The second of two men accused of attacking White Rock Coun. Bill Lawrence both physically and with racial slurs last year pleaded guilty this week to assault, and – despite defence counsel’s appeal for leniency – will have a criminal record as a consequence of his actions.
In imposing a suspended sentence and 12 months probation on Andrew Bader Wednesday, Judge Robert Hamilton noted he had “no doubt” that the 32-year-old’s actions outside the Sandpiper Pub early March 20, 2016 were out of character for the landscape contractor.
But Hamilton said he could not, and society would not, treat the behaviour – which included calling Lawrence what the judge termed “racist names” – lightly.
“Members of society, I think, would stand beside you and accept that you have fully taken responsibility for what happened that night,” Hamilton said. “The actual event is a very disturbing crime.”
Lawrence first spoke out about the assault in April of last year. He told Peace Arch News at that time that he had been put in a headlock, punched in the ribs and targeted repeatedly with “the N-word.”
Prior to Wednesday’s proceedings, Lawrence told PAN the incident “has got to be the first time in a couple of decades… (that) somebody had something to say about my colour.”
The court heard that Lawrence, who co-owned the Marine Drive pub at the time of the attack but has since sold the property, was working the door at the Sandpiper when he stopped Bader and co-accused David Watson – who pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm and received a suspended sentence and 18 months probation in April – from entering.
The pub was nearing capacity at the time, and the two men were inebriated, the court heard.
Crown counsel Mark Bussanich told the court that Watson and Bader “became upset when Mr. Lawrence wouldn’t allow them in, but allowed others in.”
They accused Lawrence of being racist, Bussanich said.
When Lawrence stopped Watson as he tried to push past, Watson retaliated. He put Lawrence in a headlock and Bader punched him in the back and head area, Bussanich said.
“During the incident, both accused were yelling racial slurs. They continued the racial slurs even after they were restrained,” the prosecutor said.
Bussanich argued Bader should receive a suspended sentence, 18 months probation and be ordered to submit a DNA sample.
Defense counsel G. Garry MacDonald argued that a nine-month conditional discharge – meaning no criminal record – was appropriate.
He noted that Bader pleaded guilty “against legal advice.”
Letters of support described Bader as “a man of good moral character.” One, from a bouncer who was working at the pub on the night of the incident, described what happened as “not a malicious attack or a hate crime, just someone under the influence making a bad call.”
MacDonald told the court that Bader, who lives in Langley but grew up in South Surrey, was “not trying to be racially derogatory” outside the pub that night.
“Andrew Bader was as drunk as someone could be… and still be standing,” he said. “He wasn’t using his brain.”
Bader stood in court to read a letter of apology. Turning to glance at Lawrence – who was seated at the back of the courtroom and only received a copy of the letter shortly before – Bader said he wished “to sincerely apologize” for the assault.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it,” he said, elaborating on the letter’s contents. “I want you to know it didn’t have anything to do with your race. All I know (is) I wasn’t thinking clearly that night and I had a clear lapse of judgment.
“I’m truly sorry.”
Bader also told the court that he, too, has been affected by what happened. He named lost work opportunities, trouble getting out of bed some mornings, and attacks on Facebook as among repercussions.
Media coverage of the incident has also been punishing, he said.
“It just really hurts that the media is making it seem it was racially motivated,” Bader said.
MacDonald told PAN outside court that his client had no memory of using the racial slurs, and “still can’t believe it.”
MacDonald said he wasn’t surprised by Hamilton’s decision to impose a suspended sentence.
“I think he felt he had to denounce the racial aspect and the humiliation directed at Mr. Lawrence,” he said. “He couldn’t allow (Bader) to walk out of here without a criminal record.”
Outside court, Lawrence told PAN he felt the sentence was “a little lenient,” but expressed relief about the criminal-record aspect. He said he was surprised the guilty plea was to the lesser charge of assault. Bader was initially charged with assault causing bodily harm, and Lawrence said he was never told it had been reduced.
He described the backlash that Bader has experienced as “deserving.”
“Actions have consequences,” he said, noting Bader’s apology “came too late.”