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Thunder Bay gaybashing victim pleads guilty to assault

Thunder Bay gaybashing victim pleads guilty to assault

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'I may have exceeded some bounds,' says Jake Raynard
The victim of a highly publicized gaybashing in Thunder Bay is trying to get on with his life after pleading guilty to assault. Jake Raynard negotiated a plea bargain, avoided a trial and got an absolute discharge. That means details of the incident will be stripped from his record in a year if he stays out of trouble.

But wait a minute — how can Raynard be considered a victim and an assailant at the same time?

Raynard says he's struggling with that very issue. "In the process of defending myself and my friends, I did harm to my attackers," says the 30-year-old artist, who says he and two other guys were attacked by a group of thugs outside a gay-friendly Thunder Bay bar on Sept 5, 2009.

Acccording to Raynard, the four teens shouted "fags" and "fairies" at the trio, then threw bricks at them. "I pulled an attacker off my friends and then kicked him a couple of times," says Raynard.

Raynard's friends got away in a cab, but he was knocked unconscious. He needed reconstructive surgery to repair a shattered skull, crushed cheekbone, broken jaw and damage to one eye.

The assault involving Raynard made headlines across Canada, prompted the creation of a Facebook page that drew almost 7,000 supporters and caused hundreds of people in Thunder Bay to rally against community violence. A couple of months later, community members were surprised when Raynard, too, was charged.

"I may have exceeded some bounds," Raynard admits. "I'm a little bit in shock that I reacted that way. I'm not a violent person. There was alcohol and flared tempers. I have feelings of massive regret. It's something that I'm dealing with on a daily basis."

Having said that, Raynard feels frustration about his guilty plea. "The verdict sends a mixed message," he says. The main reason he didn't fight the charge was money. "Going to court is expensive, so I don't feel I was given many options."

As a result, Raynard feels an important question about the case will probably never be answered: To what degree should you be allowed to defend yourself?

The other four guys involved in the case have all been charged with assault, too. If they're found guilty, a judge could decide to increase their sentences if he or she decides a hate crime was committed, too. "I think [the other assailants] intentionally chose to target queer people," says Raynard, but he's not pushing for a hate crime designation.

Instead, he and other community members are encouraging Thunder Bay police to focus on wider causes of violence. They suspect that the attackers' main motivation was to get initiated into a gang.

"We've got a major gang problem in Thunder Bay," Raynard says. "The police have lost control of the city."

Following the assault, Raynard missed two months of work. Friends and community members raised $5,000 to pay for expenses related to his recovery, but he still owes $2,000 in legal bills. He now works as a production assistant at a glass-blowing studio in the Ottawa Valley, while considering a return to Thunder Bay.

"I'm in a brewing period while I decide what to do," says Raynard. "It really seems like the universe is trying to push me away from Thunder Bay. But there's still a large part of me that wants to be in Thunder Bay and make it my home."

He's anxious for the other four men in the case to be tried. "There's not a lot of closure right now," says Raynard. "I'm still waiting to find out what will happen to my attackers." He'll find out when they get their day in court next month.


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Comments

continued...the end was cut off in my last post...
Prominent city councilor Rebecca Johnston, when asked about the issue, avoided it, with the confusing "we have to know what we're talking about here", in relation to "sexual connotation".
What worries me is that because the police charged Jake, and he was pressured into pleading guilty to assault; what does this injustice mean? Will women who are almost beaten to death by their husbands and boyfriends now be charged with assault? Will a member of a racial or religious minority who is beaten to a pulp now be charged with assault? Does this bullshit treatment only apply to gay people, or just to gay men specifically? Where are the voices of EGALE or Queer Ontario, or Ministers of Justice at the provincial and federal level on this important issue?
THUNDER BAY...
is a RACIST, REDNECK, BACKWARD, HOMOPHOBIC town entirely populated by IGNORANT PRIMITIVES who take pride in their stupidity.

There might be exceptions, but in all my years there, I never met one! Not one.

