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One guilty, one acquitted

Judge convicts Toor of assault causing bodily harm

MIXED VERDICT. Judge Maria Giardini acquitted Randeep Cheema in the alleged gaybashing of Russell Young (above), Feb 12. Credit: Natasha Barsotti photo

One man has been acquitted and anotherfound guilty in connection with the alleged gaybashing of Russell Young on Davie St almost three years ago.

While provincial court judge Maria Giardini ruled she has reasonable doubt that Randeep Cheema participated in the fight, she had no doubt that Ravinder Toor fought with Young outside the Esso gas station at the corner of Burrard and Davie Sts on Jul 30 2005.

Giardini convicted Toor of assault causing bodily harm, Feb 12.

When the trial began Oct 3, Young testified that he lost consciousness in the midst of a beating that left him with a deep cut to his upper lip, swelling to his nose, and a badly fractured lower right leg for which he has undergone multiple surgeries. He was also diagnosed with internal bleeding during his subsequent hospital stay.

Cheema and Toor were both charged with assault causing bodily harm following the incident.

Reading from the last two paragraphs of an abbreviated version of her ruling, Giardini told the court that the injuries Young sustained – — the split lip, the bleeding nose observed by Vancouver Police Department (VPD) officer Beverly Mitchell at the gas station following the incident, and the swollen nose that another VPD officer noted when visiting Young at the hospital — were, in her mind, enough to constitute assault causing bodily harm.

While Giardini says she cannot conclude from the evidence that Young incurred his ankle injury in the fight, she found the extent of the other injuries were sufficient to convict Toor of assault causing bodily harm.

During the trial, Young testified that he was sitting on a bench outside the gas station’s convenience store having a sandwich, coffee and chips after an evening at the PumpJack and Numbers where he’d consumed “12 or more drinks,” when a taxi pulled up near one of the gas pumps.

As one of the two passengers — later identified as Toor — exited the taxi’s right rear, Young says he heard him utter “something at me.”

Young testified he heard Toor say: “We know your kind, or we hate your kind, or something to that effect.”

Asked by Crown counsel Alison De Smet to explain what he thought the remark meant, Young told the court he believes the man knew he was gay because of a multicoloured Pride bracelet he was wearing at the time.

Young says he blew the remark off, then asked the driver of the cab to call him a taxi. The next thing he knew, he was allegedly “getting punched” and kicked and yelling, “Help, help me!”

Young told the court that the first hit came from the right side, after which he stood up from the bench. At that point, he alleges one of the accused was “very close, maybe a foot” off to his right, with the other accused about a foot behind the first.

Young testified he was hit again after he stood up, a blow which knocked him to the ground, and that he was kicked on the right leg and in the “ankle area.”

During trial, the accused’s counsel, led by Cheema’s lawyer Reg Harris, challenged Young’s memory of the incident, focusing on such questions as how many persons were involved in the alleged attack, their ethnicity and general appearance, how Young sustained his injuries, what factors led up to the incident and what words were exchanged.

Harris referred to a police statement Young signed indicating that what Young actually told police was not “We know your kind,” but “one male said to me, ‘I know your kind.'”

Young conceded the point.

The accused’s lawyers also used security footage seized from the station’s convenience store to support their arguments that Young’s recollection of that night’s events was flawed.

One film clip showed Toor getting out of the right side of a cab and entering the convenience store. Toor’s attorney Chandra Corriveau noted that her client never looked at nor appeared to say anything to Young.

“Not at that point, no,” Young told the court.

Cheema testified Nov 30 that he saw Young at the gas station when he pulled up in the cab with Toor, who then went into the convenience store.

Cheema said Young was “yelling out random things,” and among the comments he heard Young make was, “How’s it going, cutie? What’re you up to?”

Cheema testified he didn’t know who the remarks were being aimed at but said Young came up to the cab and offered him chips, which he refused.

Cheema told the court that when Toor attempted to get back into the car, Young was still standing nearby. He denied that he or Toor made the comment, “We know your kind.”

Cheema testified that Young hit Toor when he was getting back into the taxi, and was on top of Toor in the cab as they were both grappling.

According to Cheema, Young and Toor ended up outside of the car, fighting on the ground and had to be pulled off each other. Cheema said he eventually pushed Toor away from the scene.

“I have no comment,” Cheema said when asked about the judge’s ruling as he walked away from the Main St provincial court, Feb 12.

A sentencing hearing for Toor is scheduled for Mar 7.

When asked if she would seek a hate crime designation at Toor’s sentencing, De Smet declined to comment, saying she wants to read the judge’s verdict in its entirety.