March 26, 7:10pm
David Holtzman endured several hours of relentless cross-examination March 26 as he testified against two brothers accused of gaybashing him and his partner, Peter Regier, outside their Vancouver home in 2010.
Parminder Singh Peter Bassi is charged with two counts of assault causing bodily harm in connection with the June 2010 incident. His brother Ravinder Robbie Bassi is charged with one count of assault causing bodily harm.
Peter Bassi's lawyer, Michael Klein, and Robbie Bassi's lawyer, David Baker, questioned Holtzman about the timing of the event, the number of times he and Regier were allegedly hit, and the identification of their alleged assailants.
The court has heard that the couple was allegedly attacked when they returned from a concert to find two men sitting on their doorstep. When one man stood to urinate against the building’s wall and Holtzman asked him to stop, the man allegedly replied, “Fag, are you serious?”
"My response was, 'Yes, I am a fag and yes, I am serious,'" Holtzman testified on March 23.
The man responded, “Fucking faggots. I hate you,” Holtzman told the court.
The incident then turned violent, Holtzman testified, as one man attacked Regier and the other attacked him.
Holtzman denied Baker’s suggestion that he has difficulties differentiating between the event itself and what he saw on surveillance videos.
Baker asked Holtzman about inconsistencies in his evidence about the men's clothing, questioning about the colour of one of the brother’s T-shirts.
"He starts calling me a faggot," Holtzman replied. "I'm going to turn around and look at him, of course. I'm going to look at his face. What do you think I'm going to do — look at his shoes?" Holtzman was also challenged on the number of times he was struck.
Baker asked Holtzman if he remembered telling police he had been struck 20 to 30 times in the back of the head.
"Yes," said Holtzman.
"You testified in direct [examination] it was 50," Baker said.
"The gross number, I'm not sure what that is," Holtzman said.
Baker also questioned Holtzman about his recall of the attackers as he defended himself, suggesting both the speed of the incident and his self-defence could have prevented proper identification.
"It's a really nice idea to cover your face when you're being slugged," Holtzman said. "I was absolutely focused on my own survival."
Baker asked about the Dionne Warwick concert the couple had attended, asking if Holtzman had a drink. He said he had one drink.
Baker asked if Holtzman had smoked any marijuana. He said he had not but added he has a prescription for it in case of pain or anxiety.
"Marijuana affects your short-term memory," Baker suggested.
"Sure," Holtzman agreed.
Baker questioned Holtzman’s testimony about the words that were allegedly shouted. "According to you," Baker said, "he yelled, 'Fucking faggot, I hate you.'"
"'I hate you, fucking faggot,"' Holtzman corrected.
"The 'I hate you' part, that's not something you told police?" Baker asked
"No, it's not in there," Holtzman acknowledged, referring to his police statement after the incident.
Then it was Klein's turn.
He questioned Holtzman's recall of the specific time of the incident. Holtzman said that when someone wants to beat him up, he doesn't stop to look at his watch.
Klein asked if the blows he took to his head and the resulting brain injury might have affected his memory.
"Absolutely," Holtzman said.
Klein challenged the number of blows Holtzman claims to have sustained. If the whole incident lasted perhaps 40 seconds — 20 seconds of which Holtzman believed he was face down in a planter being pummelled in the head — then "that would be four punches per second," Klein said.
"When someone's banging you on the back of the head, it's hard to be accurate," Holtzman said.
"That's just not plausible," Klein suggested.
"It's completely plausible in human kinesiological terms that someone could punch somebody 40 times in 20 seconds," Holtzman said.
Then Klein turned to the alleged biting while Holtzman was being assaulted.
"Those teeth marks lasted for a couple of weeks after," Holtzman said.
Klein asked if Holtzman had injured his head falling into the planter.
Holtzman told Klein to ask the doctors who told him his injuries were "consistent with multiple punches to the back of the head.”
"There is no way that [falling into the planter] is how I damaged the back of my head," he said, "but thanks for asking."
Klein asked if Holtzman thought his injuries had affected his ability to make observations about the events.
"That's unfair," Holtzman said.
The March 26 proceedings also dealt with the thorny issue of an allegation of threats made against Holtzman in the courthouse cafeteria.
