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Victim’s account of alleged gaybashing challenged in court

'My memory is not as clear as I thought it was': Young

SEEKING TO DISCREDIT: Defense attorneys challenged Russell Young's account of a gaybashing he says he sustained outside the Esso gas station on Davie St more than two years ago. Credit: Matt Mills photo

Attorneys for two Squamish men on trial for allegedly gaybashing a man on Davie St two years ago sought to discredit victim Russell Young’s account of the alleged attack when the case resumed in provincial court Nov 30.

Ravinder Toor and Randeep Cheema are accused of assault causing bodily harm in connection with the Jul 30, 2005 beating of Young outside the Esso gas station on the corner of Davie and Burrard Sts.

The accused’s counsel, and in particular Cheema’s lawyer Reg Harris, attempted to highlight discrepancies in Young’s version 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 began by challenging Young’s ability to definitively identify who attacked him at the gas station.

According to Harris, Young told police: “I can’t recall their description, it being that they were both males.”

Harris also claimed there were inconsistencies in Young’s description of his alleged attackers’ ethnic background, noting that he initially told police “there was possibly a white male” between 25 to 35 years old and weighing 200 pounds.

“I don’t really recall that,” Young replied.

Harris then produced a recording of a police dispatch that broadcast the same description from a statement that Vancouver Police Department officer Beverly Mitchell took from Young at the gas station the night of the alleged attack.

When the trial began on Oct 3, Young told the court that he recognized his alleged attackers when “I came to the courthouse today,” saying they were both East Indian males.

Harris argued that Young changed his story upon seeing a victim impact statement that named Cheema and Toor as the accused.

Young, who in earlier testimony admitted that his recollection of the more than two-year-old incident was a “little bit fuzzy,” said he recalled what his alleged attackers looked like after speaking to police “and after I woke up from being knocked out.”

Young testified Oct 3 that he lost consciousness in the midst of the alleged attack 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 hospital stay.

Harris also questioned Young’s statement that he heard the words, “We know your kind” uttered by one of the accused as he got out of a taxi that had pulled up at the gas station. In previous testimony, Young said he thought the remark meant that the man knew he was gay.

Harris referred to a police statement Young signed indicating that what Young actually told police was “one male said to me, ‘I know your kind.'”

“Yes,” Young admitted.

Harris later suggested Young’s use of “we” was aimed at ensuring that a separate lawsuit he had filed would be successful.

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

One film clip showed a man identified as 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.

When Corriveau suggested that Young’s version of what Toor did and said on exiting the cab “didn’t happen at all,” Young said, “From what I see, no.”

Young earlier testified that, after he heard the allegedly homophobic remark, he asked the driver of Cheema and Toor’s cab to call him a taxi. The next thing he knew, he was getting punched and kicked and yelling, “Help, help me!”

Asked by Crown counsel Alison De Smet if he fought back, Young said, “No, not at all.”

But the defense disputed Young’s account of how the incident unfolded, and in addition, sought to cast doubt on how Young sustained his injuries.

Again using the video footage, Harris countered that Young was an aggressor in the alleged attack.

“You were leaning into the cab,” he told Young, and “when he [Toor] gets in, you go after him.”

“I disagree. You’re assuming,” Young replied.

Young argued that the shadows and reflections that the convenience store glass windows were casting made it difficult to determine what was actually going on in the video.

Asked if he could “conclusively say whether you threw a punch,” Young admitted he didn’t know.

Young did not dispute that he saw himself at the door of the taxi in the footage but said he couldn’t recall what he was doing at the taxi door.

“You’re guessing,” Harris pressed, further alleging that Young made some remarks of his own along the lines of, “Hey cutie, where’re you goin’? Want a chip?”

Young testified Oct 3 that he was sitting on a bench outside the gas station’s convenience store having a sandwich, chips and coffee 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.

“My memory is not as clear as I thought it was,” Young conceded.

Nor could he say in the end how he sustained a broken ankle.

Cheema, who also took the stand Nov 30, said he recalled seeing Young at the gas station when he pulled up in the cab with Toor, who went into the convenience store.

Cheema testified that 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 said 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 said when Toor attempted to get back into the car, Young was still standing near the cab.

Cheema 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, the two men 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.

Asked by DeSmet if they were yelling anything as they walked away from the incident, Cheema said no.

Paul Scoles, who witnessed the alleged attack from the north side of Davie St, earlier told the court that he called 911 and followed two men walking away from the incident down a laneway until police arrived and arrested them.

Scoles testified the men called him a “fuckin’ faggot” as he was following them.

Both the Crown and defense wrapped up questioning Nov 30. Closing arguments are scheduled for Jan 8.