Judge considering federal prison in domestic assault case

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PICTOU – A Pictou Provincial Court judge is considering federal jail time for a Westville man charged with one of the worst domestic assaults to come before him on the bench.

Judge Del Atwood said Tuesday he was considering a lengthier sentence recommended by the Crown in regard to the assault causing bodily harm charges against 38-year-old Stephen William Russell.  

“I would have to say this is one of the most serious domestic violence offences I have been required to deal with as a sentencing judge,” he said.

Russell pleaded guilty to two counts of causing bodily harm stemming from incidents in October 2012 and November 2013.

The Crown had asked Atwood to consider a sentence of up 15 months in jail while the defence felt a 90-day intermittent sentence would be appropriate.

Atwood said considering the severity of the assaults, Russell could be looking at federal jail time and asked that the accused come to the front of the courtroom with sheriffs so he could be remanded into custody until he makes his decision on Thursday.

Crown Attorney Jody McNeill said RCMP were called to Mount Thom on Nov. 16 after receiving a 911 phone call from a woman who was being assaulted.

“The caller on the line was screaming and it sounded like a male person was hitting a female,” said McNeill.

When police arrived, they found the victim with blood on her face and crying hysterically. Russell was arrested and the victim was taken to the hospital where she was treated for two black eyes, cuts on her face as well as bruises on her arms and legs.

The victim told police she and Russell had been at her cabin in Mount Thom and drove to party at a neighbouring camp.

When they returned home around 1 a.m., both the victim and Russell were intoxicated and she told police he had trouble driving the truck.

“She took the keys and hid them inside the camp,” said McNeill. “He wanted the keys.”

The victim said he became angry and grabbed her by the throat, threw her to the ground, pulled her hair and dragged her outside the camp where he kicked and punched her several times.

At one point, the victim threw her cellphone under her car so that he wouldn't be able to take it from her. She said he continued to kick her in the head with his work boots and broke her glasses. She eventually was able to crawl under the car herself and call 911 while he went back inside the cabin to look for the keys.

“He said, ‘I am going to you kill you,’ and continued to kick and punch her as she lay on the ground,” said McNeill.

Police arrived and arrested Russell. During her police statement, the victim told officers that in October 2012 a similar assault occurred when they were leaving a Halloween party in Watervale.

She said they were both drinking alcohol and when they went to leave, he couldn't find the keys to the all-terrain vehicle he was driving. 

“He blamed her and pulled her off the ATV, took her helmet off and dragged her to the back of the parking lot. She had cuts and scraps on her body and grass stains on her legs.”

McNeill said the victim got away from Russell and started walking back to her cabin when a friend stopped to pick her up. However, when she got in the car, she noticed Russell was sitting in the back seat of the vehicle.

When she got of the vehicle she ran down her driveway, but he caught up to her and threw her to the ground. Once they were inside the cabin, he threw her again and she dislocated her shoulder.

McNeill said Russell has no prior record and he has admitted that alcohol causes him problems, but based on the severity of the assault, a lengthy jail sentence is required.

“This has had a significant physical and emotional impact on (the victim),” he said.

Defence lawyer Hector MacIsaac said his client is very remorseful for his actions and has taken steps to get counselling for alcohol abuse and anger management.

“In the past 25 years, I have never seen a man more remorseful than Mr. Russell is,” he said, adding that his client has lost his job as result of the charges and is unable to pay child support from a previous relationship.

MacIsaac said a 90-day sentence to be served on weekends would allow his client to get a job in his line of work and help him support his children.

“I apologize for my behaviour and actions,” Russell said when he addressed the court. “I am sincerely deeply sorry for what I have done. I am deeply sorry.”

Organizations: RCMP

Geographic location: Mount Thom, Watervale

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  • Tracy
    February 26, 2014 - 17:04

    I went through something similar he almost threw me off a cliff I bear hugged a tree he had no alcohol problem or drug problem he did jail time 3 times he didn't learn the judge should throw the book at these guys they don't change he still tries to control me using my kid I think they should also loose rights to there kids also have visitation but that's it take all the control away from them