Holtzman was on the stand as a witness on March 22 when he told the court that he saw the Bassi brothers in the cafeteria on March 20. "He locked eyes with me," he said, indicating Robbie Bassi. Then Robbie elbowed his brother, Holtzman testified, and "his brother said, 'Bang.'"
"I took it as a veiled threat," Holtzman said.
Peter Bassi's lawyer, Michael Klein, was sitting nearby, the court heard.
"The conceivable problem is you may have to testify," Judge Raymond Low told Klein last week, adding it would be hard for Klein to conduct a defence if "you have to be excused like any other witness."
The court lost two trial days as the lawyers hashed out the situation. Today they told Low that Klein's recall of the event would be given to the court as an admission as the defence begins its case.
When testimony will resume remains to be seen.
The trial was meant to wrap up on March 26, but due to the length of testimony given and the two lost days, Low asked the lawyers to find another six days in the court schedule.
The trial is now scheduled to resume on Oct 1.
March 23, 11:25am
The trial of two brothers accused of gaybashing a Vancouver couple has been put over to Monday, March 26 as lawyers wrestle with how to deal with the suggestion that the accused made a "veiled threat" to one of the alleged victims.
David Holtzman was on the stand as a witness on March 22 when he told the court about the incident in the courthouse cafeteria. He said he saw Peter Bassi and his brother Robbie on March 20. "He locked eyes with me," he said, indicating Robbie Bassi. Then Robbie elbowed his brother, Holtzman testified, and "his brother said 'Bang.'"
"I took it as a veiled threat," Holtzman said.
Peter Bassi's lawyer, Michael Klein, was sitting nearby, the court heard.
"It's an unusual situation," Klein told Vancouver Provincial Court Judge Raymond Low on March 23.
"The conceivable problem is you may have to testify," Low told Klein yesterday, adding it would be hard for Klein to conduct a defence if "you have to be excused like any other witness."
"It's a major problem from my perspective at this point in the trial," Low said.
Klein told the court today that he and Robbie Bassi's lawyer, David Baker, would be working with Crown prosecutor Kirsten Murphy "to keep this trial afloat."
Parminder Singh Peter Bassi is charged with two counts of assault causing bodily harm in connection with the June 2010 alleged gaybashing. His brother Ravinder Robbie Bassi is charged with one count of assault causing bodily harm.
Low told the lawyers there was no need to apologize for the delay. "These things arise," he said.
The hearing will reconvene on Monday.
March 22, 6:44pm
The trial of two men accused of gaybashing a couple on their doorstep two years ago ground to a sudden halt March 22 when one of the victims testified he believed he had been threatened by the accused in the courthouse cafeteria.
Parminder Singh Peter Bassi is charged with two counts of assault causing bodily harm in connection with the June 12, 2010, incident. His brother Ravinder Robbie Bassi is charged with one count of assault causing bodily harm.
David Holtzman was concluding his testimony when Crown prosecutor Kirsten Murphy asked if he had seen the accused men before identifying them in court.
Holtzman said he saw them in the cafeteria on March 20. "He locked eyes with me," he said, indicating Robbie Bassi.
Then Robbie elbowed his brother, Holtzman testified, and "his brother said 'Bang.'"
Asked Murphy, "How did you interpret that?"
"I took it as a veiled threat," Holtzman replied.
Robbie Bassi's lawyer, David Baker, asked Holtzman if he also saw Peter Bassi's lawyer, Michael Klein.
"They were sitting by themselves," Holtzman said.
Baker asked Judge Raymond Low to ask Holtzman to leave the courtroom.
"I was in the cafeteria at the time," Klein told Low. "The Bassis were sitting right behind me."
Klein said he was three feet way. "I warned them of the presence of Mr Holtzman.”
"The conceivable problem is you may have to testify," Low told Klein, adding it would be hard for Klein to conduct a defence if "you have to be excused like any other witness."
"It's a major problem from my perspective at this point in the trial," Low said.
The court took a brief recess after which the lawyers asked for the case to be adjourned until the next morning.
"It's a complex problem," Klein told Low. "We may have a solution. It may take a compromise on the parties."
The twist came after both Holtzman and neighbour Craig Costantino identified one or both of the brothers as having been involved in the assault.
