EDMONTON — For 15 years, since kindergarten, Manpreet Grewal had been teased and taunted about his turban. He kept his anger quiet, kept it inside. Tell the teachers and it would just get worse.
But at age 18, when angry soccer parent Dean Smith got in his face, threatened to grab his religious headgear and “shove it up his ass,” he snapped. He and four teammates swarmed Smith and repeatedly kicked him in the head so violently his face fractured in five places.
On Monday, Grewal, now 20, was sentenced in Court of Queen’s Bench to a year in jail for aggravated assault. Smith looked on from the front row; Grewal’s family was right behind him, wiping away tears.
“The victim’s comments brought back memories of (Grewal’s) previous experience with prejudice,” said Justice Brian Burrows, who read from a pre-sentence report on Grewal.
“He does not blame the victim, but he said it was a triggering event for him.”
Burrows said the attack was so vicious that jail was warranted. But he also suggested that the 45-year-old Smith had a part to play.
“It was a serious racial and religious slur by a man who is a generation older. He said a taunting thing that was far beyond foolish. It was contemptible.”
Nobody, including Smith, deserves to be swarmed and attacked, Burrows said, but added in this case “it was not surprising.”
Outside court, Smith said there was a lot of racist trash talk on both sides after a soccer game between Grewal’s team and the team that Smith’s son was playing for on June 5, 2008.
He said Burrows wasn’t told at trial about the unrelenting taunts Smith endured that spurred him to respond.
“Parents only have so much patience,” he said. “I’m a very patient man.”
Of the sentence, he said: “I was quite pleased with the outcome (but) I still have a lot of recuperating to do.”
Grewal’s family did not comment.
The youth was found guilty after a trial six months ago, but had his sentencing delayed until Monday so he could finish his first year of a post-secondary business administration degree.
He was also sentenced to a year’s probation.
Grewal told court after his conviction that he was sorry and said he took responsibility.
On Monday, Smith said the apology didn’t amount to much. “A true apology would be somebody looking you in the eyes when they apologize, would it not?”