The now-15-year-old Brockville girl charged with manslaughter in the death of Damian Sobieraj was found guilty Wednesday evening.
In her judgment, Justice Kimberly Moore explained that she didn’t accept the defence’s argument that the teen was defending her friends when she rushed in and “body-checked” Sobieraj off the Hardy Park boardwalk and into the St. Lawrence River on Sept. 13, 2018, where he drowned to death.
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Moore found the Crown’s suggestion that the now-convicted teen was acting out of anger after Sobieraj confronted two youths who were breaking off tree branches and hitting various trees in the park was unfounded.
During the nine-day trial in late 2019, several people testified that they witnessed the youths striking the trees, one of whom said she was pushing her child in a stroller and pretended to phone the police.
This was before Sobieraj approached the group of youths and demanded that they stop.
“I’ve listened to the 911 call made by Damian many times, and he says, ‘You punched me,’” said Moore.
According to the 911 call made by Sobieraj at around 10:30 p.m., the verbal altercation between himself and the two youths hitting trees turned physical before the group scattered throughout Hardy Park.
Moore found that Sobieraj then followed the teens to the boardwalk, where he made a citizen’s arrest. Moore said the convicted teen then charged Sobieraj and “body-checked” him into the St. Lawrence River.
“She had a cellphone, heard him yell for help and chose not to,” Moore told the courtroom.
Sobieraj’s body was found the following day in the water near the boardwalk and was examined by Dr. Alfredo Walker, a forensic pathologist.
Walker found that not only did Sobieraj drown, but he also had a bloody, bruised lip and severe bruising to his back and chest caused by blunt force trauma.
Moore concluded he was likely hit with tree branches.
The teen was found guilty of manslaughter, assault, obstructing a peace officer and criminal negligence.
The assault stemmed from an altercation between the convicted youth and two other teens from another school. Moore found that the convicted youth was called a “whale” by the other teens and reacted by saying, “I’ll kill you,” before chasing them out of Hardy Park.
The charge of obstructing a police officer was a result of the convicted teen telling a police officer she didn’t see anyone go into the water after police responded to Sobieraj’s 911 call to the park.
Defence lawyer rests case in Brockville manslaughter trial
Moments after the judgment, Sobieraj’s mother, Iwona, told Global News that she is happy with the result but that it won’t bring back her son.
As for the convicted youth, she was consoled by family and friends as she wept. The teen will now undergo psychiatric testing, and the court will hear the status of that assessment on March 27.
That is the same day that a sentencing date will be set. Until then, the youth will remain in the care of a surety.
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