LAST January, when Richmond brothers Ravinder and Parminder Bassi were acquitted in Vancouver Provincial Court on the charge of assault causing bodily harm for allegedly attacking David Holtzman, now deceased, and his partner Peter Regier outside their Keefer Street apartment in downtown Vancouver near Rogers Arena on June 12, 2010, I noted that this case highlighted “the danger of witnesses exaggerating and perhaps even resorting to lies just to win a case” and that “fortunately, wise judges do not get carried away by the emotionally charged atmosphere.”
I added: “However, if witnesses do not exaggerate or distort facts in their desperation to get someone convicted, a judge would probably be more likely to convict the accused based on the witnesses’ sincerity and being satisfied that there was sufficient evidence and circumstances to warrant it.”


THIS week, I remembered that piece as I went through news reports of Franco Yiu Kwan Orr of Vancouver who was sentenced to 18 months in jail after being convicted this summer of human trafficking in the case involving a Filipina nanny, Leticia Sarmiento. The judge’s comments once again showed how the prosecution tends to exaggerate and thus end up undermining their own case.
Justice Richard Goepel said the Crown failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a number of aggravating factors such as that the nanny was allegedly forced to work every day for 16 hours in “humiliating and degrading” conditions.
Orr and his wife, Oi Ling Nicole Huen allegedly tricked the nanny into coming to Canada with them from Hong Kong by offering higher pay and telling her that she would become a permanent resident after two years.
Huen was acquitted of human trafficking and employing a foreign national illegally and the judge pointed out that that was “a clear indication the jury did not accept all of Ms. Sarmiento’s evidence.”
By this it appears that Sarmiento exaggerated matters to try and win sympathy, but it backfired.
This shows that Canadian judges and juries go through details of cases very carefully – and that is a great thing, indeed.


SIMILARLY, in the case of the Bassi brothers, who were also accused of having used homophobic slurs during the alleged assault mentioned above, there appeared to be a series of exaggerations if not outright lies. The gay community in particular were looking forward to seeing the brothers convicted.
But Judge Raymond Low ruled that the Crown had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the brothers were the assailants in the attack that lasted for less than two minutes. He also found that the general physical features that the victims provided to police could “apply to scores of men in this city” and that in the period immediately following the incident, the victims did not provide any specific detail of their assailant’s facial features.
Low noted: “In addition to the realistic possibility that Mr. Regier and Mr. Holtzman may have consciously or unconsciously acquired details of their assailant’s respective appearances through watching the security videos or seeing material published by the media, there was virtually no realistic possibility during the incident for either complainant to have a clear and composed view of their assailants’ faces.  I am not prepared to give much weight to either Mr. Regier’s or Mr. Holtzman’s in court identification of the defendants.”
The judge even questioned Holtzman’s “credibility generally.” He noted: “As he testified, Mr. Holtzman struck me as a very sophisticated and intelligent individual.  However, while being cross examined Mr. Holtzman was evasive,
 argumentative and tended to exaggerate.” The judge went on to mention specific examples of that. In one such example, he noted: “Apart from Mr. Holtzman’s gratuitous claim that he was focussed on eyes and face, which in all of the circumstances of the incident, defies common sense, all three security videos confirm that none of the assailants were wearing light or white coloured shirts.”
The judge also pointed out several discrepancies when it came to positively identifying the brothers.
I noted back then: “From all this it seems that the prosecutors, the victims and the witnesses were just out to get the Bassi brothers. Exaggerations, distortions and perhaps even lies by the witnesses are quite obvious when you go through the judgement. Couldn’t the prosecutors see that?”