7 min

UPDATE: Bassi trial continues with eyewitness testimony

'You fucking faggot, why did you bother trying to fight?' witness hears

Credit: Vancouver Police Department

Tues, Oct 2

Yet another witness has identified in court two men as those responsible for an alleged 2010 gaybashing, saying she heard homophobic slurs yelled during the attack.

The assault sent Vancouver couple Peter Regier and David Holtzman to hospital.

Regier has been absent from the trial so far this week. Holtzman died of a heart attack April 9 in Palm Springs. His mother, Karen, attended Oct 2, sighing at points during the testimony. She didn’t want to comment on the case.

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.

Whether Kirstin Murphy, the Crown lawyer prosecuting the case, will seek a hate-crime designation if the brothers are convicted remains to be seen. But she has consistently told the court that numerous witnesses reported hearing homophobic slurs yelled during the attack on the couple outside their Keefer Place home.

Jaclyn Bruno testified Oct 2 that she saw a man curled up in a planter as she was walking along Keefer Street before turning north on Taylor.

The court had already heard from Holtzman that he climbed into a planter and assumed a fetal position to try to avoid his attacker’s repeated blows.

Bruno told Provincial Court Judge Raymond Low that as she walked down the block past the couple’s condo tower, “I heard yelling, the sound of skin smacking skin . . . punching, yelling.”

She said she saw two pairs of men who appeared at first to be “brawling.”

“It appeared one of the men was in the planter box, not engaging in the fight. It appeared he was curled up.”

She said the second victim “was just trying to protect himself” as a man punched him in the head and face.

Then, she said, the attacker put his arm around the victim’s back and began kneeing him in the chest, gut and torso. “I heard him yelling things like, ‘You fucking faggot, why did you bother trying to fight?’ It was probably repeated four or five times. Also, ‘you pussy bitch.'”

“It sounded aggressive.”

“I felt really scared for the victim,” Bruno said.

Bruno said she did not see the man in the planter being attacked, but an East Indian male was standing nearby. She said that man then joined in the attack on the other victim.

Regier has testified that he was hit perhaps 30 times.

Bruno also testified that four security guards were standing around watching the assault. She said she did not call police, assuming the guards would handle it.

“I don’t recall them taking any action,” she said.

Bruno said she continued walking and turned north on Taylor Street. Moments later, she said, the attackers jogged past her.

“They appeared to be laughing,” she said. “They seemed to be, like, giddy or congratulatory.”

Bruno said she saw the men do a fist bump — “tapping each other in a congratulatory gesture.”

She said she crossed the street. “I didn’t feel safe.”

She testified that she told the friend she was on her way to meet that she hoped the victims had not been attacked because they were gay.

Robbie Bassi’s lawyer, David Baker, asked her why she might think that.

Bruno said it was just a feeling — gaydar from having friends in the queer community. “It was just an impression I had,” she said.

“There was no overt indication,” she added later. “If I would have seen them walking down the street, I would have assumed they were together, romantically involved.”

She agreed with Klein it was speculation.

Several days after the attack, Bruno said, she saw a picture police had distributed to media of two men jogging down Taylor Street. “I saw four photos,” she said. “I believe I was in two of them.”

Previous witnesses have identified the brothers as the men in the photos Bruno can also be seen in.

Bruno identified in court the brothers as the men she saw attacking Regier and Holtzman.

Peter Bassi’s lawyer, Michael Klein, questioned Bruno about how long she had been at the scene. She agreed it might have been as little as 30 seconds.

She also agreed with the defence that she had not had a clear view of the attackers’ faces and recognized them by body type.

Klein suggested to Bruno it was not uncommon for heterosexual men to call each other names such as “faggot” or “pussy bitch.” She agreed it was not uncommon.

The case is due to return to court Nov 20 to 22, although lawyers are looking for another court date to hear a witness in the meantime.


Oct 1

The trial of two brothers charged in an alleged June 2010 gaybashing continued Oct 1 after a six-month hiatus with testimony from police officers who corroborated the accuseds’ identity.

Parminder Singh Peter Bassi is charged with two counts of assault causing bodily harm. His brother Ravinder Robbie Bassi is charged with one count of assault causing bodily harm. The trial was delayed by allegations that one of the brothers attempted to intimidate one of the victims in the courthouse in March.

It remains to be seen if Kirstin Murphy, the Crown prosecuting the case, will seek a hate-motivation designation if the brothers are convicted. But she wasted no time at the trial’s start in March, telling Vancouver Provincial Court Judge Raymond Low that homophobic slurs were yelled during the alleged attack on Peter Regier and David Holtzman outside their Keefer Place home.