Holtzman's identification came after Murphy led him through the events of the evening. He testified that he and his partner, Peter Regier, had been returning home after a "date night" when they came across two men on the stairs by their Keefer Place home.
Holtzman said one stood and said he was going to urinate. "My response was: 'I live here. Do you really need to pee here? Can't you find something else to do on a Saturday night?”
"His response was, 'Fag, are you serious?'”
"My response was, 'Yes, I am a fag and yes, I am serious.'"
Murphy asked if the man said anything else.
"Yeah," said Holtzman. "It was: 'Fucking faggots. I hate you.'"
One of the men also said, "Suck my dick," Holtzman testified.
"I mumbled something. I think it was: 'In your dreams. It's not even hard.'"
Holtzman told the court he wanted to go inside, but Regier tried to take a photo of the man urinating. When the other man warned the urinator that Regier was trying to take his picture, “assailant one rushed Peter and started swinging,” Holtzman testified.
Regier had his hands up shielding blows, he continued. "Peter received, I would say, three blows to the face. I believe they were from assailant one. I was horrified that something so vicious and horrible was happening to the man that I love."
Holtzman said he attempted to separate the two men. "I was trying to be a referee. I didn't want my baby to get hit again."
He said the second man then arrived and "overwhelmed me."
"I received three punches in the head. I don't know where they came from."
"It really broke up into one person beating the crap out of Peter and one person beating the crap out of me,” Holtzman testified.
Holtzman said he crawled into a planter and assumed a fetal position to try and stop the assault. "I didn't want to get kicked or punched anymore. He was saying, 'Fuck you, faggot. I hate you, fucking faggot’ and punching me in the head.
"I think he'd gone kind of Rambo on me . . . some psycho game of target practice. I needed to get away, but I didn't know where to go. I was terrified."
Holtzman said his attacker kept "pummelling the back of my head” even after he climbed in the planter.
"Each time he struck my head he was going 'faggot, faggot, faggot.'"
Holtzman estimated he was hit about 50 times. "I was counting them. I was trying to zone out of the pain. It was weird. Psycho." At some point, Holtzman, said he "mustered up all his courage" to get out of the planter to try to help Regier.
"I started getting up," he said. "The person on top of me was still fighting me."
It wasn't just punches, though. "He was biting me," Holtzman said, explaining he was bitten on the chest, near the waist and on his back.
"At this point, I was completely scared for my life," Holtzman said.
At that point, he said, someone came out of the building, a security guard and a man Holtzman identified in a video surveillance tape as Costantino, a lawyer with criminal law experience.
Shortly afterward, the attackers left, he said, but not without a parting verbal shot: "Ha! Pathetic fags or something," Holtzman testified.
Holtzman called it an "I want to emotionally damage you douchebag" comment.
He and Regier went inside and called the police.
Holtzman said the assault left him with multiple bruisings and lacerations on his face and body. "I had a lot of swelling at the back of my head," he said. He said his teeth were also chipped and his eyesight was affected.
"I would get white flashes," he said. "The medical professionals said there might be a chance the optical nerve had been damaged." He said he was given eye exercises to make sure his retina had not been detached.
Regier had a gouge on his head.
Murphy asked Holtzman to describe his attacker. "It's kind of hard when he's sitting right there," he said, gesturing toward the Bassis. He then identified his assailants individually as the two men seated behind the lawyers.
Murphy asked Holtzman what he thought of the repeated use of the word "faggot."
"I can't stand it," he said. "It is a word that is mean and diminishes a whole person. It's a word that we cry about somewhat as gay people.”
“It's as bad a word you can get. It's the bottom of the totem pole. It's the whipping block. It's unacceptable."
Costantino, who witnessed part of the alleged assault, testified before Holtzman took the stand.
Murphy asked him if he heard one of the attackers say, "You don't like fighting, do you?"
Costantino said he recognized the voice as that of Peter Bassi. He then recognized the man.
"I was looking at his face. I was hearing his voice at the same time," Costantino later said under cross-examination by Klein. "It was consistent with someone that I knew."
"I was just kinda struck by — I can't believe that. That's Peter."
He confirmed he had identified the man to police as Peter Bassi.
