An Alberta man was sentenced Wednesday to a further 27 months in jail for a December 2011 attack that left a gay and legally blind McBride man with severe injuries from which he still suffers.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Frits Verhoeven sentenced Michael Allan Richter, 33, to three-and-a-half years for aggravated assault on William Floris Groeneveld, 56, before granting him 15 months credit for time already served in custody.
During submissions prior to sentencing, Richter apologized to Groeneveld, who was in the courtroom, and promised to pay his medically-related expenses once he's completed his term. Verhoeven found Richter's apology to be genuine but remained concerned about whether Richter would change his ways, noting his extensive criminal record and no mention in a pre-sentence report of a willingness to abstain from drugs and alcohol.
Verhoeven also dismissed defence lawyer Rob Climie's submission that Richter's attack was in response to a sexual assault by Groeneveld. Rather, Verhoeven said it was an "unprovoked assault on a defenceless individual."
"Even if there was a sexual assault, which is doubtful, the degree of force was grossly disproportionate to anything that had occurred," Verhoeven said.
During the trial for the Dec. 11, 2011 incident, the court heard that Groeneveld made a sexual advance towards Richter when he touched his buttocks and his genitals minutes after Richter had stranded his SUV in the snow while giving Groeneveld a ride home.
Groeneveld said he thought he had felt Richter rubbing his crotch in a sideways manner before he made the advance and was then punched at least twice in the side of the head before what he suspects was a third blow knocked him unconscious.
The attack was believed to have occurred sometime after 2 a.m. and Groeneveld was found in a snow bank on First Avenue at about 4 a.m. by a resident who went outside because her dogs were barking and heard someone calling for help. It was about -10 C at the time.
According to a victim impact statement, Groeneveld said he suffered 34 facial fractures on the right side of his head, including a compressed skull fracture that had to be pulled away from his brain, and two cracks on his left cheek bone.
Following extensive surgery and time in hospital, Groeneveld now has a metal right eye orbit and hard pallet and no feeling on the right side of his face, in the top of his teeth and in two-thirds of his bottom teeth.
As well, his jaw does not mesh properly which makes chewing painful and makes his susceptible to choking such that he now only eats for nourishment and continues to have nightmares and flashbacks.
Moreover, Groeneveld said he suffers from balance and memory problems that are particularly troublesome for a blind person who relies on memory to keep oriented. And he cannot process the "feel end" of his cane as well as he used to.
"I have to stop and think about where I am, even though I've been to that place a thousand times before," Groeneveld said and later added he does not "need more challenges and obstacles added to my life."
Richter, who was on a snowmobiling trip in the area, had been drinking and consumed a rail of cocaine when he agreed to give Groeneveld a ride home. Groeneveld said he usually walks home with the aid of a cane but new snow made him disoriented so he turned back to the hotel where he had been drinking and socializing and asked for some help.
But Richter, who told police he does not remember anything from that night, drove his SUV into a snow bank forcing the two back out onto the road and a few moments later the attack occurred.
Verhoeven noted that although Richter has a long criminal record, it was his first violent offence and the attack was not premeditated. But he also discounted an argument that no weapon was involved, noting Richter is a powerful man aware he can cause severe injury with his fists.
Richter was also sentenced to concurrent terms of three months for flight from a peace officer and resisting arrest and was fined $1,000 and issued a one-year driving prohibition for driving while impaired.
Crown prosecutor Geoffrey McDonald had argued for four to six years less time served for aggravated assault and a further nine months for the flight and resisting arrest charges, as well as a three-year prohibition for driving while impaired. Climie reasoned time served would be adequate and noted Richter's previous conviction for drunk driving was 10 years ago.