Crown presents case in Kaslo assault trial

The trial of a Kaslo-area man for an assault that occurred last February opened in a Nelson courtroom last week.

Alejandro Calderon was charged after Jana Poborilova said she was assaulted by a man on February 11, 2022. Her testimony took up the whole morning session of the trial.

Poborilova told the court the incident began the afternoon of February 11, as she was preparing her equipment for a trip to a remote lodge with a group of tourists. She works as a backcountry guide for a Canmore-based outfitter.

“I had to leave early, be ready to hit the road,” she testified. “I was waxing my skis when I heard a loud noise coming downstairs, from the apartment I rent.”

The noise continued, and the shouting between her tenant and another person was getting louder, and more obnoxious.

“It was the ‘F-word’ over and over,” she told the court. “I thought it sounded like a fight, or an angry conversation, full of emotion.”

Other than a conversation early on about having too many visitors at a time, she said she only had cordial relations with her tenant, Ben Kogan, an Israeli citizen living in Kaslo.

Poborilova said she had to bring a neighbour’s dog that she cares for back to her owner, so she got dressed to return the dog – and decided to see what was happening in her rental unit.

But when she went down to the unit, she saw two men inside – Kogan in the kitchen, and a man sitting passively in a chair. That man was Alejandro Calderon.

“There was no fighting – it was just emotional chatter,” said Poborilova.

But the constant aggravating and obscene language made her want to “tell them off,” she told the court. She knocked on the door, and when the tenant, Kogan, came to the door, she launched into a profanity-laced rant of her own at the two men, she said.

“Mainly because I saw him in a relaxed state, but throwing F-bombs, so it was all totally for nothing,” she told the court. She said she only decided at the last minute to match their obscene language with her own. Berating the two men for indiscriminate use of the expletive, she estimated she used the word herself eight to ten times in her short diatribe. She then walked away.

“Ben was shocked,” she told the court. “And I heard Alejandro say, ‘I should go home now.’”

Poborilova said she then left to take the neighbour’s dog home a few doors down. Her street is poorly lit and she often wore a headlamp to help her navigate, she told the court. This time, however, she didn’t have it turned on.

So she was surprised when she ran into Calderon on the street outside her house.

“He said ‘Hey, you got a problem with me, bitch?’” she testified. A second later, Calderon was right in front of her, and he head-butted her in the face.

“I don’t recall a second or two after that,” said Poborilova, who is about 5’4” and weighs 138 pounds. The tall but lanky Calderon dominated the fight, she said. “He either dragged or punched me. He pulled my jacket down around my arms. I was pushing back, trying to cover myself.”

The two fell to the ground, fists and legs flailing, Poborilova said. She started to scream, but worried no one would hear her cries in the dark neighbourhood. She recalled landing a few punches on the man.

A few moments later, Calderon got up and left the scene.

Shaken but seemingly unhurt, Poborilova went into her house, and called police. Then she started feeling aches and pains, she said. The bridge of her nose and her eyes started to puff up. She felt the impact of Calderon’s blows on her body, and her back was scratched from when she fell to the ground in the skirmish.

“In the morning, it was like Avatar, the movie,” she told the court, referencing the blue aliens from the James Cameron film.

Poborilova called the police, who responded a few minutes later. She told them she wasn’t contemplating laying charges at first.

“I thought it was a minor thing, like you see in the movies every day,” she told the court. “I didn’t feel it was such a major issue. Then I realized it is.”

She said she also felt some pressure from friends and the community to press charges.

“It was pressure from people in Kaslo who heard about it,” she testified. “They contacted me to ask how I was doing. People said I should [press charges].”

Poborilova said she told police that night she still felt safe in her home, though she retrieved her neighbour’s dog and had a friend stay over for security. The next day, she went to the Kaslo police detachment and gave a full statement to police.

Calderon statement

The accused didn’t testify at the hearing, but the court did hear a voluntary statement Calderon gave to police about the incident, also the next day.

Calderon told Constable Doug Wilson he was sitting in his friend’s apartment when the landlady came to the door and began swearing at them. He said he had had a drink or two but was not impaired.

He said after that harangue he left, but encountered Poborilova outside the apartment. He said she still had the dog with her.

“The lady was screaming, yelling and me,” he says on the recording. “Then she rushed at me.”

Calderon said he raised his arms to defend himself, but couldn’t do much with his right arm, which he had injured a few days earlier.

“I can’t protect myself… she hit me in the throat and I am having trouble breathing,” he told Wilson. “She landed a second blow on my jaw.”

Calderon – who is 6’2” and weights 170 pounds – said the dog was attacking as well, and he and Poborilova fell to the ground, where he tried to protect himself from more blows from the woman. He denied head-butting her.

“I’m bald. I could not smash her in the head without injuring myself,” he told the officer.

Calderon said he finally extricated himself from the attack and left the scene.

“I was concerned – she had a partner,” he says on the tape. “I needed to get out of there before some dude came out.”

Calderon walked out to the highway, where he was picked up by a Shutty Bench neighbour who would often give him lifts to his home, 10 kilometres north of Kaslo. That neighbour, Shad Wilson (no relation to the police officer) told the court Calderon seemed a little shaken up at the time, and told him what happened, but otherwise seemed normal.

The audio recording also gave the court an insight into Calderon’s mental state at the time.

“I don’t feel safe in this town half the time; I suffer from significant social anxiety,” he told the officer. “… If I think I am threatened by someone, I will hurt them.

“I am not the easiest person to deal with,” he admitted. “But I am not the kind to go and be popping ladies.”

In his testimony, Constable Wilson said he thanked Calderon for his co-operation and said there was nothing unusual in his demeanour or appearance that next day. About a week later, he charged Calderon with assault.

Defence’s turn

Defence counsel Don White raised several issues in the cross-examination of the witnesses – like the slipperiness of the sidewalk, Poborilova’s fighting skills, and the timing of the events of the afternoon leading up to the encounter. But court time ran out, forcing the trial to adjourn half-complete.

The parties have to set a second day for the trial. The defence said it plans to call Ben Kogan, Poborilova’s former tenant, to testify. He now lives in Israel and the logistics of his participation are being worked out.

It’s not known if Calderon will take the stand in his own defence.

Calderon was brought to Nelson for the trial from the Okanagan, where he is currently in custody for breach of his bail conditions. After he was charged for the February assault, he was released on bail. Then in early December last year, he was arrested and detained after a man got into an argument with Kaslo Home Hardware staff and tried to burn down the historic hardware store. Calderon’s next court date is January 17, when a date is to be set for the second day of the assault trial. The December arson charge is also on the docket for that day.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice