Sunday, March 30, 2008

Man chose to sleep in park, court told




Victim of fatal beating in Moss Park preferred bench by security lights
Mar 20, 2008 04:30 AM
Peter Small
Courts Bureau

The night Paul Croutch was beaten to death in Toronto's Moss Park, the homeless man was deliberately sleeping in a relatively well-lit area to improve his security, a defence lawyer suggested yesterday

The 59-year-old man lay on a park bench wrapped in plastic garbage bags to ward off the heavy rain, choosing an area where few other homeless people gathered, John Rosen suggested to Toronto police Sgt. Lawrence Hicks.

Hicks agreed.

Croutch placed himself in the middle of the park, near a baseball diamond with bright "security lights" on all night, suggested Rosen, lawyer for Cpl. Jeffery Hall, 24, one of three Canadian reserve soldiers accused of beating the ailing man to death.

"Yes he did," agreed Hicks, a forensic identification unit officer and, by chance, a captain in the Queen's Own Rifles, the very unit to which the three accused soldiers belong. He has testified he does not know the accused.

Cpl. Mountaz Ibrahim, 25, Pte. Brian Deganis, 24, and Hall have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in Croutch's beating, which occurred around 4 a.m. on Aug. 31, 2005.

They are also accused of assaulting a Good Samaritan who tried to intervene.

Crown prosecutor Hank Goody has alleged that the three soldiers, at least some under the influence of alcohol, left their unit's Moss Park Armoury, situated at the west end of the park, and kicked and punched Croutch while making derogatory comments about "bums."

His wallet contained $310 in cash and two bank cards. If Croutch had wanted to, he could have gone to one of several nearby shelters, or paid for a cheap hotel room, Rosen suggested.

Hicks agreed.

"It would appear that Mr. Croutch chose to stay in the park," Rosen said.

"Apparently," Hicks said.

Rosen showed to jurors photos of the back of Deganis's truck, which was parked in the armoury parking lot. They reveal it was filled with scores of unopened beer cans and empties.

The Good Samaritan, Valerie Valen, is expected to testify that she saw the three soldiers beating Croutch. But Rosen suggested that with heavy rains that night, visibility would have been poor and a mist may have been wafting through the park. Hicks agreed.

The trial continues today.

Reservist irate before slaying, trial told




One of three charged in homeless man's death hated `bums,' major says
Mar 27, 2008 04:30 AM
Rosie DiManno
Columnist

The Canadian Forces major used to be a Peel police officer, no doubt acquainted with witness box appearances, so the formal cop-speak came back easily, like riding a bicycle.

Thus, in recounting yesterday how he tried to neutralize a combustible situation with a couple of apparently intoxicated army reservists – on an evening that ended in murder – Peter St. Denis employed the stiff semantics of his former profession.

It was around 4 o'clock in the morning, Aug. 31, 2005. Rifleman Brian Deganis and Corp. Jeffrey Hall were outside the front entrance of the Moss Park Armoury, having a heated exchange, the latter seemingly attempting to restrain the former.

"(Deganis) is trying to (push) back Corp. Hall and verbalizing that he wants to have a confrontation with someone."

The object of Deganis's alleged fury was an unidentified figure in a nearby bus shelter.

"What are you talking about?" St. Denis told court, recalling his opening inquiry to Deganis as he came upon the two men.

"Get inside the building now and be quiet. There are people inside and you're making noise.

"My intent was to defuse the situation, to calm Brian Deganis down."

Well, that's not quite how the conversation went, as St. Denis expounded shortly afterwards, urged by Crown Attorney Hank Goody to repeat exactly what was said.

"I told him to shut the f--- up, quit f-----g around. `People are sleeping, you're going to wake them up. I don't care what's going on out there. This is their show. You're ruining it with your f-----g actions. So calm the f--- down.'''

Bivouacking in the armoury were a bunch of German troops, who'd just completed a two-week training course with their Canadian counterparts, at the end of a long night of drinking at a bar on the Esplanade.

St. Denis, back then a captain with the Queen's Own Rifles, had organized the socializing farewell event and was in charge of supervising the sleepover.

But four reservists had caused a racket outside and St. Denis had gone to investigate.

Three of the reservists – Deganis, Hall and Corp. Mountaz Ibrahim – are charged with second-degree murder in the slaying of Paul Croutch, a 59-year-old homeless man who had dossed down that wet night in Moss Park, where the armoury is located.