Anyone who chooses to live, work and remain in Thunder Bay who is not an activist, I consider suspect.
Bigoted Evil Left Alone to Thrive
I wasn't involved in the events of that night. However, I've witnessed firsthand and heard stories showing how quickly a group of violent, hateful, anti-gay youths can gather here, when they are aware of a gay person in their presence. Others will stand around and watch, in disapproval of the gay victim. The hateful, angry and often violent, youth, don't have a gang affiliation. A formal gang, may or may not have been involved in Jake's case. FYI, personally, I've not been physically assaulted, but have come close.
To ignore the homophobic aspect of this extreme assault, and instead to focus on these so-called "broader issues" of violence, is a mistake. Gays(especially gay men) are extremely disrespected in Thunder Bay. At the "gay-friendly" bar's facebook page, it says women are more welcome than men. One overhears homophobic remarks constantly in Thunder Bay, generally every two to five minutes.
Anyone who dares to challenge the homophobia and racism, both stunningly rampant in TBay, is mostly looked at like they have just stepped off a spaceship from Mars. They don't fit in.
Very few wish to touch the issue of gay rights with a ten foot pole in this city. There's no mention of homophobia and rights for the purposes of the facebook page, Unified Community Around Jake Raynard. When I've commented on gay issues, I was told to avoid it, instead to deal only with "violence in broad terms". There have been many comments to the effect of: so what if someone calls someone else a "fag"?
The editor of the daily paper complained that there were no rallies held for other victims of violence, and was more concerned with the idea of the city's image being harmed, than with the violent and hateful event itself.
Prominent city councilor Rebecca Johnston, when asked about the issue, avoided it, with the confusing "we have to know what we're talking about here", in relation to "sex
From the reporter
I appreciate all the feedback on this issue, especially on a couple of legal points. To Daniel in Toronto: You're right, Raynard got an absolute discharge. And to Dickster in Toronto: You're right, a hate crime designation is made by a judge when sentencing. Thanks for clarifying those points for me and other readers. I made slight changes to the article in order to correct the record.
Just a question
I was astonished to see your article and I went on to facebook to check Jakes' page (well, "Unified Community around Jake Raynard" page/ group.)

And I saw the news update as follows:

April 27, 2010

Jake has been cleared of all charges against him. The two counts of Assault With A Weapon were dropped earlier in the year and yesterday he was given an absolute discharge on the final charge of Assault.

I'm quite confused. So was it a "conditional discharge" as in your article?
Injustice
What a sad injustice. This innocent man was forced to survive against vicious street animals and he gets branded a criminal? What a disgusting violation of human rights this case has become. The Canadian Justice System needs an overhaul if they think it's ok to brand victims as criminals. Poor Jake is caving under the pressure and they've successfully brainwashed him into thinking he's guilty. The day that gay bashers receive pity is a day that humanity has completely lost it's sanity that's for sure.
Not very politic of the prosecutor
The province should not have charged the victim, not because it was immoral or hyper-technical, but because charging the victim with assault will increase the risk of bashings and violent street crime. The message the authorities sent is that thugs can now be less afraid of anyone fighting back now that there is a state sponsored disincentive for victims to strongly defend themselves. That's counterproductive to promoting public safety, as it would tend to encourage violent crime by now-fearless thugs.
For what its worth
I am one of the persons attacked in the incident. So far I have not sought out or provided any statement or commentary outside of a brief comment to a local news reporter (other than to police).

Reading this article, others, and the comments on both makes me want to say this: the events that night were two separate events.
Myself, Jake, and a friend had left the bar and after some a few homophobic name calling from a group across the street I was attacked. The third man walking with us pulled me to my feet and helped me find my eyeglasses and bag. The last moment I remember seeing Jake is right before I was attacked and that was the last I saw of him that evening. The initial incident had ended.
An onlooker down the block had seen the end of the altercation and could see I was obviously injured. This fellow called a taxi, jumped into the back, and pulled up beside myself and the man who helped me and ushered us in and home.
That is where I had believed the whole episode to be over. This is likely not the best arena to be doing any 'setting the story straight', but I will for my own sake. Many of the different versions of the events I have read in print and on the web have been jumbled or incorrect. All I can say is, I never sought out the media regarding that night, nor was I approached (outside of the local reporter mentioned above), and therefore haven’t felt it my responsibility to correct any errors.

My friends and family know I would never leave a friend to be attacked, and have nothing to ‘explain’. However, reading the hurtful comments here and other places throughout the coverage of the incident does make me want make this comment of my own. I urge people to think twice about believing every word you read, and remind them to employ their goodwill before passing judgment and/or commenting on an incident to which they were not present.
Friends?
The "friends" got away in a cab while this gay got beat up and eventually lay unconscious? Nice gay friends. I need to get some like that.
What hate crime charges?
The article states "No hate crimes charges were laid, and for the most part, Raynard is okay with that."

There are no hate crime charges to be laid as a hate crime designation is only entertained at sentencing. It's misleading to suggest otherwise and shocking Xtra doesn't know this.

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