Accused stabber pleads guilty to lesser charge

A Prince George man accused of stabbing two people when a fight broke out at a birthday party has been sentenced to 90 days in jail after he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge related to the incident, cutting a trial short in the process.

After two days of testimony, Bryce Raymond Cote, 21, pleaded guilty Wednesday to assault causing bodily harm, while two counts each of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon he faced were stayed.

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Cote also pleaded guilty to one count of possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose which he was facing when the trial at the Prince George courthouse before B.C. Supreme Court Justice Laura Gerow began Monday.

In pleading guilty, Cote did not admit to committing the stabbings but rather to participating in a fight in which Chris Brade, 37, was knifed in the back as he tried to break up an altercation in front of a Hart area home on the night of Oct. 19, 2012.

The fight broke out as a group of youths were leaving a birthday party for a girl who had just turned 16. About a dozen friends had been invited to the occasion but the number had roughly doubled in size by the time the party had ended, the court had heard, with many but not all having been drinking.

Brade identified Cote as his attacker but testimony from other witnesses was contentious. One testified she saw Cote make a stabbing motion but did not see a knife, another effectively recanted a statement he gave police once on the stand and another testified he saw a fight break out but it was simply too dark out to see whether anyone had been stabbed.

Robert Stewart, 17, was also stabbed when attacked by three others, including Cote, the court heard, but he was not able to say who pulled the knife on him.

"Had this case gone further, I don't think the case for the Crown would've got any better," defence lawyer Keith Aartsen told Gerow. "

There was going to be some contradictory evidence that was potentially going to be before the court, more than what you already heard."

Gerow agreed to a joint submission on sentencing from Crown and defence counsels. Cote had no criminal record prior to the incident, it was noted.

Cote received credit for 12 days time served in custody meaning he will serve a further 78 days in jail. The term will be served on weekends after the court heard Cote and his common law wife are the parents of a young child with disabilities that require special care.

He was also sentenced to two years probation during which he must report to a probation officer, take drug, alcohol and psychological counselling as directed, remain employed or in school and have no contact with the two victims.

Cote must also provide a DNA sample, was issued a 10-year firearms prohibition and ordered to pay a $200 victim surcharge within six months.

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