A man accused of beating another prisoner unconscious in a scrap at the Red Deer Remand Centre last year was found not guilty in Red Deer provincial court Wednesday.
William John Crawford, 30, of Regina, had been accused of assault causing bodily harm in connection with a June 9, 2008, fight in a cell at the remand centre that left Peter Kuol Galak out cold on the floor of the cell and suffering from a seizure.
He came to, spitting out blood and broken teeth and had to be helped to walk by other inmates.
Galak later complained of memory loss and spent a day in hospital on two occasions.
Crawford suffered what appeared to be a bloody bite mark on his nose.
Provincial court Judge Jim Mitchell said while it was clear there was an altercation there was no evidence that Crawford wanted to fight and it’s not known what happened in the cell.
The two men had apparently gone there after an earlier dispute. As they argued in the cell block, another inmate pushed the men into a cell and partially closed the door to keep the dispute out of sight of remand officers.
The same inmate testified that Galak challenged Crawford, saying “Come on, come on.”
The inmate soon after heard thumping sounds come from the cell.
Mitchell said the incident showed all the earmarks of a fight that Galak initiated and Crawford acted in self defence.
After Crawford left the cell several other inmates went in and Mitchell said the court can’t assume they played no part in the victim’s injuries.
Galak said he was injured after he was jumped from behind by unknown assailants on the prison stairs.
The judge said the evidence falls short of establishing that a criminal assault occurred.
“After all, a man is entitled to use physical force to defend himself,” said the judge, especially in the “hostile and simmering atmosphere” of a men’s prison.
“The charge fails as not being proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Mitchell cautioned Crawford not to interpret his judgment as a verdict of innocence. “There’s no such verdict in Canada.”
Crown prosecutor Robin Fiander said while the fight may have been consensual Crawford clearly used excessive force.
“In this case, the fight was taken too far.”
Defence lawyer David Willson argued the evidence was full of contradictory accounts as to what happened.
“There’s not a shred of any evidence to show that Mr. Crawford had an intention to fight.”