A 19-year-old Lambton College student avoided a criminal record after pleading guilty to assault and receiving a conditional discharge.
On Sept. 16 Sarnia Court heard the details of a violent series of events from January this year resulting from the student and his friends taking magic mushrooms. Shortly after ingesting the drug the student - originally from Grey County - flew out of control and punched one of his friends several times in the face, busting out a tooth.
After this attack the student left the dorm room. A security guard tried to calm him down but was unsuccessful. The student then chased the security guard down the hall and grabbed his head, slamming it into a concrete wall and knocking him unconscious. He then began to hit the guard in the face as he lay on the ground.
A group of five students intervened and were finally able to restrain the student until police arrived. After being arrested the student continued struggling, yelling, screaming and claiming people were coming after him. He was strapped to a stretcher and taken to hospital for treatment. The security guard was also taken to hospital.
The five students who stopped the attacks – Winston Chan, Brielle McInnis, Dylan Climie, Kate Flanigan, and Quinton Pluzak – were each awarded a Chief’s Coin by Sarnia Police Chief Norm Hansen for their efforts.
The Crown and defense suggested a conditional discharge with 18 months probation for the assault on the security guard. During this time the student must take counselling, perform 50 hours of community service in the first 12 months, not contact the security guard, and not possess any weapons. If he completes all these terms he will not receive a criminal record.
Defense lawyer Karl Toews says his client’s actions that night were “very out of character for him.”
“Obviously substance use was a big part of those events… He has sought out a large amount of treatment for that… since the time he was arrested,” says Toews.
Crown attorney David Nicol acknowledged that taking the case to trial may have been a challenge due to a recent decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal. Section 33.1 of the Criminal Code – which states that self-induced intoxication was not a defense against assault and other violent crimes – was ruled unconstitutional in June this year. Nicol says this meant the student could have claimed an automatism defense in court.
The student was originally expelled permanently from Lambton College, but the school later reduced this to a one-year ban. He is planning to return to the college in January 2021.
“I’m very sorry to everybody that this has impacted, especially the victim. The actions that I took that night are not who I am, and it truly terrified me,” the student says during sentencing. “I’ve never been in trouble before and I will not be getting into trouble again, I promise.”
“This has all caused so much pain for me, my family and friends and people around the college too, such as [the victim] and his family and everybody else that was impacted,” the student says. “The counselling I’ve gone through has been really beneficial to me and it’s helped me discover who I am. I’m really hoping to move on from this traumatic experience.”
Justice Krista Leszczynski says the assault was “most troubling and violent in nature, and as you recognized caused harm and injury to [the victim] and caused disruption on campus.”
But she also felt that the student showed real remorse and still has a bright future ahead of him. “I appreciate your words and I accept them as genuine,” says Leszczynski.
“I’m pleased to hear… that you recognize that this incident certainly does not define you… and I am pleased to hear that the counselling that you have voluntarily undertaken since your arrest has been very beneficial to you and has helped you address the issues which led to your conviction of this offense – most notably that of substance use.”
“I trust… from your comments that you will no longer be involved in the consumption of any illegal substances... I’m satisfied the necessary deterrence message has been sent to you and that this will not occur again.”
Leszczynski allowed one exception to the no contact order with the security guard, telling the student he could write him an apology letter if he wished.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent