A Guyanese man, who admitted that he is a drug user, was earlier this month acquitted of a number of criminal charges after Canadian Judge Valerie Culp found that there were many holes in the complainant’s story and that his testimony was more believable.
According to court documents seen by this newspaper, Guyanese Homesh Jangbahadur was charged with break and enter, robbery, aggravated assault, use of a weapon in committing an assault, and having in his possession a knife for the purpose of committing an offence.
The facts as presented by the prosecution stated that in the early hours of March 30, 2008, Renalda Andres was assaulted in her apartment in Toronto, Ontario and during the assault she sustained a 3 cm laceration to the right side of her neck and bite wounds to her left ear. Jangbahadur was accused of assaulting the woman and robbing her of money and a piece of crack cocaine.
Around 3 am on the day in question the woman was seen running from her apartment barefoot and distraught; a passerby telephoned for help and she was later taken to the hospital. The passerby, Abdulqdir Aden, who was unknown to both the accused and the complainant, testified that he saw the woman running and begging for help and “a tall white man” walking behind her at whom she kept glancing back, while screaming, “he is going to kill me.”
During the police investigation several articles belonging to the accused were found in the complainant’s apartment: his cap, his shoes, his jacket and his wallet, which contained a photo identification card, a credit card, several machine operating certificates and other papers but no money. A kitchen knife was found on the bed. No fingerprints were ascertainable on the knife, nor was there any evidence of blood on the knife.
When the Guyanese was later arrested at his home, he was barefoot and wearing a white t-shirt bearing stains of the complainant’s blood.
The two were said to be known to each other and the man said he had been smoking crack at the complainant’s apartment on weekends for about two months prior to the incident that led to these charges. Jangbahadur testified that he had met the woman and her boyfriend on the street and they struck up a crack-smoking acquaintance.
He worked at two jobs as a machine operator and receiver and shipper. The complainant and her boyfriend were both on social assistance. The accused supplied the money for the crack. According to the complainant, the accused obtained the crack from a dealer at his worksite while according to the accused he was supplied by the complainant acting as an intermediary.
The accused further testified that he also gave the woman Cdn$20 each time he went to her place as “respect for the house.” The accused said he also took and shared alcohol. On all prior occasions when the accused was at the complainant’s apartment to smoke crack cocaine, nothing of an untoward nature had happened.
According to the complainant, the accused was generous, quiet and nice. The duration of his visits ranged from 10 to 20 hours. He smoked his drugs and left quietly.
The complainant testified that some time prior to the incident of March 30, 2008, the accused borrowed Cdn$40 from her and/or from her boyfriend and left his wallet with them because he wanted to do so. She stated, “I put it up on top of the dresser.” She stated that there were two pieces of identification in it, neither of which were government issued. The complainant’s boyfriend ordinarily resided with her, but at the time of the event in question, he was in jail. The complainant, according to the facts, has significant health problems and she also has a criminal record including convictions for fraud and forgery in 1997.
According to the judge, Jangbahadur is an immigrant from Guyana who also has a criminal record including a conviction for sexual assault and a number of “failures to comply.” At the time of the incident, he was the subject of a deportation order and an immigration curfew, which he was violating. According to evidence he gave, he was a weekend user of cocaine and not an addict.
‘Come and bring
On the day of the incident he worked at his part-time job until two in the afternoon. He then went to the bank and withdrew Cdn$700. He got a call from the complainant who said she had been up partying for two days. She told him that her boyfriend had been busted at Jane and Lawrence and she invited him to “come and to bring some beer.” He said he bought alcohol and drugs for the woman, which they shared while other people were coming and going out of the house all day.
The complainant said after a while she asked the accused to leave her apartment as she was going out and he did so and she was tying her shoelaces when she “passed out” as she had been smoking for two days and did not sleep during that period.
She testified that the next thing she was aware of was waking up to the accused pulling her up on to her feet by her neck, punching her on her right jaw, biting her left ear and reaching into her brassiere to extract the piece of crack cocaine that she had hidden there.
Further, the woman said she was aware of a knife being present and she testified that her neck and her left arm had been slashed while she was asleep.
She knew she was bleeding. She stated that she knew it was the accused who had assaulted her when she looked into his eyes as he pulled her to her feet.
According to her once the accused had taken the piece of crack cocaine out of her brassiere, he released her, put the crack into his pipe, sat down on a chair and smoked it. She was terrified and waited only until she had a safe opportunity to flee at which point she ran out the back door and into the street, seeking help.
“Ms Andres’s testimony was highly problematic in several respects. She mumbled, she spoke very quickly, and not in distinct sentences. Her evidence was clearly untrue in several areas, and the errors reflect an inability to absorb information, an inability to remember information, a lack of concern as to whether her evidence was true or not or some combination of the above,” the judge said in her ruling.
The judge found issue with her testimony as it related to her saying the accused had borrowed Cdn$40 from her and her boyfriend and that was when he left his wallet which had no government issued identification.
“First, the likelihood of the accused, an employed person working two jobs borrowing money from the complainant and her boyfriend, both of whom were on social assistance, is remote. I find it unlikely.
Second, the physical evidence of the wallet found in the apartment contradicts Ms Andres’s evidence about the contents. The wallet contains, among other things, the accused’s machine operator certificates together with his social insurance number card and a credit card,” the judge said.
According to the judge there were other aspects of the woman’s evidence which were not clearly refuted by independent reliable and or physical evidence but which are implausible. She testified, for example, that the accused punched her on the right jaw while holding her up by the neck.
The accused is right handed. She testified that she kept a Bible on the dresser top in which she was keeping $485 in cash, an amount which she said was $15 short of the total she needed for her rent.
The allegation is that the accused stole her money as well as the piece of crack cocaine from her brassiere but there was no evidence of a bible in the apartment following the assault and no evidence of any money found on the person or clothing of the accused on his arrest.
“I find that the complainant is not a reliable witness. Her evidence is inconsistent with reliable independent evidence and is, in the several material areas mentioned above, inherently implausible,” the judge further said.
A tall white man
Meanwhile, the accused had testified that the woman and a tall white man named Steve had an argument during which she took the man to task for taking some crack that was not his. He said he heard Steve asking Andres whether he (the accused) had money.
The accused testified that Steve came back, grabbed him by the collar and ordered him to hand over the crack cocaine.
According to the accused, Steve punched him on the head, which made him feel dizzy. He threatened him with a box cutter, took his jacket, wallet, cell phone and took off his shoes, looking for the crack cocaine. Andres then approached and a scuffle broke out between Steve and Andres and suddenly there was a cut.
According to the accused, he berated Andres for letting Steve stay and he called Steve crazy, at which point Steve kicked over a table. He stated that he didn’t leave immediately because he wanted to get his wallet and cell phone back. He testified that he saw Steve searching Andres for crack cocaine and heard Steve and Andres arguing about his (the accused’s) money.
He said Steve was demanding the money because he had taken it from the accused and Andres insisting that what was in the house belongs to her.
He said the woman was cut by Steve with a with a box cutter and took crack cocaine from her person and started to smoke it.
The accused went over to Andres and opened the collar of her jacket to see what injury she had sustained and in the process got blood on his own clothing. He testified that he told her to run and that he himself ran out the front door, without his jacket, shoes, hat, wallet or cell phone.
He ran home – just blocks away – and helped his mother get his father back into bed, after which he had a smoke on the balcony, watched television for a while on the couch. He was having another smoke on the balcony when the police arrived.
The judge in her ruling noted that there was no evidence that the accused had ever been or that he was on this occasion short of money.
She pointed out that his own testimony was that he had close to Cdn$300 left in his wallet of the Cdn$700 he had taken out of the bank the previous afternoon.
“The suggestion that he was broke and so desperate for crack that he slashed the throat of the complainant in the process of robbing her while she was sleeping is not, in my view, supported by the evidence.
Nor does it make sense. If, as the complainant testified, she was passed out, or asleep, there was no need to attack her with a knife in order to find the crack cocaine. T
here had never been a history either of violence or of animus between the two,” the judge pointed out.
“On the totality of the oral testimony, the physical evidence and lack of physical evidence that would be expected to exist if the complainant’s version of events were true, I am not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of any of the offences charged. There will be an acquittal on all counts,” the judge ruled.