Costantino told Klein he did not hear anyone yelling "faggot" repeatedly or other homophobic slurs.
The case continues in Vancouver provincial court on Friday, March 23.
March 21, 5:25pm
Peter Regier identified Parminder Singh Peter Bassi and Ravinder Robbie Bassi as the men who attacked him and his partner, David Holtzman, as he testified at their trial in Vancouver Provincial Court on March 21.
Asked by Crown prosecutor Kirsten Murphy if he recognized the first of the two men in court, Regier said, "He's sitting just behind you there."
Asked to identify the second, Regier said, “I do see him. He's sitting next to the man I just identified.”
Regier testified March 20 to receiving a relentless physical assault that left blood running down his face during an alleged gaybashing at his home in Vancouver's Tinseltown area.
Brothers Ravinder Robbie Bassi and Parminder Singh Peter Bassi arrive at Vancouver provincial court on March 21 to stand trial for assault.
(Shimon Karmel photo)
Peter Bassi, 30, is charged with two counts of assault causing bodily harm in connection with the June 12, 2010, incident. He slumped in his chair after Regier identified him.
His brother Robbie Bassi, 27, is charged with one count of assault causing bodily harm.
Regier told Judge Raymond Low that, as a result of the attack, he had to have stitches to close a wound in his head and received minor cuts and scrapes on his forearms as well as other minor cuts on his head and much bruising.
Asked how Holtzman appeared after the incident, Regier said, "I saw he had blood on him. I just remember him being very agitated and there was blood."
Regier, a lawyer who works at Worksafe BC, said he had problems sleeping after the incident. "I was extremely agitated," he told the court. "I noted my mental processes were not at all sharp. I missed a bunch of days at work. It was a result of all this. I was worried it might happen again. I was a bit freaked out about going out in the neighbourhood. I was concerned for David."
He told Murphy that, as far as he knew, he had never seen his assailants before.
He said the situation began when the couple returned home and saw the two men outside their building. When one of them stood up to urinate, Regier said Holtzman asked him to stop. A heated exchange of words ensued, which included the repeated use of homophobic slurs such as "faggot" and cocksucker."
Regier tried to take photos on his iPhone. That’s when one of the men charged him, he testified.
"Did you indicate by word or action that you intended to fight this person?" Murphy asked.
"No, I did not," Regier said. "I did not say a word."
She asked if the man called him a "faggot" — if the words appeared to be directed at him and Holtzman.
"Yes, there was no one else there," Regier replied.
"I heard two voices chiming in with the homophobic words," he noted later. "It was a barrage of homophobia." Robbie Bassi's lawyer, David Baker, suggested that Regier attended the brothers’ initial court appearances to “see the accused in the light of day.”
"I went there because I thought the proceedings were important," Regier responded. "Yes, I wanted to see them again."
He has attended other gaybashing cases, too, he added. "I thought it was my duty as a citizen.”
Baker asked Regier if he thought the assailant was trying to get his phone as the altercation unfolded.
"I don't know," Regier replied. “I think that was part of it. There were blows to my head . . . Part of it, he was trying to get at my hand, so he must have wanted to get at my phone."
Baker suggested the flare-up was the result of the two men wanting to be left alone by Holtzman and Regier. "You know people may object to having their picture taken by strangers?" Baker asked. The defence lawyers also asked Regier about the level of media coverage they had generated and the portrayal of the assault as a gaybashing.
Regier previously testified that he and Holtzman went to the media to ensure the case received attention from police.
Baker asked why Regier had not mentioned taking photos in the media interviews. "You didn't want to bring up the camera part because that doesn't fit with the idea of a gaybashing?" Baker asked.
"What I really wanted to focus on was the comments," Regier answered.
"Isn't your understanding of gaybashing when people set out to find and attack someone because they're gay?" Baker asked. "No," Regier answered. "I think it's broader than that. I think gaybashing is any kind of violence against someone because they're gay. It can be brought about by another situation."
Peter Bassi's lawyer, Michael Klein, also asked about the nondisclosure to media of the camera's use. Klein suggested the act of taking photographs of the man urinating was an act of provocation and disclosing the fact of the camera would have diminished the gaybashing label.
