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Trial of man accused of attacking gay MLA’s office begins Dec 18

Michael Melvin Williams heeds judge’s suggestion to get a lawyer

Michael Melvin Williams, the man accused of assault and mischief in connection with an alleged attack against a gay Vancouver MLA’s office, says he decided to heed the judge’s advice to seek legal representation. Credit: Jeremy Hainsworth

UPDATE: Oct 2

The trial of Michael Melvin Williams, who is accused of assault in connection with an alleged attack at the office of Vancouver West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, will begin Dec 18 at the provincial court on Main Street.

Lawyer Leo Fumano will represent Williams, who originally told the court that he intended to defend himself in the matter. The trial was originally scheduled to start Sept 25. But Judge Conni Bagnall told Williams that navigating legal processes, including cross-examining witnesses, could prove challenging for someone who is not legally trained. “It’s almost always to the benefit of the accused to have assistance of counsel,” she told the court Sept 25.

Williams returned to court Oct 2 with Fumano, and the new trial date was set. Outside the courtroom, Williams told Xtra that he was “swayed” by the judge’s strong advice and decided to get a lawyer.

In March, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Joyce DeWitt-Van Oosten appointed Vancouver lawyer Mark Jetté as an independent special prosecutor in the case, given Chandra Herbert’s position as a sitting MLA.

The trial is scheduled to run for a day and half.

Natasha Barsotti

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The man accused of assault in connection with an alleged February attack involving homophobic slurs at Vancouver West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert’s office has had his trial adjourned while he talks with a lawyer about being represented in court.

Michael Melvin Williams, 53, of Vancouver is charged with assault and mischief under $5,000.

Williams’s trial was scheduled to start Sept 25. He intended to defend himself. “I’m prepared to go ahead and do it,” he told Judge Conni Bagnall. “I thought it would be best telling my story in my own words.”

“If it’s one person’s word against another’s, it’s not an overly scientific case,” he added.

Chandra Herbert alleges a man entered his Denman Street office Feb 21, expressed his hatred for the rainbow flag flying in the window and at the Vancouver Public Library Branch across the street, punched the office door, then punched Chandra Herbert’s assistant in the face while still uttering homophobic statements.

“He was screaming about ‘faggot flags,’” Chandra Herbert told Xtra at the time. “We called the police and he was arrested.”

Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Sergeant Randy Fincham said at the time that a 53-year-old intoxicated man was arrested.

Crown prosecutor Mark Jette told the court that police and civilian witnesses, including Chandra Herbert, were ready to testify.

Bagnall, however, told Williams that negotiating legal processes could be difficult for someone not legally trained. She suggested that cross-examining witnesses is something perhaps better done by a lawyer. “It’s almost always to the benefit of the accused to have assistance of counsel,” she said. “I’m trying to map out options for you this morning so you can make some sensible decisions.”

After expressing frustration in trying to obtain a lawyer through legal aid, Williams told the judge that he had met with lawyer Leo Fumano, who was with him in court. Fumano told Bagnall he had not read the file fully and needed time to meet with Williams. Bagnall reluctantly agreed to adjourn the trial. “It must go ahead on the next trial date,” she said.

The case returns to court Oct 2 for an update on Williams’s situation and perhaps to set a new trial date.

Williams has disputed Chandra Herbert’s version of events. “It was not in my mind to express hatred or demand he do anything,” Williams said in a letter to Xtra.

Vancouver lawyer Mark Jetté was appointed by the government as an independent special prosecutor in the case given Chandra Herbert’s status as an MLA.

The trial was scheduled for a day and a half, Jetté told Bagnall.