...laughing their asses off at the Ontario "justice" system...
Her day in court**********
Bono's daughter gets the chance to tell how brutal assault left her scarred physically, emotionally -- and mentally
By MARK BONOKOSKI
Last Updated: 6th July 2009, 8:14am
Second of a three-part series
BELLEVILLE -- Youth court in the "Friendly City" is located on the fourth floor of Century Place, an office building in the town's core with first-floor retail outlets, a coffee shop, as well as a Service Ontario office.
It consists of two courtrooms, and a bank of holding cells hidden behind a windowless door off the waiting room.
No docket is ever posted, of course. Young offenders are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
No names, therefore, can be publicly displayed.
But they are called out when their cases come up.
"(Name withheld.) Courtroom 2," says the voice on the intercom. "(Name withheld.) Courtroom 2."
A girl in the waiting room finally stands, and makes her way into the courtroom, accompanied by a social worker.
She is blond, and tallish, and looks much older than 16, although she was 15 years old at the time she led a gang of teenagers who were roaming the streets here late one April night, who swarmed my 22-year-old daughter Erin without rhyme or reason, who threw her to the ground, and who put the boots to her so severely that they dislocated her jaw, tore her skin raw, and gave her whiplash.
It was videotaped on a cellphone by one of her gang, of course, all to feed YouTube and Facebook as if the brutal assault they were carrying out were no more than a game.
She is there, as the ringleader and lead player in the unwarranted and unprovoked beating, and is scheduled to be sentenced on this day for assault causing bodily harm.
There has already been a plea-bargain arrangement made between the Crown and the accused's counsel, Peter Girard, his office one floor up -- just like there had been a plea bargain for her lesser co-accused, by now already separately dealt with without my daughter's knowledge, already sentenced to one year's probation and 40 hours of community work, and with her file now forever sealed from public purview.
Crown attorney Jodi Whyte reads out the agreed-upon statement of facts. They sound almost generic now, the graphic violence strangely diminished in the telling.
Defence counsel Peter Girard attempts to transform the multiple kicks to my daughter's head into a singular kick and, even more incredibly, into an accidental one.
"Unfortunately a kick landed on her face," he says.
Crown Whyte immediately puts him straight.
"I saw the video, and they were violent kicks to the face," she says. "The potential for harm was huge, but it was not given a moment's thought."
Judge Wendy Malcolm takes notes, and then asks my daughter if she wishes to read her victim impact statement, or simply have it placed before the court.
Erin says she will read it. She is composed, and prepared. And her voice breaks down only once.
Every word is her own. It is painful to listen to. Yet powerful.
"I believe something must be done to teach these girls a valuable lesson in life," she begins. "What happened that night was more than wrong. It was cruel, vicious, needless -- and yet, to these two girls, it was just a game.
"It would be an understatement to say that night changed me. Physically, emotionally and especially mentally, I have battled to overcome the aftermath of the attack," she says. "And I hope what you hear today will make you consider a sentencing to reflect the trauma that I have endured over the past 10 months.
"Mentally, I completely shut down. At the time of the attack, I was just beginning my final exams for my graduating year at Trent University. I literally went into lockdown.
"Besides going to the hospital, or school for my exams, I did not leave the house. Having extreme whiplash and severe facial trauma, I could not sleep at night, eat at all, or stop crying. Amid exams, finishing my thesis, and writing final papers, I did not know what to do with myself.
"I had vivid nightmares repeating the attack over and over again. It was awful. Once I finished school, that is when the shock of everything set in. I became completely withdrawn -- from my friends, family, and from my boyfriend.
"I could no longer stand being in public places. I started to sink into a depression," she says. "I could not wrap my head around why these girls decided that they wanted to cause this sort of pain. I was angry, short-tempered, emotional, irrational and defensive.
"That night I pleaded with the girls to stop kicking me in the face but they had already made up their minds. The last 10 months have been by far the most challenging of my life. I have yet to come to terms with why these girls did this. Why they thought it would be fun. How could they do this to me? No one deserves to have to go through the pain I have.
"If I did not stand before you today and call these girls out on their irresponsible behaviour I have no doubt they would continue to attack whomever, whenever, they wanted.
"I am somewhat insulted by the agreed sentencing in this case. I would like the trials and tribulations that I have faced to be considered and taken seriously. My injuries are not slight. In fact, I was this close to needing surgery.
"Your Honour, I stand before you today asking you to take into consideration my pain. I am aware that because these girls are technically juveniles that there are guidelines in place. However, I believe now is the time to set a precedent against youth violence.
"I fear that if these girls are not taught a lesson that there will be more victims -- many who may not come forward because these girls enlisted fear in them," she says.
"Please hold them accountable for their actions and my pain and suffering."
Judge Malcolm is moved by Erin's presentation.
"What you did today is a very brave thing," she says.
She then puts off the scheduled sentencing of the young defendant, and orders a full pre-sentence report on the now 16-year-old offender, including a psychological evaluation.
"Maybe this should be hanging over your head for a little longer period of time," the judge tells the accused. "Besides, I want to know a little more about you."
And with that, the case was adjourned for a month.
Tomorrow: An epiphany
MARK.BONOKOSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA OR 416-947-2445
RELATED: READ PART ONE
UPDATE: Belleville Police Chief responds...
...well, sort of...
“I feel that it’s unfortunate that this is the way this individual decided to deal with this situation instead of coming into the station, having his daughter — who is the victim — come in a lot sooner than now and deal with this situation."Ah... so now it's Bonokowski who's the bad guy here.
And the less than stellar conduct by the two Belleville cops?
"As for any repercussions for the officers as a consequence of her probe into the matter will be dealt with internally and 'not through the media'.”*