"We knew that would put some pressure on the police," Regier said. "It was not a fight; it was a beating." He said discussing the camera would diminish the assault. "I thought it would sexualize it," he said. "The purpose of taking these pictures was not sexual in any way."
Klein continued the pressure, suggesting the situation began because the couple objected to the urination.
"This whole episode started with these two parties at loggerheads," Klein said. "It didn't start as a gaybashing."
"It flared up after David saying, 'Yes, I'm gay,'" Regier replied.
Klein also asked if Regier could be certain it was the accused that were involved in the alleged assault when he saw them closely for only seconds in the incident, which lasted only a few minutes. "I'm certain that that's them," Regier said.
March 20, 6pm
Peter Regier told the court he endured a relentless physical assault that left blood running down his face on June 12, 2010, during an alleged gaybashing outside his home in Vancouver's Tinseltown area.
Regier gave the evidence on March 20, the opening day of the trial, prosecuting the two Richmond brothers accused in the case.
Parminder Singh Peter Bassi, 30, is charged with two counts of assault causing bodily harm in connection with the incident. Ravinder Robbie Bassi, 27, is charged with one count of assault causing bodily harm.
Regier was led through his evidence by Crown prosecutor Kirsten Murphy. He said he and his partner, David Holtzman, were returning home from a concert when they saw two men outside their Keefer Place home.
One man stood up, saying he needed to urinate and went up the stairs of the building, Regier recounted, noting that Holtzman was ahead of him as the man triggered a motion sensor for a light.
"[Holtzman] said, 'Hey, guys, come on. Do you have to pee here? This is where I live.'"
"'What are you? You fucking faggots? Shut the fuck up,'" one of the men replied, according to Regier.
Regier told Murphy he believed the speaker was the man going to urinate. A heated verbal exchange ensued between Holtzman and the pair.
"It was quite striking — the anger, the recurring use of anti-gay words," Regier said. "'Faggot' came up. 'Cocksucker' came up. These were the ones that resonated. I remember being shocked at the level of the flare-up."
As Regier and Holtzman got to the door of their building, the men asked if they were faggots, Regier said. "They actually asked the question: 'What are you two? Are you two faggots?'"
Regier said Holtzman responded, "'Yes, I am gay,' and one of them said, 'Fuck you, suck my cock.'"
Regier said Holtzman's response was, "It isn't even hard."
He said the homophobic slurs continued.
Regier said he had his iPhone in his hand and was going to take pictures to document the situation. "I was shaking," he said. "I was very nervous."
He said he was about 1 to 15 feet from the man urinating and had not spoken a word to the men.
"He saw I had the camera up, and then he charged me," he said.
Regier said he was punched and grabbed, the two getting into a clinch. "I remember feeling something on my face and getting a hit to the face," Regier said, adding the man seemed to be trying to grab his phone.
"I was in shock," he said. "It was like some kind of weird dream."
Regier said he tried to push the man away. "He pulled me back and that's when he looked at me and said, "'You want to fight me?' That was when he started hitting me."
"I remember trying to put my hands up to protect myself." He said he was then pushed across a walkway and propelled toward a wall.
"I remember seeing pink granite coming toward my face as he pushed me into the wall."
Regier said he then tried to crouch and protect himself. "That was when I got pushed into the planter on the other side. I said, ‘Okay. That's enough. Stop.'"
Murphy asked, "Did he stop after that?"
"No," Regier said. "He was hitting me."
He said the man kept pummelling his head.
Regier said he then began to feel something sharp striking his head. "Did he have a ring on? I don't know. I think I was saying 'please stop,' trying to ingratiate myself. I felt this continued pounding. It sure felt like it went on and on."
He said he was hit perhaps 30 times.
"I felt like I was channelling Aaron Webster because what I was saying was what Aaron Webster said in Stanley Park.”
Webster died in November 2001 after a group of men brutally beat him then left him to die near the park’s gay cruising trails.
"I started to feel blood running down my head," Regier said.
He said he began seeing stars as the beating continued.
The Bassis stared straight ahead as Regier testified, Ravinder Bassi occasionally shaking his head.
Regier's testimony continues in Vancouver Provincial Court at 222 Main St on March 21.
