Judge refers to social media comment in sentencing man to two years’ jail

Published on June 19, 2014

PICTOU – A post on social media weighed heavily in a provincial court judge’s decision to send a man to prison.

Christian Douglas Avery, 20, pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm against 21-year-old Joshua Watt of James River, Antigonish County.

He was sentenced to two years plus a day in prison on Thursday in Pictou provincial court for crime that Judge Del Atwood said caused serious injury to the victim.

Avery’s sentencing was delayed several times and while waiting for a his court appearance he posted on Facebook that he has already done house arrest and the charges should have been dropped.

“All for beating someone up. The majority of who say deserved it,” the post stated.

Atwood said the remark on social media shows that Avery had little remorse for his actions and it comes close to cyberbullying the victim by posting such comments.

“One can draw the inference that Mr. Avery is a threat to Mr. Watt, not only physically, but psychologically,” he said.

Avery pleaded not guilty to the charge, but changed his plea to guilty in March following testimony from his ex-girlfriend. Other charges, of break-and-enter and assault, were withdrawn.

The court was told that Avery burst into his ex-girlfriend’s home and ran upstairs where he attacked Watt who was in bed at the time.

Avery’s ex-girlfriend said Watt was bloodied and battered after Avery assaulted him, causing him to tear an ACL and break a bone in his leg. As a result of the assault, Watt suffered bruising to his face and body as well as torn ACL and broken bone in his leg. 

Since the attack, Watt said he needed surgery to repair the injury to his leg, has trouble sleeping, is unable to work and has suffered financial hardship because of the loss of income and extra medical costs.

Atwood said although a charge of break-and-enter was withdrawn, the case resembles a home invasion, which could have netted Avery a sentence of up to 10 years.

“It was clear that Mr. Avery arrived at the residence intending to deal with Mr. Watt,” he said, adding that Avery’s ex-girlfriend had every right to be with whoever she wanted and Watt was free to enjoy her company.

“Mr. Watt was the victim of a serious and vicious assault,” Atwood said.

The judge acknowledged that Avery’s pre-sentence report was “guardedly optimistic,” but he said the recent Facebook post leaves the court with “considerable concern with Mr. Avery and his risk to the community and to Mr. Watt.”

In addition to the two-year plus a day sentence, Avery is also required to pay $200 in victim surcharges and restitution of $306 to Watt for the medical expenses. He is also prohibited from possessing a firearm for 12 years and must follow a DNA collection order.