Victoria man suffered brain injuries, ongoing anxiety after assault near Strathcona Hotel

Court hears victim impact statements during sentencing hearing

The lawyer for Latto Simian Sesay, the man charged with aggravated assault in the one-punch attack of Brian Rowley, said his client has made significant changes to his life since the incident. (File Photo)

Day one of the sentencing hearing for Latto Simian Sesay began in the B.C. Provincial Court House Wednesday morning.

Sesay was convicted of aggravated assault after a one-punch hit left University of Victoria student Bryan Rowley with “moderate to severe brain injury.”

On March 31, 2018 after a night of drinking, Sesay ran into Rowley in the alley outside the Strathcona Hotel while Rowley was relieving himself behind a dumpster. The court heard how Sesay became enraged after stepping in urine and confronted, and ultimately assaulted Rowley.

Officers responded to a call around 2:30 a.m. to reports of an unconscious man. Sesay was identified as a suspect and resisted arrest, become aggressive towards officers and yelling statements like ‘I’m going to dig a deeper hole’ and ‘If I’m doing pen time, I’m taking one of you with me.’

Officers deployed Tasers twice before finally handcuffing Sesay and taking him into police custody – where he has been ever since. Rowley told the court how his life has revolved solely around recovery in the year since the attack. He spoke of the negative mental and physical impacts he’s experienced as a result of the assault.

Sesay removed his glasses periodically to wipe his eyes while Rowley read his victim impact statement to Supreme Court Justice Paul Walker and the court.

Crown counsel Jess Patterson asked for six to eight years with time served to be subtracted. He concluded that had the victim and defendant never met that night, nothing would have happened to Rowley and argued that citizens should expect to be able to walk the streets without fear of violence.

Presenting the findings from presentence and psychiatric reports, the Crown found Sesay did not meet the criteria to be declared a psychopath, despite showing some signs of psychopathic behaviour. The report also noted Sesay had little insight into his behaviour, though he had good problem-solving skills, and minimized his own responsibility.

Sesay has an extensive and varied criminal record that includes property, driving and sexual offences along with failing to adhere to previous court orders.

Rowley, who has no memory of the attack, highlighted the mental, physical and financial struggle he has faced in the past year. After spending a week in hospital regaining consciousness, Rowley is still an out-patient at the Royal Jubilee Hospital. In addition to the aches and pains that come with physical healing, Rowley said he feels immense anxiety around his studies, his finances and even being out in public.

“I don’t think the world should be a place where you can be punished just for being somewhere,” he said.

Rowley’s parents also read victim impact statements and said that upon learning of their sons condition, they had picked up and moved their life from Ontario to Vancouver Island to help support him in his recovery – a move that has put financial pressure on the family.

READ ALSO: BC Transit driver taken to hospital with serious injuries after assault

Defence counsel Neil Brooks asked the court for two years on top of the year and a half Sesay has already served and an additional three years probation. In his address to Justice Walker, Brooks said rehabilitation is the best way to protect society.

He read from letters by counsellors, probation officers and addictions workers who had worked with Sesay and said he has shown genuine remorse for his actions and has taken steps to overcome his addictions.

“[He] is clearly insightful – a shift and change to his mindset,” Brooks said.

Sesay’s head was bowed, his eyes shut as his lawyer tried to convince the court that his client had been on a path of self-improvement since the incident occurred last March.

“He’s taken responsibly, this is not a ‘poor-me’ situation,” Brooks added, referencing a letter written by the defendant. “He recognizes that upon his release he is going to need to continue with counselling…”

The hearing continues Thursday.

READ ALSO: Homicide investigation:Victim of Saanich assault dies of injuries

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