Bertuzzi pleads guilty

British Columbia – Vancouver Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi awaited sentencing after he pleaded guilty to assault on Wednesday, more than nine months after slugging Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore from behind during a NHL game.

The plea was not sitting well with Moore, who was hospitalized with three fractured vertebrae, facial cuts, post-concussion symptoms and amnesia.

Moore was not present in the courtroom, but delivered a statement that said he doesn’t want to play against Bertuzzi.

‘I have no desire to interact with (Bertuzzi) in any way,’ Moore said in a statement read in court. ‘If I’m ever able to play again, I would ask that Todd Bertuzzi never be permitted to play in any sporting activity I’m involved in.’

The judge was expected to hand down the sentence later Wednesday.

Bertuzzi was suspended indefinitely by the NHL, missing 13 regular-season games and seven postseason games while losing nearly $502,000 (€375,000) in salary. On Friday, he was barred from playing in Europe by the International Ice Hockey Federation because of his violent conduct.

Prosecutor Garth Loeppky told the court he would be requesting a conditional discharge with no criminal record for Bertuzzi following the guilty plea.

Tim Danson, Moore’s Toronto-based attorney, said he became aware of the plea bargain on Monday, and neither he, nor Moore, had a chance to travel to Vancouver to address the court. Danson initially hired a Vancouver lawyer to ask for a sentencing delay until January so Moore could speak to the court in person.

In his statement, Moore’s first since March 29, he described in detail how most of the Vancouver players threatened him verbally during the March 8 game. He said they told him they were going to get him and that he was dead.

Moore angered the Canucks three weeks earlier when he knocked Vancouver captain Markus Naslund out of the game with a hit that was not penalized. Naslund was sidelined for three games with a concussion.

After he was struck by Bertuzzi, Moore said he didn’t know if he was awake or asleep.

‘The next thing I knew, I was in a dark room with a neck brace,’ he said. ‘I was told I had a broken neck. My heart was in my throat. My parents and brother and girlfriend watched on TV. They waited in terror and prayed.’

The court also heard from Bertuzzi in a videotaped statement. Bertuzzi wished Moore a speedy recovery and said he recognizes what he did was wrong and that’s why he pleaded guilty.

‘I don’t think of myself as a criminal,’ he said, ‘but it’s important for people to know that certain violent conduct has no place in hockey. I hope I can repair some of the damage I’ve done.’

Before the plea bargain, Bertuzzi faced a maximum of 18 months in prison. Bertuzzi, who had been scheduled to stand trial Jan. 17, was accompanied in court by his wife and Naslund.

Loeppky said prosecutors would have been unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Bertuzzi’s punch ended Moore’s NHL career.

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