All have pleaded not guilty on both the murder charge and a second count of assault causing bodily harm, against a purported witness to the savage attack.

Deganis, said St. Denis, was insensibly angry, apparently about the person in the bus shelter and perhaps also all people of that "homeless" ilk, although that specific term was never used.

"He was upset. He was saying, `f-----g bums, why's he dissin' me? I'm gonna kick his ass. I'm gonna take him on.' Words to that effect."

And, further: "I hate f-----g bums. I'm gonna take 'em on. I'm the king of the world."

St. Denis looked towards the shelter, trying to figure out who Deganis was ranting about, but could see only a blurred image through sheets of rain, the remnants of Hurricane Katrina dying out in Ontario.

Deganis did seem to settle down, as Hall helped hustle him inside. St. Denis said he ordered them either to get to sleep or move on. "They both left when I told them to leave."

Ibrahim had already entered the building with another fellow – the fourth reservist, who's not implicated in what is alleged to have happened later.

Croutch, sleeping on a park bench, was pummelled to death, booted "like a football" into unconsciousness.

He'd been a newspaperman, once.


*

Homeless man was kicked like a football



Moss Park reservists assaulted woman who tried to help, Crown says in outlining case
Mar 18, 2008 04:30 AM
Peter Small
Courts Bureau

Three Canadian soldiers kicked Paul Croutch, a sleeping homeless man, "like a football," then assaulted a woman who tried to intervene, warning her that "bums" aren't welcome in Toronto's Moss Park, a prosecutor says.

"`Tell all your friends the park is ours. We own it,'" Pte. Brian Deganis told Valerie Valen as he and two fellow reservists dragged and hit her, assistant Crown attorney Hank Goody alleged yesterday, outlining evidence he expects to present.

Deganis thrust his military dog tags into her face, "saying that they gave them the right to do whatever they wanted to her and all derelict homeless bums," Goody told a jury as he opened the Crown's case.

Deganis, 24, Jeffery Hall, 24, and Mountaz Ibrahim, 25, have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in Croutch's death, and to assault causing bodily harm to Valen.

They were trained combat soldiers, reserve members of the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, an airborne infantry unit based in the Moss Park Armoury.

On Aug. 31, 2005, Croutch, 59, was asleep on a bench between a set of tennis courts and a baseball diamond. "Moss Park was Paul Croutch's bedroom and the bench his bed," Goody said.

Croutch was not in good health and suffered from diseases of the heart and lungs. He had hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure and emphysema, Goody said, as well as swelling of the legs, which made walking difficult.

That night, he had wrapped himself in garbage bags to protect himself from the elements.

"Unfortunately, they offered no protection from the fate that was to befall him," Goody said.

Shortly after 4 a.m., the three accused allegedly punched and kicked him in the head, mid-section and back, Goody said.

"Mr. Croutch was kicked, as the Crown expects you will hear it described, like a football – so hard that his body was being lifted off the ground, until it finally came to rest several feet behind the bench.

"Paul Croutch never saw it coming," Goody said, nor did he offer any resistance, or move of his own volition during the beating.

Immediately before the attack, Goody said, the three accused men had come from the armoury where Deganis was allegedly heard by a senior officer to say that he hated bums and homeless people and wanted to take them on. One or more of the accused were under the influence of alcohol, Goody said.

Valen was passing through the park, walking from Shuter St. to visit friends at Fred Victor Centre, a shelter on Queen St. E., when she heard someone "calling out about a homeless bum," Goody said.

Valen said she saw the soldiers beating Croutch and yelled out to them, asking what they were doing.

Although it was not true, Valen told them she had a cellphone and would call police. The three approached her and she began to retreat toward Queen St. She was told to start running, only to have her legs kicked out from under her.

When she fell, she was allegedly beaten about the body and dragged through the park while being called a "bum" or "whore," Goody said.

Croutch was taken to hospital unconscious and died later. The attack broke several of his ribs, tore his spleen and caused a fatal injury to his brain, Goody said.

The trial continues today.

