The only adult jailed in the vicious Nov 17 2001 beating death of Vancouver’s Aaron Webster was released from jail Feb 6.
Ryan Cran, now 26, was convicted of manslaughter in BC Supreme Court on Feb 8, 2005.
He was sentenced to six years in jail for his role in the killing of Webster. That made him eligible for statutory release on parole Feb 7, after serving two-thirds of his sentence, the National Parole Board confirms.
Cran was released from Matsqui prison in BC’s Fraser Valley and was to report immediately to a parole supervisor in New Westminster. He must continue reporting until his full sentence expires on Feb 7, 2011, the board decision states.
The board says it took into account victim impact statements in deciding the conditions for Cran’s release, noting that the statements “speak of the character of the victim and the emotional devastation and sense of confusion his death has had on his many friends and family.”
No geographical restrictions have been placed on Cran. And that angers Webster’s cousin, Denise Norman. She’d like him barred from the city’s West End and wants posters with Cran’s picture put up throughout the area.
“I want his picture everywhere so that people remember him and what he did,” she says.
Queer Vancouver-Burrard MLA Spencer Herbert agrees.
“He’s not welcome back in the West End,” he says.
Herbert says many people are asking him why Cran has no restrictions. Sadly, he says, he doesn’t have an answer for them.
“I think it’s really disgusting he got such a light sentence,” Herbert says. “This is a hate crime. It was never prosecuted like one. It sends a chill through the entire community,” Herbert says.
Cran was one of three people convicted in Webster’s killing.
Of the three, two youths pleaded guilty in the case and both have finished their sentences.
A fourth male, Danny Rao, was acquitted in adult court Feb 8, 2005, the same day Cran was convicted. Following his acquittal, he began screaming, “fuck you” at court spectators.
Cran was denied day parole in April 2007 after he was found drinking in prison. The incident led to his transfer to a higher-security facility.
Queer community activist Jim Deva told Xtra West he had asked the parole board if he could be present at Cran’s parole hearing to explain the effect of Webster’s killing on the gay community. Deva says he never heard back from the board.
Only one of the youths convicted in Webster’s killing has made any attempt to meet with members of community.
Xtra West attempted last week to contact the youth, who refused to meet with a queer community representative, through Facebook.
His response was a terse “Fuck off.”
For his part, Deva says it’s time to remember the lessons of Webster’s killing and to forget about the Crans of this world.
“I don’t think he’s worth the energy,” Deva says. “I hope he’s learned his lesson.”
Instead, Deva suggests dealing with the issues of today.
He points to the growing number of gaybashings recently. He says the police are becoming better aware of the problems and taking steps to help the community.
“But,” Deva adds, “it’s escalating. The next time it may be a murder.
“Let’s do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Webster’s attackers used a golf club, pool cues and baseball bats at Second Beach in Vancouver’s Stanley Park to kill him. They claimed they were looking for “peeping toms.”
Instead, they found Webster —naked except for his shoes.
They pursued him through the park to his car near a cruising area.
Webster fell to the ground and the beating continued, the court was told at trial.
The National Parole Board noted in its decision that “the judge found your reason to chase and beat the victim obscure and there was no evidence to suggest the victim was attacked due to his sexual orientation.”
The judge in one of the youths’ cases, however, added a hate crime designation to the teen’s sentence.
“I fail to see why this cannot be described as a gaybashing,” Judge Valmond Romilly ruled, rejecting the youth’s claim that his actions were not motivated by a hatred of gays.
It’s hard to believe, Romilly continued, that the youth could be “so naïve that [he] did not notice this area was frequented by gays.”
The attack horrified the city’s queer community, which rallied by the thousands in memory of Webster the day after his death.
It took months for police to get a break in the case.
When it came time for BC Supreme Court Justice Mary Humphries to sentence Cran, she called the attack random, cowardly and terrifying.
“What is so chilling about this case is that this group seems to have done this for some reprehensible and almost inconceivable concept of entertainment,” Humphries said in sentencing Cran.
“He must pay for this crime,” she said.
While on parole, Cran must get counseling for personal issues, avoid people involved in criminal activity, have no contact with Webster’s family and abstain from alcohol.
“You have been vulnerable to the negative influence of others,” the board noted in its report.
The attention Cran’s release is receiving in both queer and mainstream media has also put the focus on bashing once more, Herbert says.
He says it again highlights the need for a provincial bashline so that people who are attacked have somewhere to report crimes without being outed.
The province needs to step up to the plate and provide victims’ services for people who are bashed, Herbert says.