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Trial for assault on Squamish trans woman ends

Lawyers debate if accused’s punches were in self-defence
Steven Chua

Editor’s warning: This story contains offensive language.

Does pulling down a man’s pants amount to consent to a fight? If the man responds by punching, is that self defence?

These were two key questions that were contemplated during the trial of a man accused of assaulting a transgender woman in Squamish.

Lawyers presented their closing arguments to Justice Patricia Bond at North Vancouver Provincial Court on Jan. 30.

The accused, Cody Jamie Eric Nelson, who is 28 this year, has been charged with aggravated assault against Jayme Schmetterling, the complainant, who is in her early 60s.

The Crown’s version of events was that Nelson insulted Schmetterling with slurs outside the Dollar Tree downtown on Oct. 15, 2018, provoking an angry reaction from her. Words were exchanged. During the confrontation, Schmetterling pulled down Nelson’s pants.

Nelson then punched Schmetterling twice, causing her to lose balance, hit the back of her head on a wall and fall to the ground, according to Crown lawyer Samiran Lakshman. She then suffered injuries to the face, broken orbital bones and bleeding in the brain, which led to lasting brain damage.

“[Nelson] is guilty of aggravated assault. The accused started the confrontation with the complainant with his hateful comments,” said Lakshman.

“He was not defending himself for any self-defence purpose, nor were his actions proportional or reasonable. The accused possessed the requisite intent to cause serious bodily harm and actually did cause that harm.”

Since Schmetterling was severely injured, the accused can’t claim that it was a consensual fight, Lakshman said.

He pointed out that after the attack, Nelson sent out texts. Lakshman read both messages out in court.

The first read: “Right after I left your place, I knocked out a fag dt. Read the paper.”

The second read: “I kno[ck]ed the fag out legally because it smacked it my ass not just because it was gay.”

Lakshman added that hours after the incident, a man matching Nelson’s description was overheard at Sky High Cannabis making remarks about the alleged assault.

“‘I just beat the shit out of a tranny from the Dollar Tree,’” said Lakshman, quoting what a worker at the dispensary allegedly overheard.

That statement, combined with the texts, as well as Nelson’s punching of Schmetterling, indicates that he intended to cause serious bodily harm, Lakshman said.

On the other hand, Nelson’s lawyer, David Forsyth, argued Schmetterling was the aggressor, and that Nelson acted in self-defence.

Forsyth said that most people might walk away after hearing offensive remarks, but instead, Schmetterling became provocative.

“She is enraged. She felt the combination of the remarks and the accused’s saggy pants were just too much for her,” Forsyth said.

He said she followed Nelson and provoked a confrontation.

“She said on the stand, ‘No one spoke to her that way. This is my town,’” said Forsyth. “Those are very revealing words.”

Forsyth said that by pulling down Nelson’s pants, Schmetterling consented to a fight.

“What reasonable person, having pulled the pants of a complete stranger down in public, would not expect some sort of physical confrontation?” said Forsyth.

“Back in high school, even in grade school, it is an implicit understanding of everyone in the schools, in my submission, that were you to do that to someone, there would be some sort of physical altercation as a result. So, how could Ms. Schmetterling not expect at least a response, and a physical one at that? So, once she pulled the pants down, she is effectively saying, ‘It’s on.’”

Forsyth said that Nelson responded with two jabs, which is a reasonable response.

He added that Nelson’s response was also reasonable, given that Schmetterling was a stranger and Nelson had no idea what would come next.

“If she’s prepared to pull your pants down in public, then she very well might produce a weapon, she very well might continue her assault,” Forsyth said.

Forsyth also said Nelson and Schmetterling were roughly the same size and weight.

He said that Schmetterling’s injuries were the result of her fall, not the result of Nelson punching her.

Finally, he said that while Nelson’s texts and the alleged statement at the dispensary are disturbing, they fall short of proving a hate crime.

“‘Tranny’ and ‘fag’ are pejorative statements and street vernacular that is offensive to the LGBTQ community, but fall short of proving a hate crime,” said Forsyth.

“They exemplify bravado, braggadocio. And bragging is just that. Bragging is perhaps in the vernacular of the person you’re talking to.”

The judge is expected to render her decision on the case on May 15.

*Please note, this story has been updated to include the date of the incident.

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