Judgment day set in Hardy Park trial

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Justice Kimberly Moore will deliver her verdict next month on the guilt or innocence of a teenage girl charged with manslaughter in the death of Damian Sobieraj.


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Moore, of the Ontario Court of Justice, has set Feb. 19 as her judgment day in the trial over the death of Sobieraj, 33, who drowned after being pushed into the St. Lawrence River off Hardy Park on Sept 13, 2018.

Moore is considering the evidence and arguments presented during nine days of trial in November and December.

The girl, who was 14 at the time, is charged with manslaughter and three related charges, including uttering threats, criminal negligence causing death and obstructing police.

Based on the evidence heard in court, there is no dispute that the girl pushed Sobieraj into the river on that warm September night – five witnesses called by both the Crown and defence testified that she did.

What Moore must decide is whether or not the Brockville girl was legally justified in doing so.

Defence lawyer Francois Dulude argues that the girl was defending her friends when she pushed Sobieraj, who was struggling with two boys on the boardwalk at the riverfront.

Crown attorney Alan Findlay argues that the girl pushed Sobieraj to prevent him from making a lawful citizen’s arrest of the two young boys, who had been vandalizing trees in Hardy Park that night.

Evidence at the trial indicated that Sobieraj was walking his little dog, Rosie, and playing Pokemon Go in Hardy Park at about 10:30 p.m. when he came upon two boys hitting trees with sticks and shouting obscenities.

Sobieraj confronted the boys, who were among a group of about a dozen kids, and shouted at them to stop, the court heard. A large lad stepped in and pushed Sobieraj, who reacted by calling police. The dispute continued when Sobieraj followed the two vandals down to the boardwalk where he struggled with them, apparently in an attempt to stop them from fleeing.

The girl, who had not been part of the confrontation between Sobieraj and the youths, rushed out and pushed Sobieraj into the water, the court was told.

Sobieraj couldn’t swim, court was told. Although there was a lifesaving station nearby and many of the kids had cellphones, they didn’t help the drowning man or call 911.

Instead, the accused and the others ran. When stopped by police minutes later, the girl and the others said that they didn’t know about anybody being in the water, the court was told.

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