COURT BRIEFS: Man convicted of assault with cooking appliance

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A 22-year-old Yellowknife man who struck another man in the head with a pie iron during a dispute at Prelude Lake was convicted of assault causing bodily harm in NWT Supreme Court Monday.

Daniel Hache, who was originally charged with aggravated assault, pleaded guilty to the lesser included offence of assault causing bodily harm.

By pleading guilty to the charge – of which he was subsequently convicted – Hache accepted the facts of the case agreed to by his lawyer and the Crown.

On June 19, 2017, the court heard, Hache and the victim were building a cabin on an island on Prelude Lake near Yellowknife. After working throughout the day, the two, along with the victim’s partner, began drinking. The victim went to bed and Hache and the woman stayed up. After midnight, on June 20, Hache traveled via a personal watercraft to pick up another woman at a dock near the Prelude Lake campsite.

Hache’s watercraft partially sunk en route and he called the victim’s partner to retrieve him, which took some time.

Once back at the camp, Hache and the victim’s partner began arguing about the how long she took to arrive – awaking the victim. The victim physically confronted his partner, telling her to stop yelling, while Hache yelled at the man to stop touching her. Hache witnessed the man strike the woman. The victim then came towards Hache with his arms raised.

Hache, the court heard, picked up a nearby pie iron – a plated cast-iron cooking appliance – and used it to strike the man in the head, causing him to fall and hit his head on either a fireplace structure or a rock.

Hache called Yellowknife RCMP and spoke with an operator nine times as he attempted to attend to the victim’s wound. He was arrested and released shortly after.

The man suffered serious injuries. He sustained a significant skull fracture which left his brain partially exposed, requiring a plastic plate to be installed and resulting in speech problems. The victim, said prosecutor Morgan Fane, is recovering from the “life endangering” injury “against medical odds.”

Both Fane and the defence, Thomas Boyd, agree Hache was acting defensively when he struck the victim, but that the force he used was disproportionate to the threat he perceived.

Whether or not the injury stemmed from Hache striking the victim or the victim falling and hitting his head is not “medically knowable,” submitted Fane.

Charbonneau ordered a pre-sentence report and a victim impact statement has been filed.

Hache, who remains out of custody, will be back in court on March 5 for a sentencing hearing.

Man found asleep behind wheel on highway gets suspended sentence

A 33-year-old Behchoko man found asleep behind the wheel in the middle of the highway near Yellowknife received a suspended sentence and a year-long driving ban Wednesday.

The man – a first-time offender who Yellowknifer is choosing not to identify – pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle while impaired and resisting arrest. Just after 2 a.m. on Sept. 15, the court heard, Yellowknife RCMP received a report of a suspected impaired motorist driving in the middle of Highway 3 towards the city. A lone Mountie dispatched to the area located a truck parked on the roadway near the city limits. The man, prosecutor Jeannie Scott said, was found “totally incapacitated,” and asleep in the driver’s seat. After the officer attempted to wake the man up, he pushed the Mountie and attempted to tackle him to the ground. Cognizant of passing motorists and the fact that the nearest backup was 15 minutes away, the Mountie pressed an emergency button as he managed to pin the driver down inside his truck. Another officer arrived soon after and the man was arrested. He had no memory of the incident the next day, said Scott.

Scott said a routine impaired driver report quickly turned into a dangerous situation for the Mountie. She added police officers cannot be expected to face that type of risk while on the job.

Scott called for a nine to 12-month suspended sentence for the man’s resisting arrest conviction and a one-year driving ban and $1,000 fine for the operating a vehicle impaired.

The man’s lawyer asked NWT territorial court Judge Christine Gagnon to consider a nine-month suspended sentence – a recommendation she ultimately accepted.

In cases where mandatory sentences aren’t prescribed by law, judges can – given considerations of an offender’s character and the circumstances of the offence – suspend a sentence and impose a probation order.

House arrest for man convicted of sexual assault

A 23-year-old man who sexually assaulted a female relative in a Yellowknife apartment last summer was sentenced to house arrest in territorial court Wednesday.

The man, who isn’t being named in order to protect the identity of the victim, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault in October.

In the early hours of June 20, 2018, the man, originally from Yellowknife, attempted to sexually assault the woman twice – first when she was trying to sleep. The offender, the court heard, overpowered the victim by holding her down on a bed. The woman was able to flee the apartment, knocking on several neighbouring units for help.

No one answered and the woman returned to the apartment hoping the man would be gone. He wasn’t. The man attacked her a second time, pulling her pants off. The victim escaped the unit again, this time finding refuge in a nearby unit. Yellowknife RCMP were called and arrived to find the woman not wearing pants and crying. The man was arrested at the scene.

Crown prosecutor Jane Park stressed the man made two attempts in the span of hours and that the victim was trying to sleep when the first attempt was made. Park, who noted the prevalence of sexual assaults on passed out and vulnerable victims, called for a jail sentence of three to four months, followed by a two-year probation order.

The offender’s lawyer, Tu Pham, emphasized his client’s otherwise clean criminal record and said he was taking responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty. Pham asked Judge Robert Gorin to consider house arrest instead. He said the man now has a better understanding of his alcohol problem and is seeking treatment. Pham said his client doesn’t remember the incident.

“I’m truly sorry for what I’ve done,” said the man, backed by a trio of supporters who sat in the courtroom.

While Gorin noted the numerous aggravating factors of the assault, he chose not to impose incarceration given the man’s lack of a criminal record and his fears of returning to jail.

Pham said the man was attacked at NSCC and that he was “terrified” of going back.

Gorin sentenced the man to a one-year conditional sentence, the first nine months of which will be served on house arrest under strict conditions. The offender is barred from consuming drugs for the entirety of the order, and must register as a sex offender.

Gorin said sexual assaults on vulnerable, unconscious victims are “far too common” in the territory.

“What you did was very serious. I hope that behaviour never repeats itself,” he said.

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Brendan Burke
As the Yellowknifer’s crime reporter, it’s my job to keep readers up to speed on all-things “cops and courts” related. From house fires and homicides to courtroom clashes, it’s my responsibility to be there - day or night, rain or shine. When I’m not at court gathering stories, I’m in the office, making calls to lawyers, emailing RCMP and tracking down sources. After hours, I rely on the public to let me know what’s happening and where. Entering my second winter in Yellowknife since leaving my hometown of Peterborough, Ont., in October 2017, everyday on this beat continues to be challenging, rewarding and fulfilling. Got a story? Call me at (867) 766-8288 or shoot me an email at editorial@nnsl.com.