Judge: as­sault ‘could have been fa­tal’

Otago Daily Times - - REGIONS - COURT RE­PORTER

AN Amer­i­can tourist had been in Queen­stown two days be­fore a drunken as­sault in the CBD which could have proven fa­tal for the vic­tim.

Self­em­ployed videog­ra­pher Erik An­thony Arm­strong (31), of Cal­i­for­nia, yes­ter­day ad­mit­ted in­jur­ing Tat­shuhito Sasakura with reck­less dis­re­gard for the safety of oth­ers on Jan­uary 5.

The sum­mary of facts said at 4am Arm­strong was in­tox­i­cated in Searle Lane, along with a group of about 10 peo­ple, in­clud­ing the vic­tim, af­ter the nearby li­censed premises had closed.

Arm­strong and Mr Sasakura did not know each other and were stand­ing about a me­tre apart when ‘‘some words’’ were ex­changed be­tween the two.

‘‘With­out any provo­ca­tion, the de­fen­dant . . . took a back­ward step, bal­anced him­self, clenched his right fist, [and] made a di­rect, heavy punch to the vic­tim’s head, strik­ing him directly on the face.

‘‘The vic­tim fell back­wards, in­stantly un­con­scious, be­fore he hit the hard ground.’’

Arm­strong fled while Mr Sasakura was looked af­ter by oth­ers in the area un­til po­lice ar­rived.

The Amer­i­can hol­i­day­maker was found at a fast­food out­let a short time later and de­clined to make a state­ment.

Mr Sasakura sus­tained a swollen lip which had been split open by a tooth pen­e­trat­ing it, and was mon­i­tored at Lakes Dis­trict Hos­pi­tal for sev­eral hours.

Pros­e­cut­ing sergeant Ian Collin told Judge Do­minic Flat­ley in the Queen­stown Dis­trict Court yes­ter­day Mr Sasakura also needed den­tal treat­ment — the ‘‘worst case sce­nario’’ in­volved a ‘‘nerve re­place­ment’’ to a tooth.

De­fence coun­sel Liam Collins said Arm­strong had no pre­vi­ous crim­i­nal con­vic­tions, had with­drawn all the money in his bank ac­count to cover a fine and emo­tional harm pay­ment and had com­pleted 37 hours’ vol­un­tary com­mu­nity work since his ar­rest.

Mr Collins said Arm­strong was ‘‘sick­ened by his ac­tions’’.

‘‘I’ve shown him the video — he is not im­pressed with him­self.

‘‘The poi­son was al­co­hol.

‘‘He doesn’t in­tend to con­sume it again.

‘‘De­spite what the me­dia will term this, it was a sin­gle strike.

‘‘There was no at­tempt to fol­low­up, there was no kick­ing or stomp­ing.

‘‘A sin­gle strike, yes, to the head, but that is where the con­fronta­tion ended.’’

Judge Flat­ley said Arm­strong’s of­fend­ing fell into the top end of cat­e­gory one for the charge, which car­ried a max­i­mum sen­tence of five years’ im­pris­on­ment.

The punch ‘‘could have been fa­tal’’. ‘‘It caused the vic­tim to fall back­wards, in­stantly un­con­scious, be­fore he hit the ground, hard.

‘‘As you well know, that could have been ex­tremely dan­ger­ous.

‘‘Peo­ple can be killed by one punch.’’

How­ever, there were no other ag­gra­vat­ing fac­tors, and Arm­strong was due to leave Queen­stown last night and fly from Auck­land to­mor­row.

He had given $3115 to the court, in cash, yes­ter­day, $3065 of it to go to the vic­tim.

Judge Flat­ley re­manded him at large un­til Thurs­day for con­fir­ma­tion he had left New Zealand.

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