Victim of fatal beating in Moss Park preferred bench by security lights



Mar 20, 2008 04:30 AM
Peter Small
Courts Bureau

The night Paul Croutch was beaten to death in Toronto's Moss Park, the homeless man was deliberately sleeping in a relatively well-lit area to improve his security, a defence lawyer suggested yesterday

The 59-year-old man lay on a park bench wrapped in plastic garbage bags to ward off the heavy rain, choosing an area where few other homeless people gathered, John Rosen suggested to Toronto police Sgt. Lawrence Hicks.

Hicks agreed.

Croutch placed himself in the middle of the park, near a baseball diamond with bright "security lights" on all night, suggested Rosen, lawyer for Cpl. Jeffery Hall, 24, one of three Canadian reserve soldiers accused of beating the ailing man to death.

"Yes he did," agreed Hicks, a forensic identification unit officer and, by chance, a captain in the Queen's Own Rifles, the very unit to which the three accused soldiers belong. He has testified he does not know the accused.

Cpl. Mountaz Ibrahim, 25, Pte. Brian Deganis, 24, and Hall have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in Croutch's beating, which occurred around 4 a.m. on Aug. 31, 2005.

They are also accused of assaulting a Good Samaritan who tried to intervene.

Crown prosecutor Hank Goody has alleged that the three soldiers, at least some under the influence of alcohol, left their unit's Moss Park Armoury, situated at the west end of the park, and kicked and punched Croutch while making derogatory comments about "bums."

His wallet contained $310 in cash and two bank cards. If Croutch had wanted to, he could have gone to one of several nearby shelters, or paid for a cheap hotel room, Rosen suggested.

Hicks agreed.

"It would appear that Mr. Croutch chose to stay in the park," Rosen said.

"Apparently," Hicks said.

Rosen showed to jurors photos of the back of Deganis's truck, which was parked in the armoury parking lot. They reveal it was filled with scores of unopened beer cans and empties.

The Good Samaritan, Valerie Valen, is expected to testify that she saw the three soldiers beating Croutch. But Rosen suggested that with heavy rains that night, visibility would have been poor and a mist may have been wafting through the park. Hicks agreed.

The trial continues today.

Sleeper in rough shown no mercy



Mar 26, 2008 04:30 AM
Rosie DiManno

On a mean and storm-swept night, the Fred Victor Centre would have been like a beacon to this city's most fragile and vulnerable souls.

Had Paul Croutch cast his eyes in that direction, he would have seen the glow of lamplight and a steady procession of individuals – not greatly different from himself – coming and going, because there is much restlessness in the darkest hours, especially here.

If not the Fred Victor, than any of the other mission shelters and hostels in the Moss Park neighbourhood, where the ragged people go.

But Croutch, a homeless man – like so many others in his predicament – must have preferred to doss down on a bench, close by. And, bundled in a plastic cocoon as flimsy protection against the steady rain, a bag covering even his face, he saw nothing. Didn't see the three fellows who allegedly approached him, with wickedness on the brain.

Didn't, likely, see the assailants who purportedly kicked and pounded at him, for the crime – as prosecutors maintain – of fouling the park with his dirty, useless presence. Didn't see, but must have felt – until he couldn't feel any longer – the blows inflicted upon him.

It was an attack so severe he was knocked from the bench, his unresisting body then booted so hard he was lifted off the ground, Crown attorney Hank Goody told the jury in his opening address last week.

So furious was the assault – to head, face, back, chest, arms – that Croutch suffered several broken ribs, a torn spleen and injury to the brain extensive enough to be fatal.

That is how paramedics found Croutch, sodden and broken and unconscious.

The 59-year-old former newspaper editor – and most chronically homeless don't make it to that age, succumbing prematurely to the ravages of their existence – never did open his eyes again, dying in hospital shortly after being transported.

Croutch took his leave of this life as cruelly and without pity as he had lived it, a harshness of being already evident in what would become his mortal remains: diseases of the heart and lungs, hardening of the arteries, elevated blood pressure, emphysema and swelling of the legs so bad that walking was always difficult.

The three men accused of killing him – all have pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and assault causing bodily harm – are young and hale, the picture of good health. As reservists in the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, an airborne infantry unit based at the armoury on the edge of Moss Park, they are trained combat soldiers.

It has been alleged, in passing, that the trio were drunk that evening – Aug. 31, 2005 – and had been advised to take a cab home or spend the night at the armoury. But Goody told court witnesses will testify that the reservists had gone out into the wet, with a snoot-ful, intending to rough up a "bum," one of those sad sacks who inhabited "their'' park.

