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Young testimony ‘fraught with major inconsistencies’: Harris

Ruling in alleged gaybashing case imminent

Lawyers for two Squamish men on trial for allegedly gaybashing a man on Davie St more than two years ago say the Crown has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that their clients are guilty of the alleged attack.

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

Cheema’s attorney Reg Harris who led closing arguments for the defence when the trial resumed Jan 8, contends that the testimony of both Young and another witness, Paul Scoles, was “fraught with major inconsistencies” and it was “unsafe” to rely on their accounts of the incident to find Cheema guilty.

In making his case for acquittal, Harris called Young “quite a unique witness,” quoting him as acknowledging in testimony that he was wrong “in parts” about his recollection of the alleged assault.

Harris called Young’s ability to definitively identify who attacked him at the gas station unreliable, saying Young at one point told police at the scene that he could not recall “their description.” Harris also claimed there was an “evolution” in Young’s description of his alleged attackers’ ethnicity, noting that he initially told police “there was possibly a white male” between 25 to 35 years old, around 5′ 8″ and weighing 200 pounds.

During questioning Nov 30, Harris then referred to the testimony of Vancouver Police Department officer Beverly Mitchell, pointing out that she corroborated this description which she said she took from Young at the scene.

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 when Young saw a victim impact statement that named Cheema and Toor as the accused, “it suddenly became two Indo-Canadians.”

Cheema’s lawyer also suggested there were discrepancies between Young’s testimony about what words were exchanged during the incident and what he told police on the scene more than two years ago.

What Young says he heard was: “We know your kind, or we hate your kind, or something to that effect,” as one of the two accused exited a taxi that had pulled into the gas station the night of the alleged attack. According to Harris, Young’s “I” became “we” pointing out that what Young actually told police was, “one male said to me, ‘I know your kind.'”

Harris and Toor’s lawyer Chandra Corriveau also referred to a security tape seized from the gas station’s convenience store in an attempt to show that Young’s and Scole’s testimony did not correspond to video footage captured the night of the incident.

Young maintained during his October testimony that moments after he heard the words, “We know your kind,” he was punched and kicked, and was yelling out, “Help, help me.”

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

But the defence argued that the security camera recording showed that Young was an aggressor, leaning into the cab and making remarks of his own.

DeSmet, in her turn, argued that the camera only captures a portion of the events that took place that night at the gas station. She further pointed out that the shadows and reflections in the convenience store windows did not provide a clear view of what happened.

A ruling in the case is scheduled for Feb 12.