8 min

UPDATE: Bassi lawyers say eyewitness evidence tainted

Prosecutor says case proven 'beyond a reasonable doubt'

Credit: Shimon Karmel photo

Nov 22, 5:30pm

The trial of two brothers accused in an alleged 2010 gaybashing wrapped up Nov 22 with the judge saying he would need at least 30 days to reach his decision.

Parminder Singh Peter Bassi is charged with two counts of assault causing bodily harm in connection with the incident. His brother Ravinder Robbie Bassi is charged with one count of assault causing bodily harm.

If they are convicted, the charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

The attack sent Vancouver couple Peter Regier and David Holtzman to hospital in June 2010 after they were assaulted outside their Keefer Place home while allegedly being subjected to a barrage of homophobic slurs.

The Bassis’ defence lawyers told Provincial Court Judge Raymond Low that eyewitness evidence against their clients is tainted and cannot be relied upon.

“The court should give no weight to the in-court identifications,” Robbie Bassi’s lawyer, David Baker, said in his closing submissions Nov 22.

The lawyers for both accused said witnesses had seen pictures or video of the alleged incident, or of two men near the scene, before coming to court to testify.

Both Baker and Peter Bassi’s lawyer, Michael Klein, told Low that seeing those images could have tainted the witnesses’ identification of the accused in court.

Klein also advanced a coming-to-the-defence-of-another argument on behalf of Peter Bassi.

The Bassis have been identified in court by both Regier and Holtzman, as well as by passerby Jaclyn Bruno. Peter Bassi was also identified at the scene by neighbour Craig Costantino, who testified he played soccer with the accused.

Klein and Baker told Low that Regier and Holtzman had seen condo-building surveillance video of the attack. Baker said Regier had also gone to early court appearances to see the accused.

But, said Crown prosecutor Kirstin Murphy, neither Regier nor Holtzman saw the accused at those early court appearances.

Baker argued that Regier had only a few seconds before the attack to see his alleged attacker and that the attack took place as he was protecting himself in a poorly lit area. Baker said Regier had been unable to give a full description to police after the attack. He called it a “textbook case” for weak identification.

But Murphy said Regier’s testimony showed he had several opportunities to get a full view of his assailant’s face, including when the attacker pushed him and asked if he wanted to fight. “There was absolutely nothing wrong or to obstruct his view.”

“Even in the course of the assault itself . . .  Mr Regier did have opportunities and very focused opportunities to observe his assailant,” she added.

Baker said Holtzman had also been unable to give a full description to police after the attack. Conceding that Holtzman was emotional upon seeing his partner attacked, Baker said, “he hasn’t been able to describe him [Robbie Bassi] at all in either of his statements [to police].”

“When Ravinder Bassi is sitting in his view in court, he [Holtzman] is able to describe the shape of his face, the nose, the chin,” he added.

Murphy said that had changed by the time Holtzman gave an audio statement to police three days after the attack. She called it “a detailed account of the two suspects.”

Witness Bruno had been walking past the building and saw part of the altercation. She testified that the accused men later passed her as they left the scene. That was caught on a video played in court.

Klein said Bruno’s identification in court of Peter Bassi was based on recollections of body type and shape. It “had nothing to do with facial recognition,” he said. “It needs to be dismissed out of hand.”

Baker said Bruno agreed in testimony that she did not get a clear look at the attackers and that seeing a photograph on the Georgia Straight website could have affected her memory.

“That evidence is not sufficient,” Baker said.

Baker also dismissed the evidence of two supervisors from Vancouver International Airport, where Robbie Bassi worked as a security screener in the international section. He said Collin Hutchinson was only 70 to 80 percent sure that a man in a picture was Robbie Bassi.

“He’s therefore 20 to 30 percent unsure,” Baker said.

“That simply doesn’t assist Your Honour,” he told Low.

Baker said security supervisor Kathryn Evans’s evidence should also be given little weight. He said Evans identified Robbie Bassi based on a photograph in which little could be seen of the face, and from a forearm. “That was, frankly, ridiculous.”

“It’s hard to imagine a case where there would be more issues in terms of identification,” Klein said. He said Holtzman’s and Regier’s evidence should be given no weight.

The testimony of the witnesses alone or together is insufficient to prove Robbie Bassi was involved in the incident, Baker said.

Klein suggested the second attacker, alleged to be Peter Bassi, had come to the aid of the first attacker, alleged to be Robbie Bassi, when Holtzman went to the aid of Regier. He said video footage shows Holtzman moving past Regier and the man alleged to be Robbie Bassi.

It was after that that the alleged assault on Holtzman took place, in which Holtzman said he was struck more than 50 times as a barrage of homophobic slurs were hurled at him.

“He said every second punch, the word ‘faggot’ was uttered,” Klein said. “But, if you look at the video, those assertions are not supported and seem implausible.”

Murphy disagreed. She said it was hard to discern in video evidence that the second suspect was going to the aid of the first. Further, she said, the defence requires proof that the person needing assistance is under the other’s protection.

“It does require a protective relationship of which there is scant evidence,” Murphy said.

Klein called Holtzman “a petulant witness.”

Murphy said Nov 21 that she has proven the case against the Bassis “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Both Klein and Baker dispute that.

