by Bill Jackson - The Regional
September 7, 2011
Sam Gaultieri will never be the same man he was prior to Sept. 13, 2007, and he's lucky to be alive.
It was for that reason, in part, that an Ontario Superior Court Justice decided to detain Richard Owen Smoke prior to his sentencing for aggravated assault - a beating with a wood plank that left Gaultieri with permanent brain damage.
Smoke, 22, of Six Nations was also found guilty of break-and-enter that led to the violent altercation inside the home Gaultieri was building for his daughter in the Stirling subdivision of Caledonia, that was encroached on by native protesters more than four years ago.
Defence lawyer Sarah Dover had argued that her client complied with bail restrictions during the past three years and "demonstrated consistently that he will return to court."
However, Justice Alan Whitten ruled that the case could have been a homicide if Gaultieri hadn't survived the attack and that there was still the potential for further violence to occur prior to Smoke's sentencing.
The defendant was remanded into custody and will be sentenced on Oct. 28.
"I was hoping he wasn't going to get released because I'm still trapped in my body," said Gaultieri, 56, following the decision. "I still have problems and he shouldn't be free. I'll never be free."
As a result of the assault, Gaultieri's memory, balance, reading ability and speech have all been impaired. He struggled to tell reporters that he was "elated" with the judge's decision.
Speaking on his behalf, his brother Joe said that no jail sentence can compare to a lifetime of brain damage.
"It's frustrating getting together as a family and seeing him not like he used to be," he said, tearing up. "It's difficult to talk about, it really is. When we have a family get together, he's overwhelmed by the noise and the kids. "
"He has to leave the room and sit separate from everyone else. Last Christmas we'd all be in one room opening presents and he has to get away. So you can't share those moments with him."
Work has changed dramatically. Gaultieri now procures contracts for others with his business contacts and still tries to do as much as he can. But he often returns home physically and emotionally drained, his brother said. His wife Sandy is there for him and is now the leader of the family.
She said last Friday was "a happy day," but that the whole ordeal could have been avoided if the Douglas Creek Estates dispute was "nipped in the bud" by police.
By the time native protesters attempted to take over the Stirling subdivision they'd been emboldened and felt that they could do anything they wanted, she said.
"It was almost like he (Sam) was the white Dudley George, some kind of poster child. All he wanted to do was protect his daughter's home."
"When Dudley George died, policy on how we treat natives changed dramatically," Joe said. "The way that police enforce the laws changed. My brother, according to the judge and everyone who was there, almost died, was one blow away from death... There should be an inquiry done on this matter and we should find out why the policing system is two-tiered."
Legal action against the OPP for failing to provide adequate policing to Gaultieri is proceeding. The lawsuit claims damaged up to $5 million.
"I'm going to try to go on with my life, and I've got nothing against the native people." Gaultieri said. "This had nothing to do with the native people. It's assault and they should not have broken into my daughter's house.