There was, the Crown has said, a witness to the savage assault on Croutch – a woman, former "tenant'' of the Fred Victor residence, who happened to be on the pathway alongside the green just after 4 a.m. Court heard she tried to intervene and was beaten for her troubles, chased, knocked down, dragged, assailed as a "whore."

Court saw her yesterday on video, captured by cameras affixed to the Fred Victor building going inside and moving toward the pay phones. She made the call for help, the jury has heard.

It was too late. Paul Croutch, who never knew what hit him, lay dying.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

More charges laid


Bradley Riddell Christine Riddell and Bradley Riddell

More charges laid
By Carla Garrett CRIME REPORTERThursday March 20, 2008WOODSTOCK - More charges have been laid against a Woodstock couple accused of making child pornography and sexually assaulting a three-year-old girl. The couple is now facing further charges of child pornography and sexual assault with a one-year-old boy. The victims cannot be identified under a court-ordered publication ban. Police said the victims were not the children of the accused couple.The charges stem from incidents between Dec. 31, 2007, and Feb. 10, 2008.
The 40-year-old man walked into a Woodstock provincial court Wednesday with his head down and his long blond hair hanging over his face. His eyes were red but dry as he sat before Justice of the Peace Michael McMahon.The accused was scheduled for a bail hearing, but it was adjourned to allow him time to get a lawyer. His next appearance is by video on Tuesday. His co-accused is scheduled to appear today for a three-hour bail hearing. Both remain in police custody. Oxford Community Police started an investigation into the allegations last week after receiving a tip about a couple that was in possession of child pornography. Bradley Riddell, 40, and Christine Riddell, 39, are jointly charged with two counts of sexual interference, two counts of sexual assault, two counts of make child pornography, three counts of possession of child pornography, access child pornography and make available child pornography.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New city bus on its way

New city bus on its wayTwo provincial grants help buy newest bus
By Hugo Rodrigues POLITICS REPORTER Tuesday March 25, 2008

WOODSTOCK - City council ordered the Friendly City’s newest transit bus Thursday. It should be rolling down city streets this fall.With little discussion, council approved the $414,111 purchase of a 2008 Nova LFS accessible transit bus at zero cost to the taxpayer, using a combination of two provincial grants.

The new bus came at a slightly lower cost than the one ordered in 2007, which should be rolling on city streets within weeks. City engineer David Creery explained that some of the parts in the Quebec-made bus come from the United States and have been affected by the high Canadian dollar.With the newest order, the city is halfway through its current fleet replacement plan, having ordered four of the eight new buses planed. The city plans to order two additional buses in 2009 and one bus in 2009 and 2010 respectively.Bus replacement - the city currently operates a fleet which has one of the oldest average ages in the province - is the highest-priority item in the transit renewal strategy. City council is set to approve the rest of the strategy later this spring, which could include a downtown off-street terminal, new bus routes and extended hours of service.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

City to get $197,531 for transit buses

By Hugo Rodrigues POLITICS REPORTER
Tuesday March 04, 2008

WOODSTOCK - The city is benefiting from almost $200,000 in provincial money for transit buses.
Ontario Minister of Transportation Jim Bradley announced the $197,531 in funds Friday, part of a $1.9-million transit package announced by Finance Minister Dwight Duncan in his Dec. 13, 2007, economic outlook.
Under the provincial program the money must be used for capital upgrades, which includes new buses, security equipment or fare collection systems.
Woodstock treasurer Patrice Hilderley said that it’s been the city’s practice to spend all provincial money on upgrading the bus fleet, whose average age is one of the oldest in the province.

"We will use this money for the fleet, because that’s our first priority," Hilderley said Monday.
The city has purchased several new buses over the past three years. City engineer David Creery told a city council budget session Thursday that the 2007 bus should arrive in the city this March.
He also told council that if the city gets its 2008 bus order in by March, it can expect delivery of another new bus this coming October.
The city needs to replace its fleet if it intends to follow through on the recommendations included in a transit study report that is currently out for public input. Comment is being accepted on the report until Friday.
The full report is available on the city’s website and written comments can be dropped off at city hall, the public works yard on James Street or to Creery’s e-mail at dcreery@city.woodstock.on.ca.

Trump not welcome in Canada

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