Officer handed suspended sentence for assault conviction
Punching man during 2015 arrest a ‘lapse of judgment,’ judge says
A Hamilton police constable convicted of assaulting a man during a difficult arrest two years ago has been handed a suspended sentence for what Ontario Court Justice Robert Gee called “a momentary lapse in judgment.”
The sentence means Const. Kudo Park will have a criminal record, which is likely to have an impact on a pending disciplinary case against the well-liked officer, but he will not face any jail time. Court heard he could face a one year demotion before a police disciplinary tribunal later this year.
On Friday, he was also sentenced to 12 months probation and 50 hours community service.
In April, Park was found not guilty of assault causing bodily harm, but guilty of the lesser included offence of assault for punching a handcuffed Thomas Schonberger during his April 17, 2015, arrest. Schonberger spit in Park’s mouth during the encounter and later pleaded guilty to assaulting Park and to threatening another officer.
Park addressed court during his sentencing hearing Friday morning, saying he has learned a lot over the last couple of years.
“I want to continue to be a police officer,” he said, adding that he promises never to be back in court accused of a crime again.
His lawyer, Gary Clewley, asked for “leniency,” arguing for a conditional discharge, which would have meant no criminal record.
However, Crown prosecutor Roger Shallow said a conditional discharge “doesn’t cut it” and asked for the suspended sentence. Justice Gee agreed. Outside court, Clewley said they will not appeal the conviction, but will try to have the record expunged at a later date.
Park, who bowed his head when he heard the judge’s decision, has lost upwards of $30,000 pay while on administrative duty during the case and has faced humiliation with the case being reported in the media, Clewley said.
Now there is also stigma around having a criminal record.
The incident happened after Park responded to a call about a man walking down King Street East swinging a knife and walking a dog. When he came upon the scene, he found Schonberger, then 35, already handcuffed and approached to offer assistance.
That’s when Schonberger spit in Park’s mouth without warning or provocation, and Park responded with “one quick jab,” followed by two more punches after Schonberger was taken to the ground.
It’s these later two punches that Gee found were “retribution” for the spitting.
Park had testified that the punches were to stop Schonberger from assaulting him and other officers.
Schonberger suffered a fractured right cheekbone, but Gee said it wasn’t proven that the injury was caused by the punches, as Schonberger was also seen smacking his face off the Plexiglas barrier in the police cruiser.
During sentencing Friday, Gee noted Schonberger’s mental health should have been obvious during the encounter — he has schizophrenia and was drunk. “A true measure of society is how it treats it’s most vulnerable.”
However, outside of court Clewley said the incident happened so fast, that he doesn’t know how clear that would have been at that time. He noted that the judge never called Park a bad guy, just someone who made a mistake in a fastmoving situation.