Murphy has not shied away from describing language allegedly used in the attack as “hateful and homophobic.” But Klein suggested it was Holtzman and Regier who labelled the situation a gaybashing to get more attention.

“It would appear they were not getting the amount of attention to the situation that they required,” he said.

The judge’s decision is expected in early January.


Nov 21

The Crown lawyer prosecuting two men accused of gaybashing a Vancouver couple in 2010 told a provincial court judge Nov 21 that she has proven the case “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Parminder Singh Peter Bassi is charged with two counts of assault causing bodily harm in connection with the incident. His brother Ravinder Robbie Bassi is charged with one count of assault causing bodily harm.

The attack sent Peter Regier and David Holtzman to hospital after they were allegedly assaulted outside their Keefer Place home while being subjected to a barrage of homophobic slurs.

Prosecutor Kirstin Murphy did not shy away from describing the language allegedly used in the attack as “hateful and homophobic.”

It remains to be seen whether Murphy will seek a hate-crime designation if the brothers are convicted. Such a move would come during sentencing if Vancouver Provincial Court Judge Raymond Low convicts either or both brothers.

Defence lawyer David Baker said the issue before the court is about proper identification of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt.

Peter Bassi at one point smirked as Murphy described the attack on the now-deceased Holtzman in her closing argument, while his brother Robbie alternately pursed his lips and occasionally rolled his eyes.

Murphy has presented evidence from Holtzman, Regier, a neighbour who witnessed the assault and identified Peter Bassi as someone he knew from soccer, and a passerby who witnessed the assault.

That passerby, Jaclyn Bruno, was captured in a video that shows men she identified as the accused running from the scene. She also identified them in court.

Other witnesses not at the scene identified the brothers from video and still photos presented in court.

Murphy reminded Low that Holtzman and Regier testified that they were attacked in June 2010 as they returned home to find two men on their doorstep. As one man urinated on the building’s wall and Holtzman asked him to stop, the man allegedly replied, “Fag, are you serious?”

“My response was, ‘Yes, I am a fag and yes, I am serious,'” Holtzman testified on March 23.

The man responded, “Fucking faggots. I hate you,” Holtzman testified.

Murphy said Holtzman told the court he had wanted to go inside, while Regier tried to take a photo of the man urinating. Murphy said Peter Bassi then alerted his brother that Regier was trying to take his picture.

“At that point, Robbie charges and attacks Peter Regier,” Murphy said, noting the charge is confirmed by video evidence.

“It was an utter reaction of anger to the men calling him out . . . telling him he shouldn’t be doing what he is doing and taking it to another level,” Murphy said.

She said stopping someone taking a photo couldn’t be considered in any way under the law as self-defence.

She said neither Holtzman nor Regier did anything that meant they consented to a fight. Rather, she said, their actions showed they were trying to stop it, pleading for it to stop or trying to escape.

At one point, Holtzman crawled into a planter and assumed a fetal position to try to stop the assault. “I didn’t want to get kicked or punched anymore. He was saying, ‘Fuck you, faggot. I hate you, fucking faggot,’ and punching me in the head.”

Holtzman testified that he was “terrified” as the beating continued. “Each time he struck my head he was going, ‘faggot, faggot, faggot.'”

Peter Bassi “uttered homophobic slurs to Mr Holtzman,” Murphy said in her closing.

“He is repeatedly punching him to the point where Mr Holtzman winds up curling up in a ball, in a hedgehog position in his words, in the planter,” Murphy said. “He is being pummelled in the back of the head and having homophobic remarks hurled at him.”

Peter Bassi smirked as she said it.

Murphy said the witness Bruno “clearly recalled homophobic slurs being made and made repeatedly.”

Bruno testified Oct 2 that the attackers passed her later on the street. “They appeared to be laughing,” she said. “They seemed to be, like, giddy or congratulatory.”

Bruno said she saw the men do a knuckle tap, “tapping each other in a congratulatory gesture.”

The judge ruled Nov 21 that the court would also admit the testimony of two of three witnesses heard in a voir dire (a trial within a trial used to determine if evidence meets legal admissibility standards).

Collin Hutchinson, a supervisor for Vancouver International Airport security, where Robbie Bassi worked as a screener, said he had seen some photos on a news website on June 18, 2010. He testified that he recognized one of the men in the photo as an employee. He called police.

Hutchinson said he was then contacted by police and asked to put up posters at the airport. Those posters contained a description of the incident and a picture of the suspects in the case. The widely circulated image was taken from the video in which passerby Bruno can be seen in the background, as well.

Hutchinson identified one of the alleged assailants in the foreground as Robbie Bassi. In October case hearings, Hutchinson identified Bassi in court.

Low also allowed the evidence of security supervisor Kathryn Evans, who testified Nov 20.

Evans said she had been asked to ensure the posters were put up throughout employee areas at the airport. “When I looked at the poster, I recognized one of the individuals,” she said. “I recognized him to be . . . Ravinder Bassi.”

Evans also identified Robbie Bassi in court.

“She was very clear she recognized the person she saw on the poster right away,” Murphy told Low.

The third witness’s evidence was not deemed admissible by Low and cannot be published.

Holtzman died of a heart attack April 9 in Palm Springs. Regier has not attended any hearings since his partner’s death.

Defence submissions are expected on Thursday, Nov 22.