“No sentence will erase the straitjacket that the victim will endure for the rest of his life.”
Sarnia Justice John Desotti made it clear nothing in his power could ease the damage that left one man “a prisoner in his own body for the rest of his life,” following a 2019 Canada Day bar fight.
Still, he was tasked with determining sentencing for Cole Willemsen, who threw the fateful punch on Grand Bend’s Main Street that left Kyle Hern with permanent brain damage. He was found guilty of aggravated assault by Desotti in May following a trial.
In Superior Court Monday, Willemsen, 24, learned he’ll spend the next eight months behind bars for his actions.
Hern, 22, suffered a massive stroke after his head struck a curb when Willemsen knocked him to the ground following an argument. In the two years since he’s been rendered largely incapacitated, forced to relearn basic movements such as walking and talking. Hern continues to recover at the Parkwood Institute in London.
“This one minute decision has altered the realities of both parties. No sentence or result can change these awful circumstances or correct the hurt and harm occasioned to the victim,” says Desotti.
Willemsen was granted a final phone call with his lawyer before being led directly from the courtroom to custody.
His punishment would have been different “but for the seriousness of the impact on the victim and dire ongoing catastrophic consequences to Kyle Hern,” read Desotti. Had Hern not suffered the debilitating brain injury, “I would have had no hesitation in sentencing the accused to some form of house arrest.”
That had been the request from Defence Lawyer Scott Cowan who argued “the catastrophic injury was not foreseeable.” He also provided 20 reference letters in support of Willemsen describing his client as a “good person with a strong character and work ethic.”
Desotti agreed Willemsen couldn’t have predicted the devastating results and says he shows remorse, but cited previous case law to show a house arrest term wasn’t appropriate given Hern’s injuries. The Crown had asked for a two year jail term.
After he’s released Willemsen is on probation for two years. He can’t contact or go near Hern, must provide a DNA sample and can’t possess any weapons for the next decade.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent