Does threatening to roll a Sikh’s turban down Main Street constitute a hate crime?
That’s what Ontario Court Justice Bernd Zabel is expected to decide Friday.
How he decides on that issue will likely determine how much time, if any, Dragan Blesic, 34, will spend in jail in connection with his Sept. 18, 2011 attack on Hardev Sandhu, a Hamilton truck driver of South Asian ancestry.
Zabel earlier found Blesic guilty of assault after the accused rode his bicycle in front of Sandhu’s van as it was leaving the Canadian Tire parking lot on Queenston Road with his wife and 15-year-old daughter inside.
Zabel found Blesic started swearing about the complainant’s driving. When Sandhu, 41, got out of the vehicle, Blesic spat in his face, punched him in the jaw and knocked the turban off his head.
“If you tell me to (expletive) one more time I’ll roll your turban down Main Street,” Blesic was quoted as telling the complainant.
Defence counsel John Cvetkovic told Zabel on Monday that the single comment is the basis for the Crown arguing the assault was a hate crime.
“There was no motivation on the part of the accused whatsoever to strike the complainant because he wore a turban,” Cvetkovic told court, adding that there was no evidence the attack was premeditated.
But assistant Crown attorney Jill McKenzie said it’s clear Sandhu’s turban was the primary motivation for the assault.
“That was the trigger that escalated this offence,” she said.
If the Crown can prove the offence was motivated by hatred, it could be considered an aggravating factor and result in a steeper sentence.
Cvetkovic said the issue is not the assault.
“It’s whether the assault took place because Mr. Blesic has hatred towards people of this background,” he said.
The Crown has stated previously that it will seek jail time for Blesic, who has a prior conviction for assault.