A Canadian Forces reservist has been convicted of assaulting and injuring his elderly Winnipeg neighbour in an apparent dispute over the disposal of yard waste.
Provincial court Judge Michel Chartier ruled Tuesday that Joseph Zielinski, 49, was guilty of assault causing bodily harm stemming from a violent and apparently racially-charged incident in the well-heeled Tuxedo neighbourhood in May 2007.
'We're going to stand up and say, 'you can't do this any more.'' —Richard Swyston, area neighbour
Chartier said he believed the testimony of Dr. Francis Dominique, 73, a city neurologist, given at a trial earlier this year.
Dominique told court Zielinski attacked him without warning after he asked him to stop using a ShopVac to blow debris from his backyard into Dominique's.
The two properties back on to each other were only separated by a small fence at the time.
Dominique testified he and his 76-year-old wife were subjected to a racial tirade and threatened prior to the assault.
"I am going to kick your old asses," Dominique said Zielinski told him.
Zielinski then knocked the senior down from behind and began punching him in the ribs.
Dominique's 76-year-old wife had to help him up and get him inside to safety. He suffered a "dime" sized cut to his nose, bruising and a cut on his testicles, court heard.
Reservist pleaded not guilty
Zielinski denied all of the allegations and had countered in his own testimony that Dominique had actually "stabbed" him with a stick.
But Chartier said he didn't believe Zielinski's denials, saying he created an "atmosphere of sheer volatility" by continuing to blow debris into Dominique's yard.
Zielinski came across as "flippant and unreasonable" in his testimony, the judge said.
"The testimony of the accused doesn't ring true," he said.
Zielinski, a married father of one, remains free on bail and will be sentenced on June 2. He is facing a maximum of 18 months in jail. The Crown did not indicate what sentence it is seeking in the case.
He and his family have lived in the area for the last nine years.
After the hearing, another neighbour of Zielinski's expressed relief at the conviction, saying many people in the neighbourhood feel threatened.
"We're going to stand up and say you can't do this any more," Richard Swyston said. "This is our neighbourhood. Our kids grew up here."
He said the area is a diverse one and that people have the right to live in peace.
"We just want people to say, 'no – no more,'" he said.
"We're taking it back – this is the big thing," Swyston said.