sk-piapot-conviction

Justin Piapot, seen here leaving court in 2011, is no longer a long-term offender. ((CBC))

Two years after Justin Piapot was declared a long-term offender in an assault case where a senior ended up brain damaged, the Regina man is now free of that designation.

On Tuesday, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal overturned Piapot's 2010 conviction for assault causing bodily harm of Jerry Gray, 66.

'Even the stockiest and most muscular of men can reasonably fear an aggressive person carrying a lethal weapon.'- Appeal Court Justice Bob Richards

Court heard that Piapot, 21 at the time, was at Gray's house with several other people, most who were drinking.

Piapot testified that Gray was trying to touch his girlfriend, the two men had words and Gray pulled out a small samurai sword.

Shortly after that, Gray was struck in the face. Piapot said he elbowed him once, while other witnesses said it was a single punch.

Gray ended up unconscious and bleeding on the floor with a broken jaw and cheekbone.  While Gray was in hospital, a neurologist observed that he suffered paralysis, had difficulty with language, and was unable to feed himself or talk.

The Crown applied to have Piapot declared a dangerous offender for that attack as well as other violent offences that were on his record. Dangerous offender status would mean he could be put behind bars indefinitely, subject to periodic reviews.

At the conclusion of the dangerous offender hearing, Piapot was given a seven-year sentence with credit for remand time. Instead of being declared a dangerous offender, he received the less-serious long-term offender designation.

As a long-term offender, he'd receive 10 years of special supervision once he gets out of prison.

The Crown appealed, calling for the courts to rethink a dangerous offender status.

Piapot appealed, too, calling for his sentence to be thrown out. After a hearing last November, the court agreed with him, saying it could be argued he struck Gray in self-defence.

"A sword is a great equalizer," Chief Justice Bob Richards wrote in his 17-page written decision. "Even the stockiest and most muscular of men can reasonably fear an aggressive person carrying a lethal weapon."

Because the conviction on the assault was overturned, the long-term offender designation must also be set aside, the ruling said.