Dawson Lindsay was experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder – the result of witnessing a double-murder in October 2010 – when he randomly attacked a man, leaving the victim with a broken jaw.
A Revelstoke man was sentenced last week, six months after pleading guilty to an unprovoked violent assault that left a man with a broken jaw in April 2011.
Dawson Allan Lindsay was given an 18-month conditional sentence, including nine months of house arrest, in Revelstoke court on Wednesday, Oct. 2.
The sentence imposes strict conditions on Lindsay, but he did avoid going to jail after the Judge Mayland McKimm sympathized with the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Lindsay experienced after witnessing the murder of two friends six months earlier.
Lindsay, who left Revelstoke after the attack and now lives and works in Estevan, Sask., was brought to court after police executed a warrant for his arrest in January. He pleaded guilty to the assault causing bodily harm in April. His sentencing was delayed in order to conduct a pre-sentence report and a psychological assessment.
Crown prosecutor Angela Ross laid out the facts of the incident in court. It occurred late on Apr. 24, 2011, when the victim was skateboarding home from a barbecue with a friend along Douglas Street.
They passed by Lindsay and another man, who yelled at them. The victim turned back, at which point the two men approached them. Lindsay punched the victim several times in the face, knocking him to the ground. He then kicked the victim in the jaw.
At that point, Lindsay and his friend started to leave and the victim’s friend called the police. When Lindsay turned and saw the friend was on the phone with the police, he turned back. The attackers chased the victims until the police showed up. The attackers then fled – one was arrested (charges against him were later stayed) while Lindsay escaped and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
The attack was described by Ross as “completely unprovoked” a sentiment that Judge McKimm agreed with.
The victim suffered a broken jaw and had to spend three days in Kelowna hospital undergoing surgery. He had his jaw wired shut and it took months to recover. He may have to undergo additional surgeries to repair nerve damage to his teeth, he told the court.
Lindsay had been drinking and smoking marijuana that day, and had been involved in several incidents earlier on, the court heard.
Citing the need for denunciation and deterrence, Ross asked the court for a six- to nine-month jail sentence, followed by a period of probation.
The court also heard from pre-sentence and psychological reports that Lindsay was experiencing PTSD, the result of a double-homicide he witnessed in Cold Lake, Alta, on Oct. 14, 2010.
Lindsay’s lawyer Rod Gregory spoke of that incident. He said Lindsay had invited his girlfriend’s brother to stay at his home, only to one day find the brother had shot two of his friends with a shotgun.
That account differs from the one that was told during the sentencing of the brother, who pleaded guilty to second degree murder. During that court hearing, the prosecutor said Lindsay was operating a marijuana grow-op and the brother was given a shotgun to protect the grow-op. The double-homicide resulted from a dispute between the brother and Lindsay, and Lindsay was the intended target of the shooting; the two victims were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
At the trial in the Revelstoke Courthouse on Oct. 2, there was also no mention of the fact Lindsay was charged with uttering death threats that night.
Gregory said his client was experiencing PTSD, and his actions that day – the drinking, drug use and violence – were a result of the trauma he received from seeing his two friend murdered.
“It’s part of an ongoing manifestation of PTSD and really the victim is the peak or epicentre of that episode and suffered greatly because of it,” said Gregory.
Lindsay apologized to the victim in court. “I can’t do anything to change what happened. I can’t offer him anything,” he said. “All I can offer are words and I’m deeply sorry for that.”
In that light, Judge McKimm expressed sympathy for Lindsay. He recognized the unprovoked nature of the attack and the injuries suffered by the victim, but he said the case was unique because of Lindsay’s mental health issues.
He said a prison sentence would serve to denounce the attack, but given Lindsay’s mental state at the time, it would not serve to deter a further attack. “I can’t deter someone who doesn’t know better. I can’t deter someone who is suffering from an illness,” said McKimm.
Reading from a pre-sentencing report, McKimm noted Lindsay is employed and letters of reference described him as highly pro-social, committed to his job and co-workers, and “an asset to his community.”
“What is unique is he was witness to the murder of two his close friends,” said McKimm. “The scars are often very deep and very broad. They have profoundly affected Mr. Lindsay, which is why I say this is a unique case. Mr. Lindsay suffers, according to all reports, from PTSD, and did so during these events.”
He handed Lindsay an 18-month conditional sentence, the first nine of which are to be spent under house arrest. Amongst his conditions, he is only allowed to leave his home for work or school, and is prohibited from drinking alcohol and doing drugs. He is also not allowed contact with the victim.
“I’m satisfied that this gentleman does not pose a risk to the community by serving his sentence in the community,” he said, adding: “If you break any of these conditions, you’ll serve the balance of your sentence in a real jail.”