While several members of the community were in attendance as the trial resumed, Regier did not attend. Holtzman died April 9 in Palm Springs of a heart attack.

New testimony Oct 1 centred on the work of police officers who attended the Keefer Street scene and spoke with one witness who identified one of the brothers, as well as officers who saw the couple’s injuries and gathered evidence.

Low has already heard that the men were allegedly attacked as they returned from a concert to find two men sitting on their doorstep. When one man stood to urinate against 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 told the court.

One of the men also said, “Suck my dick,” Holtzman testified. “I mumbled something. I think it was: ‘In your dreams. It’s not even hard.'”

Holtzman told the court he had wanted to go inside, but Regier tried to take a photo of the man urinating. When the other man warned the urinator that Regier was trying to take his picture, “assailant one rushed Peter and started swinging,” Holtzman testified.

Regier had his hands up shielding blows, he continued. “Peter received, I would say, three blows to the face. I believe they were from assailant one. I was horrified that something so vicious and horrible was happening to the man that I love.”

Holtzman said he attempted to separate the two men. “I was trying to be a referee. I didn’t want my baby to get hit again.”

He said the second man then arrived and “overwhelmed me.”

“I received three punches in the head. I don’t know where they came from.”

“It really broke up into one person beating the crap out of Peter and one person beating the crap out of me,” Holtzman testified.

Holtzman said he crawled into a planter and assumed a fetal position to try and 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.

“I think he’d gone kind of Rambo on me . . . some psycho game of target practice. I needed to get away, but I didn’t know where to go. I was terrified.”

Holtzman said his attacker kept “pummelling the back of my head” even after he climbed in the planter.

“Each time he struck my head he was going, ‘faggot, faggot, faggot.'”

Holtzman estimated he was hit about 50 times. “I was counting them. I was trying to zone out of the pain. It was weird. Psycho.” At some point, Holtzman said, he “mustered up all his courage” to get out of the planter to try to help Regier.

It wasn’t just punches, though. “He was biting me,” Holtzman said, explaining he was bitten on the chest, near the waist and on his back.

“At this point, I was completely scared for my life,” Holtzman said.

At that moment, he said, someone came out of the building: a security guard and a man Holtzman identified in a video surveillance tape as fellow resident Craig Costantino, a lawyer with criminal law experience.

Detective Mike Kim was one of the officers to arrive at the scene. He confirmed Oct 1 that Costantino had identified Peter Bassi as one of the attackers at the scene from having played soccer with him in the past.

Kim said that Costantino later identified Peter Bassi in the photo Regier took on his phone, as well as from a video shot of two men running down a nearby street.

Kim was one of the officers who arrested the brothers at their Richmond home June 30, 2010. He identified them in the courtroom Oct 1.

Kim was also an officer called to Vancouver International Airport by a man who said Robbie Bassi worked there, having recognized him from a circulated surveillance photo of two men running near the scene that night.

“He recognized the man in the poster to be Robbie Bassi,” Kim said.

Both Holtzman and Regier identified the Bassis as their attackers when they testified in March.

Constable Skye Thouli obtained security video and photo evidence for the case. Murphy asked if Thouli had seen anyone else caught on area surveillance video running at the time of the incident.

“No,” said Thouli, who told the judge the victims were clearly injured and had blood on their faces.

“Mr Regier and Mr Holtzman were clearly upset,” he said.

Peter Bassi’s lawyer, Michael Klein, asked Thouli if Costantino had reported hearing homophobic language. Thouli said no.

Forensic identification officer Detective Mike Stewart was called to photograph the scene. Murphy drew his attention to drops on the ground depicted in one photo. “They appeared to be consistent with dried blood,” Stewart said.

The Oct 1 testimony wrapped up with a voir dire (a trial within a trial) for the judge to determine if another piece of evidence is admissible. Low is scheduled to hear legal arguments on that evidence and make a ruling on its admissibility Oct 2.

The trial was initially scheduled to have wrapped up months ago. However, Holtzman was on the stand as a witness on March 22 when he testified that he had seen the Bassi brothers in the cafeteria on March 20. “He locked eyes with me,” he said, indicating Robbie Bassi. Then Robbie elbowed his brother, Holtzman testified, and “his brother said, ‘Bang.'”

The court lost two trial days as the lawyers hashed out the situation. The trial continues Oct 2 and 3 and is expected to conclude in November.