24 more people were assaulted at a beach party at the popular drinking location off of the 103 Road on July 25, 2010.
Judge Darrell J. O’Byrne announced his decision in a Fort St. John courtroom this morning, much to the relief of Gunning and his friends and family present. “Right on, thank God,” said one friend outside the courtroom after the decision. Ramos, Reno and Toth, who appeared by video from jail in Prince George could be seen hugging and jumping up and down in their orange prison jump suits, after the announcement was made.
Judge O’Byrne said he was not satisfied that the Crown, represented by Joseph Temple, had proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the co-accused had committed the offences they were charged with. All but two or three of the Crown’s witnesses admitted to having drank large quantities of alcohol, which handicapped the RCMP’s investigation. Evidence was further contaminated through heavy discussion of the night’s events after the evening in question.
Several witnesses could not confirm whether they actually saw who assaulted them, or if the accused had weapons, or whether they had just heard it through others. “This occurred over and over,” said O’Byrne, that witnesses testified what they had heard from others, and couldn’t discern what they saw or what they were told.
For instance, one witness said he had been hit by one suspect with a bat, but then admitted in cross examination that he had been told that was who hit him and he hadn’t actually seen. Another witness at the scene told police she had been shot, but later it was discovered there were no gunshot wounds. Another testified he saw one of the men with a gun and a banana clip earlier in the night, but later admitted he didn’t know what a banana clip looks like.
Even the two witnesses who said they were sober throughout the night changed their testimony during cross examination, first saying it was only their observation, but later admitting they relied on what they were told. O’Byrne rejected both of their statements, calling them “totally unreliable” and saying he “put no weight on this evidence”.
Perhaps most convincingly, one of the charges against the men accused them of causing bodily harm to Charmaine Hunter, while she testified that two girls attacked her, and there was no direct evidence that any of them used bodily force on her.
Lastly, only one weapon was actually seized from the scene, which may or may not have been tested for blood and DNA, and there was no evidence of any bats, brass knuckles, firearms, lumber, batons, bottles, machetes or metal pipes taken.
Because of the “uncertain and unreliable” witnesses, the Judge felt the Crown was unable to prove that it was these specific men who committed the offences they were accused of, and they have been cleared of all charges.
“I find the Crown and police couldn’t identify all (of the those responsible for the assaults), and chose the five that they could, regardless of the evidence,” argued O’Byrne.
The fifth man accused, Jeremy Jondreau, had his case severed from the others earlier this year, as it was declared a mistrial after he missed testimony due to a medical issue. He is next set to appear in court on May 25, 2012 to decide how to proceed with his case.
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