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Defence lawyer rests case in Brockville manslaughter trial

Defence lawyer rests case in Brockville manslaughter trial
Two youth witnesses were expected to testify Friday after they were allegedly involved in the altercation before Damian Sobieraj was pushed into the St. Lawrence River.

The eighth day of the Brockville teen manslaughter trial was unlike the previous sessions, as the court adjourned moments after it began.

Witness testimony suggests potentially violent altercation before Brockville man’s death
Witness testimony suggests potentially violent altercation before Brockville man’s death

Family and friends of both the victim and the accused filled the pews inside the courtroom, anxiously awaiting the testimonies of two key witnesses, who were alleged to be in the middle of the altercation before Damian Sobieraj was said to have been pushed into the St. Lawrence River.

But before they could take the stand, defence lawyer François Dulude announced he was resting his case, saying there was no need for further evidence.

Over the past two weeks, several youths have taken the stand, with most recalling a similar series of events that led to Sobieraj being pushed in the water by the accused.

The list below is a culmination of all testimonies, with specific details recalled by individual youths left out. 

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  • The group of youths come to the park to drink coolers or “gin smashes.”
  • Two younger youths begin hitting trees with branches after one breaks up with his girlfriend.
  • While walking his pug, Sobieraj approaches the two boys and tells them to stop, or he’ll call the police.
  • During a brief shouting match, another youth pushes Sobieraj in the chest.
  • Sobieraj calls the police and says he’s being harassed.
  • The group of youths scatters around the park.
  • Sobieraj follows the boys hitting the trees and the older youth who pushed him, near the Brock trail boardwalk.
  • Sobieraj grabs two youths, one by the shirt.
  • Accused rushes over and pushes Sobieraj into the St. Lawrence River.

READ MORE: Tempers flare during Day 6 of the Brockville teen manslaughter trial

Over the past two weeks, the court also heard a doctor’s autopsy findings, which showed Sobreij having a fat lip, a bruised chest and marks on his back.

The court also watched OPP diver footage from Sept. 14, 2018, which captured the moment they found Sobrieraj’s in 16 feet of water near the Brock trail boardwalk. An area of the park where most youths testified seeing or hearing the accused push Sobieraj over the edge.

“(The accused) said, ‘I’m done with this,’ and pushed him,” said one youth in the park that night, adding, “I saw him go over the edge and I heard a splash.”

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Several other witnesses testified that they saw and heard Sobreij in the water.

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When asked by Crown attorney Alan Findlay why they didn’t help Sobieraj, most said they were scared and ran, with others watching as he treads water.

”We didn’t know if he was crazy, and if I threw in the life preserver, I’m a little guy, and he could have pulled me in,” said one of the youngest witnesses.

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One witness recalled hearing Sobieraj scream that he couldn’t swim.

“When I saw him treading water, I asked him, ‘What are you doing?’ He then pushed himself underwater, and that’s when the cops showed up, and we ran,” said a now-adult witness.

Throughout cross-examination, Crown attorney Findlay at multiple times made the courtroom to gasp, using profanity that the youths potentially used that night. His rapid style of questioning, caused one teen to snap when recalling his interaction with Sobieraj that night, a testimony that included Sobieraj threatening violence.

“He did tell them to stop but also that he’ll beat the (expletive) out of them,” said the now-adult witness.

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Findlay pouncing on the new information, causing the witness to raise his voice and hurl expletives towards the Crown.

“I’m not here to (expletive) lie, all right,” said the adult witness.

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READ MORE: Police testimony reveals mysterious clues in Brockville manslaughter case

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The responding officers on Sept. 13, 2018, also testified, revealing shocking information from what they found hours after Sobieraj went into the water.

They recalled seeing a fox near the boardwalk with an Ottawa Senators hat in its mouth, wet footprints coming from a river ladder leading to a rock nearby with a damp belt sitting on top it.

Final submissions will be made on Dec. 16.