BT businessman not guilty of assault

Self-defence not negatived, magistrate says

Bodden Town businessman and former MLA Osbourne Bodden was found not guilty last week after standing trial for assault causing actual bodily harm. 

The complainant, Kirk Watler, alleged Mr. Bodden had attacked him with a cow cod on the evening of 12 October, 2010, in the vicinity of Lorna’s Texaco, which is owned by Mr. Bodden. 

Mr. Bodden had admitted hitting Mr. Watler with a stick, saying he did so to defend himself because Mr. Watler had a beer bottle. 

Magistrate Nova Hall said there was no doubt Mr. Watler did receive injuries, referring to photos that showed welts on his body. Whether they were inflicted by a stick or a cow cod was immaterial, she said. 

Mr. Watler’s account included the fact that, earlier in the day, he had received a nip of rum and some cigarettes for helping to unload Mr. Bodden’s truck. He spent time with friends at nearby Coe-Wood Beach, where he helped someone with a computer problem. In exchange, that person gave him a nip-size bottle of rum. He went to the liquor store next to Lorna’s, which is also owned by Mr. Bodden, and asked to exchange it for beers. The cashier told him she needed Mr. Bodden’s approval and he was not there. 

The cashier’s evidence was that Mr. Watler wanted cash for the rum and she offered beers. She said Mr. Watler jumped up on the counter and grabbed a bottle, but Mr. Watler said it was his own bottle he took. He also said he phoned Mr. Bodden, but was met with expletives. He said he phoned 911 to report that Mr. Bodden had threatened him. In any event, police came to the scene. 

A few hours later, Mr. Bodden returned. Mr. Watler said Mr. Bodden looked in his direction and pointed at him. This prompted him to pick up two beer bottles, then drop one and put the other in his back pocket. He said there was an exchange of words between him and Mr. Bodden and then Mr. Bodden hit him all over his body with the cow cod. He said he managed to get Mr. Bodden on the ground and hit him a few times before they were separated. 

Mr. Bodden put his defence through a written statement he had given police after the incident. He said when he returned to his business premises, Mr. Watler had shouted at him from across the road. He saw Mr. Watler pick up a beer bottle and put it in his pocket, shouting all the while. 

Mr. Watler reached Mr. Bodden’s old family home, then turned and walked in his direction while taunting him. Mr. Bodden said Mr. Watler reached for his back pocket and so, mindful of the bottle, he picked up a stick and hit Mr. Watler until he dropped the bottle. He said he then stepped back, lost his balance and fell. Mr. Watler then moved in to hit him. 

The magistrate noted there were two witnesses to the incident. She said she was cognizant of the fact they were on work permit with Mr. Bodden and might have reason to side with him. However, this did not automatically disqualify their evidence. One of them saw Mr. Bodden on the ground with Mr. Watler above him, swinging a green bottle at him. 

In her ruling, the magistrate said the Crown’s case depended on Mr. Watler. She said she had observed his demeanour on the witness stand, especially when defence attorney Lloyd Samson questioned him about matters not in his statement to police. She noted numerous discrepancies and inconsistences. Overall, his evidence was not of a standard she could be comfortable accepting without corroboration. 

Further, the defence of self-defence had not been negatived and she resolved the matter in favour of the defendant.