The rekindled memory of having his new car stolen at knifepoint by a young neighbour psychotically-high on LSD was troubling enough for Dave Denton.
And now, sitting at the back of the provincial courtroom in Campbell River, with his wife Kathy by his side, Denton tensed as he faced the prospect of testifying again.
The Campbell River retiree, who battles Parkinson’s disease, had already testified against 20-year-old Joseph Graham which led to a robbery conviction.
Then, during Monday’s sentencing hearing, the Dentons were stunned by the comments Graham’s lawyer, Dennis Evans, made to the judge.
Earlier in the hearing, Crown prosecutor David Fitzsimmons said Graham’s crimes are a serious personal injury offence which means the young man is not eligible for community sentence order (i.e. serving a “jail term” in his home).
Fitzsimmons also highlighted the victim impact statement in which Denton describes how the trauma of the robbery exacerbated the
conditions of Parkinson’s disease.
The victim impact statement was actually completed by Kathy Denton, because her husband’s hands shake so much he can no longer write legibly.
Evans, however, suggested Denton should prove his claim that the knifepoint robbery made his condition worse.
In response, Fitzsimmons said he would call Denton and his doctor to testify in order to prove the claim, but Judge Ted Gouge had another idea.
The fact that Graham used a knife in the robbery and was also convicted of dangerous driving, might also be considered other than just Denton’s worsened condition.
“This is a very difficult sentencing decision,” Judge Gouge admitted.
High on Acid
According to various psychological reports, Joseph Graham is an intelligent young man, who had some minor issues with depression when he was a young teen.
However, he never got into any real trouble until his 18th year. Graham had just completed high school, took a celebratory trip to Europe, and then returned home to Campbell River where he began hanging out with drug-taking friends.
He tried magic mushrooms, LSD (acid), and then one day he went overboard. Sometime in the early morning of April 2, 2012, Graham ingested between five and seven “hits” of acid.
He later told a psychiatrist that he awoke that morning believing he was dead and the people around him were creations of his imagination. The doctor diagnosed it as a “short psychotic episode.”
Wearing nothing but track pants, and carrying a knife, Graham wandered across the street and encountered insulators who were coming to work at the Dentons’ home.
According to Kathy Denton, she saw Graham walking up the street with the knife and called 911. So did the insulators who fled after Graham began banging on the side of their van.
But Dave Denton didn’t see Graham and went downstairs to let the insulators inside. Instead he encountered Graham who walked by him and was about to enter the Denton’s home.
According to Denton, he asked Graham where he was going and that’s when the young neighbour turned around, pointed the knife at him and demanded the keys to the car.
Denton quickly complied and then Graham drove away in the couple’s brand-new Nissan Leaf, a fully electric vehicle.
He was gone by the time police arrived, but they caught up to him on the Highway 28 General Hill where he’d been subdued by other motorists.
Graham had driven the wrong way up the hill, forced vehicles off the road, and was finally stopped when the small car was crunched between two other vehicles – a dump truck and a pickup.
Graham was taken into custody and charged with robbery, assault with a weapon, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and four counts of mischief. He admitted to all the facts in the case, but pleaded not guilty to robbery based on his hallucinatory condition.
At trial though, he was also found guilty of robbery.
Following his arrest, Graham was released on bail and placed on strict conditions, including house arrest.
Since then he’s abided by all the conditions, has remained sober, has the support of his family, works with his father and is taking some college business courses.
He’s described as a very low risk to re-offend and a psychiatrist’s report states that jail would not serve any beneficial purpose.
“He’s shown remorse. “He feels awful about the robbery and making Mr. Denton feel scared in his own home. From the moment he’s done this, he’s felt ashamed,” said Evans. “A custodial sentence would be harmful to his mental health.”
The crux of the issue is Canada’s Criminal Code which calls for jail time for serious personal injury offences, an issue still to be decided by Judge Gouge who urged both lawyers to reconsider or restate their positions when the sentencing hearing resumes.
The next court date is expected to be set on Monday.