to the ground. The bat-wielding man then struck again, this time swinging the bat downwards.

At that point, the couple called 911. Paramedics attempted to resuscitate Webster but he died at the scene.

According to Werier, the coroner’s report indicated massive bruising all over Webster’s body. The immediate cause of death was an injury to his vertebral artery and trauma due to a beating assault to the head and neck.

In explaining her sentencing decision, Werier quoted from several psychological reports on the youth prepared for the hearing.

One psychologist noted the youth displayed a capacity for callousness, a lack of insight, and a pattern of repeated offending. She said he presented a moderate risk to reoffend.

“Unfortunately, because of his defensiveness and lack of insight, [he] might prove to be quite challenging to treat,” Dr Michelle McBride said in her report.

McBride called the youth an “emotionally constricted and tense individual” who has difficulty acknowledging personal weaknesses or flaws.

“He also displays some dependency traits, including a need for approval, which have likely left him vulnerable to the influence of his peers.”

The youth said nothing as Werier passed sentence. He looked briefly at his family and grimaced slightly as sheriffs led him away.