PICTOU – A 38-year-old Pictou County man has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for assaulting his ex-girlfriend.
Stephen William Russell was sentenced in Pictou Provincial Court Thursday after pleading guilty to two counts of assault causing bodily harm, from October 2012 and November 2013, in addition to an uttering threats.
The sentence exceeded the 15-month recommendation by the Crown and the 90-day intermittent sentence requested by the defence.
Atwood said earlier in the week said it was one of the worst domestic assaults to come across his desk since he has taken a seat on the bench and he felt federal time was warranted.
“It was a violent and unprovoked attack of alcohol-fuelled rage,” he said, adding even if Russell was provoked in some way, the victim should not have been treated this way.
The court was told during a statement of facts that Russell and the victim returned home from a party at nearby cabin in Mount Thom on the evening of Nov. 16, 2013, when she hid his keys to prevent him from driving his truck again. Both were intoxicated and he became enraged when he couldn’t find the keys, kicking and punching her, pulling her hair and dragging her outside before she was able to crawl under her vehicle with her cellphone and call 911. The victim suffered two black eyes, bruising and scrapes all over her body and had to get stitches on her face.
She told police a similar attack happened a year before when he was drinking and couldn't find the keys to his all-terrain vehicle. She said she suffered a dislocated shoulder during this assault after he threw her down in the same cabin.
“(The victim) bears no responsibility whatsoever for what happened to her,” Judge Del Atwood said.
He stressed that because she stayed with him after the first assault, doesn't mean she was looking for it to happen again. In fact, he said, many victims stay with their abusers for financial reasons, family pressure or fear, coupled with promises from the spouse or partner that it won’t happen again.
“The victim was intoxicated, but it doesn’t diminish the accused’s criminality in any way,” Atwood said. “The assault was unprovoked. Her judgment was clear enough to know the accused shouldn’t be driving and her good judgment incited Mr. Russell’s rage.”
In a victim impact statement, the victim said she had to get stitches above her eye after he hit her with his steel-toed boot, she couldn’t chew properly for days because her jaw was sore, her scalp and hair hurt from him pulling on her and she had scrapes and cuts on her legs and arms.
She said she used up all of her sick and vacation days to allow her face to recover from the attack and she has been on an emotional rollercoaster because she couldn’t believe someone she loved would do this to her.
The victim said in her statement that she felt shame when she called her mother in the middle of the night from an ambulance to tell her she was going to the hospital and embarrassed to tell her father about the incident. She said she is mentally drained from the incident and has suffered from insomnia as result.
However, she added, she is thankful for the quick response of the police and to the 911 officer who answered her call and had to listen to the horror of what was taking place as she tried to get directions from the victim.
“The risk to the victim was real and substantial,” Atwood said.
Atwood sentenced Russell to 12 months for each assault and three months concurrent for the threats charge. He has also been placed on a lifetime firearm ban and is required to pay $300 in victim surcharge fines within the next 36 months.