The three men accused in a racially motivated attack on a lone biracial man in Courtenay, British Columbia, have been found guilty of common assault. In July, 2009, the victim, Jay Phillips, was captured on video being swarmed, punched and kicked by David Samuel White, 19, Adam David Huber, 25, and Robert William Roy Rodgers, 25, while being taunted with racist abuse.
Three Courtenay men guilty of assault in case with racial overtones
Comox Valley Echo
July 29, 2010 12:03 PM
COURTENAY — Three white men who fought a lone black man in a Courtenay parking lot have been found guilty of common assault.
"On a soft summer evening, in the beautiful Comox Valley, a very ugly incident took place," said Judge Peter Doherty. "Three young white men, fuelled by alcohol and testosterone and their own immaturity, crossed paths with a black man and lives changed forever.
"The acid fog of racism permeates this case."
The incident occurred on July 3 last year after Adam David Huber, Robert William Roy Rodgers and David Samuel White had spent the afternoon drinking beer and tubing on the Puntledge River.
As they returned home, they decided to stop for a burger. As Huber and Rodgers rode in the cab of the pickup White, riding in the box, hurled a racial slur at black man Jay Phillips as they passed him on the road.
Phillips responded by swearing at White and throwing his water bottle at the truck.
"Mr. White then said 'F*** you, you f***ing nigger, we're going to come back and kill you and your family'," said Doherty.
"What Mr. White said was ugly, racist and provoking. It is not surprising, then ... that (Mr. Phillips) was enraged."
The fight that ensued, widely viewed on the video-sharing site YouTube, brought unwanted international attention to the Comox Valley.
But Doherty said the viral video is misleading. It accurately shows a segment of the altercation, but an independent witness who saw the beginning of the fracas confirmed that Phillips invited the three men to a fistfight.
"Mr. Phillips was angry to the point of being entirely irrational," said Doherty. "In his quite understandable blind rage, he wanted to strike out and (was) entirely willing to take on all of his tormenters."
That, however, does not end the matter. When Phillips was knocked to the ground near the end of the YouTube video he was pummeled with punches and kicked in the ribs.
It was three kicks to Phillips torso, delivered by Rodgers, that convicted the three men.
Those kicks were outside the bounds of a fistfight, said Doherty, and Phillips' ribs were sore for about two months. As such, the injuries constitute bodily harm and that invalidated Phillips' prior consent to fight.
"One of the risks participants assume in (a three-on-one) altercation is that one of their number will do something that vitiates consent," said Doherty.
"All three individuals become party to the offence and, therefore, all three are found guilty of common assault."
Huber, Rodgers and White sat impassively as Doherty delivered his verdict. But a few minutes later Huber, who has spent significant time behind bars since the incident occurred, appeared stressed.
Doherty noted that neither Rodgers nor Huber hurled racial slurs, only White.
Phillips' mother Kirsten said that she is beginning to feel sorry for the three young men convicted of assaulting her son, but still hopes they will spend time behind bars for their actions.
"Their stupidity and drinking ... is going to maybe put them away for a little while," she said. "I don't care what the judge says or anybody else says. It was racially motivated and that's the end of it."
She said the high-profile incident has woken the community up to the racism that sits quietly beneath the surface of civil society.
"Racial slurs hurled at (people) from car windows and such happen all the time," she said. "There are a lot of people that are angry about this, white people. They aren't racist themselves and they don't want anything to do with racism or racist people."
Crown prosecutor Bob Richardson said he would study Doherty's findings carefully before deciding whether or not to ask that the racial aspect of the crime be considered an aggravating factor under hate crime legislation.
A sentencing date has not yet been set, but the maximum penalty for common assault, even if it is deemed a hate crime, is six months jail.
Sentencing is now reported to be taking place on August 12, at which point it will be seen whether or not the attack is treated as a hate crime. As we’ve reported earlier, the blog Keep Courtenay Safe has been providing excellent coverage of the incident, including photographic evidence of White and Huber’s racial views.