Monday, April 12, 2010

Man gets 45 days in jail for drunk attack on cabbie

From the Kingston Whig-Standard online:

COURT: Lawyer says his client has changed his ways

A Kingston man who teed off on an Amherst Taxi driver under the influence of alcohol 14 months ago has been sentenced to 45 days in jail.

Kenneth Fellows will be subject to 12 months of probation after that, notwithstanding his lawyer's claims that he's a changed man.

Fellows, 44, pleaded guilty in Kingston's Ontario Court of Justice to assaulting the cabby on Feb. 7, 2009.

Crown attorney Bruce Griffith told Justice Rommel Masse that Fellows caught the cab at 4 a.m. that day on Leroy Grant Drive and that he and the driver talked amicably during the trip to his destination on Rosemund Crescent.

When they arrived, Fellows handed the cab driver a $10 bill to pay his $7.50 fare and, according to the Crown, that's when the trouble began.

Griffith said the driver, with Fellows' bill in hand, was reaching for his change purse when Fellows suddenly became enraged and demanded to know if the driver was trying to take advantage of him because he was drunk.

"I ought to punch you out," Fellows snarled at the cabby, according to Griffith, before slugging the driver in the side of the face with his fist.

Griffith said Fellows rant at the driver and then, just as suddenly, snatched his keys from the ignition and threw them out the open driver's side window into a snow bank.

The cab driver got out to retrieve his keys and Masse was told Fellows got out, as well, and renewed his attack until two women emerged from one of the nearby houses and pulled him off.

Fellows followed them into the house, Griffin said, and the cab driver, who had already contacted his dispatcher about his problem fare, returned to his vehicle to wait for police.

He still hadn't found his keys by the time officers arrived. Griffith said Fellows insisted to the officers that the taxi driver had picked a fight with him and that he'd merely defended himself.

Fellows' defence lawyer, Stephen Zap, told the judge his client sees things differently now and is "not the same individual who was involved in this fight."

Since then, he explained, Fellows underwent "a life-altering event," in the form of a heart attack. Zap said it convinced him to assess his lifestyle and stop drinking.

He urged Masse to place his client on probation and to forego jail, noting that the taxi driver appears to have suffered little injury and seems to bear his client no ill will. Zap said the man specifically told the probation officer who wrote his client's presentence report that he has no fear of Fellows.

Griffith, however, urged the judge to impose a 30-to 60-day jail sentence because, regardless of the outcome of this particular attack, people working the late night shift like taxi drivers and convenience store clerks are uniquely vulnerable to violence.

"This was four o'clock in the morning, with a taxi driver who was wearing a seat belt," the prosecutor said. "He couldn't defend himself."

In the end Masse agreed. "The court has to send a strong message to the public, to the community, that we can't tolerate this kind of behaviour."

He told Zap the cabby's absence of fear speaks more to his character than the circumstances of the crime or to Fellows' capacity to provoke a fearful reaction. He also noted that Fellows already had the benefit of 18 months of probation following an assault conviction in 2005.

To assist him in pursuing his new lifestyle, however, Masse ordered that after Fellows must abstain completely from alcohol while on probation. He's also required to co-operate with any assessment, treatment or counselling directed by his probation supervisor, including but not limited to treatment or counselling for alcohol abuse. He's forbidden by court order from possessing certain weapons, such as firearms, for five years and he is also barred from using the services of Amherst Taxi while subject to probation.

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