Hammer tosser appealing verdict

A man is seeking to have a conviction of assaulting a police officer with a weapon overturned after originally pleading guilty to the offence.

Joseph Edward Zaworski is currently serving three years in jail for leading police on a chase in December 2018 while driving a stolen pickup truck and then throwing a hammer at a Mackenzie RCMP officer when they arrested him at his mother's home in McLeod Lake.

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The officer, who was also struggling with Zaworski's mother at the time, was struck in the forehead leaving him stunned and on the verge of passing out. If not for the folded up toque he was wearing, the outcome could have been much worse, the court heard during a hearing prior to sentencing in January 2020.

For that portion of his actions, Zaworski was sentenced in provincial court to a year in jail, a term consecutive to the two years he was issued for dangerous driving and fleeing police. 

He had pleaded guilty to all three counts but is now appealing the count of assault and, in a decision issued last week, a B.C. Court of Appeal judge endorsed Zaworski's application for an order to appoint counsel.

While he pleaded guilty to the count, Zaworski subsequently attempted to resile when he told the author of a presentence report that he did not intend to throw the hammer at the officer but rather threw it at a light fixture and it got "hung up" there.

When this issue was raised at sentencing, defence counsel stated that. Zaworski was pleading guilty to being "reckless" as to whether or not the hammer he threw might hit the officer, but that hitting the officer was not his intention. 

As a result, a hearing was held to determine Zaworski's true intention and the sentencing judge found he intended to hit the officer. 

The judge, Casssandra Malfair, also found scenario Zaworski put forward - that the hammer struck a wall and ricocheted to strike the officer in the forehead - defied the laws of physics and common sense.

"I find that scenario most unlikely," Malfair said in her decision. "It also seems unlikely that Mr. Zaworski, after a prolonged flight from police and dramatic entry into his mother's residence, where he was angry and yelling at police officers and observing an officer struggling with his mother on the ground in front of him, picked up a hammer because he intended to benignly throw it at a wall or a light fixture."

Zaworski's mother, Cynthia Marie Openshaw, continues to face counts of obstructing police and attempting to take the weapon of a peace office for allegedly grabbing the officer's rifle and releasing the gun's magazine.

 

 

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