A Vancouver construction worker has been acquitted of attempted murder after a fight that left his boss with a drywall knife embedded in his neck.

Scales of Justice

A British Columbia Supreme Court judge found a wealthy Vancouver developer "had no self awareness of the way he treated his employee." (CBC)

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Butler also found Sami Hashmi Mohamad Draid was not guilty of aggravated assault stemming from a workplace dispute at a Vancouver building site in 2012. 

Rather, Butler concluded that Draid's boss, David Sarraf, had "no self awareness" of the way he treated his employee, finding that the wealthy developer had pushed Draid on three previous occasions. 

'An unusual relationship'

The conflict happened in September of 2012 at a building under renovation at West 6th Avenue and Fir Street in Vancouver. It's one of 50 buildings owned by Sarraf.

Sarraf hired Draid weeks before the incident as a general labourer and to do clean-up work on his construction sites.

The judge said the two men had an "unusual relationship" marked by a "substantial power imbalance." 

Draid is a Libyan immigrant who came to Canada in 2008, leaving two teenage sons behind, while Sarraf has been in Canada for 41 years. The 63-year-old emmigrated to Canada from Israel after completing military training.

On the day of incident, Sarraf claimed he said goodbye to Draid at the end of the workday, about 7 p.m., and told him he'd see him in the morning. Soon after that, Sarraf alleged he felt something heavy on top of him, and when he struggled to get the weight off he realized it was his employee on top of him and felt something in his neck.

He reached up, realized he was bleeding badly, and pulled out a drywall knife stuck in his neck before going to hospital. Sarraf said he didn't see Draid stab him.

'It was accidental'

Draid had a very different version of events.

He said his boss had pushed or struck him on three earlier occasions because he didn't believe Draid was following his instructions.

Draid said the two had an argument on the day of the knife incident, and Sarraf pushed him. He said he pushed back and Sarraf fell to the floor, while a board ended up on top of him. Draid said he didn't know how the drywall knife ended up in Sarraf's neck.

Justice Bruce Butler said Draid's explanation of the conflict leading up to this event "had the ring of truth," concluding Sarraf had a history of treating Draid poorly.

He accepted Draid's explanation for what happened that day, and while he didn't believe the construction worker's evidence that the knife somehow fell into Sarraf's neck in the struggle - saying the wound was so deep it would have required force - he also said there was a reasonable possibility it was an accident.

But Justice Bruce Butler in his reasons for judgement did find Draid guilty of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle. Following the fight, Draid repeatedly tried to drive up onto the sidewalk and came close to hitting his boss two or three times, Butler found.

Draid will be sentenced on that conviction.