March 20, 3:15pm
It remains to be seen if the Crown lawyer prosecuting two brothers accused of gaybashing a Vancouver couple on their doorstep
two years ago will seek a hate-crime designation in the trial that began this morning.
But Crown counsel Kirsten Murphy wasted no time telling Judge Raymond Low that homophobic slurs were yelled during the alleged attack outside the couple’s Keefer Place home.
Parminder Singh Peter Bassi, 30, is charged with two counts of assault causing bodily harm in connection with the June 12, 2010, incident. His brother Ravinder Robbie Bassi, 27, is charged with one count of assault causing bodily harm.
In her opening remarks on March 20, Murphy told Low that Peter Regier and David Holtzman returned home to find two men at their doorstep. She said Regier asked Ravinder Bassi to stop urinating.
"The suspect responded, telling them to 'shut up' and referred to them using references such as 'faggots' and other homophobic slurs," Murphy said.
At that point, Regier took out his phone and took a photo of the man urinating, Murphy told the court.
When the second suspect told his brother he was being photographed urinating, they both made more homophobic remarks, Murphy continued.
"Ravinder Bassi then charged Peter Regier and punched him numerous times in the head," she said. When Holtzman tried to intervene, he too was attacked. "Mr Holtzman was also punched numerous times in the head."
The Crown says the Bassi brothers assaulted Peter Regier and David Holtzman (seen here in front of Vancouver's community court shortly after the incident) and called them "faggot" and other homophobic slurs in June 2010.
(Jeremy Hainsworth photo)
The Crown played several videos tendered by witness Detective Shane Aitken that were obtained from the couple’s building and one from the nearby Tinseltown complex. The first video shows a man urinating against a wall in an area lit by a light activated by motion sensor. Much of the video is in shadow.
Aitken said Regier appears in a corner of the shot and is rushed by the urinating man. "It's evident there is some kind of struggle or altercation occurring," Aitken said.
The second video shows the front door of the building with Regier and Holtzman coming home. Regier appears to walk off with his arm raised, after which some form of struggle ensues. Holtzman moves to intervene and is seen being pushed around, eventually into a flower bed with a man on top of him, Aitken said, as he narrated the playing video.
"Mr Regier is on the ground. Someone is standing over him," Aitken continued.
The video then shows a security guard and a man expected to testify at trial exiting the building.
The third video shows two brown-skinned men running down the street.
Aitken said he showed the video to the man expected to testify. "He told me he believed one of the two suspects was Peter Bassi, a person he played soccer with in Richmond," Aitken said.
Aitken told the court that he also played the video for another detective after he heard his colleague might have some information about the case. Aitken said the detective told him, "That's Peter Bassi on the right. I play soccer with him."
One of the first officers on the scene was Sergeant Toby Hinton. He told the court he arrived to find Holtzman and Regier bleeding.
"Mr Regier had blood on his head and hands, apparently running from an injury on the top of his head," Hinton testified. "Mr Holtzman had blood on his face as well as what looked like abrasions on his face."
He said there were "fresh blood spots and spatters" nearby.
Under questioning from Peter Bassi's lawyer, Michael Klein, Hinton said he had attended "countless" assaults and conceded terms like “faggot," “cocksucker” and “bitch” are regularly used in altercations.
Asked if she will seek a hate-crime designation should the accused be found guilty, Murphy wouldn’t comment. "It's before the courts, so I really can't talk about it," she told Xtra
The Bassi brothers' trial is one of a string of high-profile gaybashing cases that have come before Vancouver courts in recent years.
In the Michael Kandola case, Jordan Smith was attacked Sept 27, 2008, while walking down Davie St holding his boyfriend's hand. Kandola sucker punched Smith, sending him to the ground with a broken jaw, then kicked him while screaming homophobic obscenities.
Crown prosecutor Dasein Nearing called it a gaybashing and asked BC Supreme Court Justice Joel Groves for a hate-crime designation at Kandola’s sentencing.
Groves agreed and ruled in April 2010 that an attack is likely a hate-motivated gaybashing if an attacker uses homophobic language such as "faggot" before, during or after the incident; if the attack takes place in a gay area; if there was no previous interaction between the parties; and if no alternate explanation is available.
Groves sentenced Kandola to 17 months in prison.