Irish man not guilty of assault

Cordell Peter Dame in a wheelchair leaves Port Coquitlam Provincial Court with his family on the first day of a trial for Trevor Harding, an Irish national accused of aggravated assaulted. Harding was acquitted of the charge Jan.31. - The News/Files
Cordell Peter Dame in a wheelchair leaves Port Coquitlam Provincial Court with his family on the first day of a trial for Trevor Harding, an Irish national accused of aggravated assaulted. Harding was acquitted of the charge Jan.31.
— image credit: The News/Files

An Irish man accused of sucker-punching another man during a drunken argument two years ago has been cleared of aggravated assault.

On Thursday in Port Coquitlam Provincial Court, Judge Rory Walters found Trevor Harding “not guilty” of an assault that left Cordell Peter Dame paralyzed.

In a barely audible voice, Walters accepted that Harding struck Dame in self-defence.

“There are great discrepancies in the evidence of witnesses for Crown,” said Walters, noting the differences in testimony given by George Nestor, a taxi driver who came to pick up Dame and his friend Tim Toth.

Walters instead believed Harding’s testimony and the evidence given by Thomas Byrne.

He was with Harding that night.

I cannot reject their evidence, said Wood.

“I am not able to say that the evidence was untruthful or false,” he added.

The “not guilty” verdict brought Harding, a former resident of Tipperary, Ireland, to tears.

Dame, who attended court in a wheel chair flanked by his family, was visibly upset.

Outside court, his daughter yelled at Harding – “You nearly killed my dad.”

Harding, 36, had only been in Canada for two months when he got into a fight with Dame and his friend on April 30 2011.

Harding and his friends watched the Canucks lose to Nashville 2-1 that night, then went for a few drinks at Shooter’s pub on 207th Street in Maple Ridge.

They left the pub when it closed at 2 a.m. and were walking along Dewdney Trunk Road when someone across the street yelled “Luongo sucks.”

The “trash talking” continued after Harding and two of his acquaintances crossed the street.

Although Crown prosecutor Peter Ng described crossing the street as a “provocation,” Judge Walters did not agree.

When Dame and his friend noticed Harding’s Irish accent, they called him a “dirty Mexican” and told him he did not belong here.

The court also heard that Dame threatened the men by saying he had “connections” to the Hell’s Angels.

Dame’s family vehemently denies any connections to the outlaw motorcycle gang, and ascribed his comment to drunken bravado, but revealed Dame cleaned the Haney chapter’s club house in Pitt Meadows a few years ago.

Dame owned and ran his own business, Clean-Pro Janitorial, before the fight left him with life-altering injuries.

After the racist slurs, the argument between Harding and Dame got psychical.

Harding said Dame punched him in the eye, so he retaliated. He punched Dame just once, but knocked him to the pavement.

Harding and his friends left the area after the fight.

He admitted he switched his red soccer jersey for a blue Canucks jersey, but said he only did it because he believed Dame and his friend were looking for him.

Police arrested Harding after finding him hiding nearby in a bush.

The minutes-long encounter between Dame and Harding has serious consequences for both. Dame was knocked unconscious. He sustained injuries to his face and brain that left him in a coma for more than a month. He remains partially paralyzed.

The Irish rally champ’s passport was seized and he’s been languishing in a foreign country with little support.

His friends travelled to Canada from Ireland to support him during the trial last year, but were not in court Thursday when the verdict was handed down.

Harding was too emotional to speak when he left court.

Dame’s family hopes Crown launches an appeal of the judgement.

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