A case for self defence was put forward Monday during closing arguments in a trial for an Alberta man accused of aggravated assault for a beating that left a blind McBride man with extensive facial injuries.
Representing Michael Allan Richter, 33, of Ponoka, lawyer Rob Climie suggested William Floris Groeneveld, 56, provoked Richter by sexually assaulting the accused when he thought Richter was making a homosexual pass at him and responded by reaching for his buttocks and crotch.
Richter's reaction was to strike Groeneveld twice on one side of his face and, following a struggle over Groeneveld's cane, to knock him out with a third blow to the other side, Climie submitted.
The altercation took place sometime after 2 a.m. on Dec. 11, 2011. Groeneveld had left the McBride Hotel just before closing time, but got lost while trying to find his way home, turned back and asked for a ride.
Richter, who was in McBride for a snowmobiling trip and had been drinking at the hotel as well as ingesting a line of cocaine according to his statement to police, gave Groeneveld a lift, but moments later his vehicle went off the road, according to testimony.
Groeneveld suggested they get out of the vehicle so Richter could avoid getting charged with driving while impaired. They did and Groeneveld took Richter's arm and they walked along the road.
However, on two occasions, Richter began "freaking out," Climie submitted, and issued grunts and guttural sounds, and Groeneveld hugged Richter to calm him down. Then Groeneveld, who confirmed he's homosexual, felt what he thought was an erection from Richter rubbing repeatedly across his crotch.
"Perhaps thinking wishfully," Groeneveld responded with an advance that Climie called "grossly reckless" given the circumstances.
Climie argued it was already apparent to Groeneveld that Richter was unsteady on his feet and noted that Groeneveld conceded he felt no erection when he reached for Richter's crotch.
As to whether Richter overreacted, Climie pointed to cases in which judges have concluded that stabbings and shootings were acts of self defence and dropped the charges. Climie also noted that police found Richter was remarkably strong when they were forced to give chase after the accused was found in his vehicle later that morning.
Although it is "natural for people to feel sympathy" for Groeneveld, given his disability and his injuries, Climie said sympathy should not be the basis for a conviction.
"To grab the genitals of either a male or a female person in this country would likely render most of the population to retaliate," Climie later added.
In response, Crown prosecutor Geoffrey McDonald submitted that Richter was the one who provoked by rubbing against Groeneveld's crotch and that Richter's response to Groeneveld's advances was out of proportion.
"A simple push of a person who is clearly physically his inferior, or a step back, would have more than sufficed," McDonald said.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Frits Verhoeven reserved decision to a later date.