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Remorse, community support after aggravated assault end in sentence of probation

PICTOU – A brother’s forgiveness went a long way to keeping one man out of prison Thursday.

Keith Brian Denny, 21, of Pictou Landing First Nations was sentenced to two years’ probation after pleading guilty to a charge of aggravated assault involving a drunken brawl with his brother.

A guilty plea or conviction to such a charge usually means jail time because of the level of violence involved as well as the impact such a crime has on the community, but Denny, his brother, who is also the victim, and the First Nations community worked together in hopes of keeping the young man out of jail.

Crown attorney John MacDonald said Denny got into an argument with his brother that progressed to a physical fight on the night of July 26, 2014. The two men pushed each other and Denny pulled a beer bottle from his pocket and hit his brother on the head. The bottle broke during the fight and Denny used the jagged edge to cut his brother in the arm.

“It was a significant slash just below the elbow and that slash severed an artery,” said MacDonald, adding that someone at the gathering had first aid training and applied pressure right away to help control the bleeding. “He had to have it surgically repaired and in a cast, but he made a full recovery.”

The victim also broke his hand, but told police he did it by punching Denny in the face.

MacDonald said a pre-sentence report and the results of sentencing circle in Pictou Landing First Nations show the fight was out of character for Denny, who is usually a quiet man and had never before been convicted of a crime.

He said Denny is remorseful for the assault and his brother stressed he doesn’t want to see him go to the jail. The two men have both openly participated in a sentencing circle with other members of their family and First Nations community where they both apologized to each other for their actions.

MacDonald said both men admitted to being highly intoxicated at the time, adding that they had just received a $4,700 settlement cheque from the federal government a few days before the fight and were determined to “drink their way through it.”

He said it is important to send a message of deterrence about such a violent crime, but probation was an appropriate sentence for Denny based on the unique circumstances.

“These are very usual circumstances, because of the windfall and (his brother’s) acknowledgement of his part in this,” he said. “They weren’t being nice to each other.”

Judge Del Atwood acknowledged that Denny was “clearly profoundly remorseful” for his actions in July and has the support of his family and community. He said First Nation communities across the country have endured many disadvantages in the past that continue to affect young people like Denny today.

However, he added, this was a serious crime that could have resulted in a life-threatening situation.

In addition to sentencing Denny to two years’ probation, with strict conditions to attend counseling and obey a curfew, he also ordered him to complete 100 hours of community service and pay a $200 victim surcharge fine.

Atwood said having both men actively participate in the sentencing circle was a great help to the court in determining this sentence.

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