Hockey enforcer Donald Brashear was given the judicial equivalent of a minor penalty yesterday in sentencing for an off-ice assault.
Brashear, a tough-as-nails winger with the Vancouver Canucks, received a conditional discharge from Provincial Court Judge Jack McGivern after Brashear admitted grabbing a man around the throat during a disagreement at Brashear's apartment last year.
The judge put Brashear on probation for six months, but rejected the Crown's recommendation for counselling and community service. No fine was assessed.
The National Hockey League player will earn a base salary of $1.25-million (U.S.) this season.
Brashear pleaded guilty on Oct. 30. Yesterday, with victim Randy Charach absent from proceedings, Brashear apologized for his actions.
"The way I acted was the wrong way to act," Brashear told the court before sentence was passed. "This is an experience I've really learned from. I'll know how to react in the future.
"It's not the perception I want to give to people and my kids. I want to be a good example."
Brashear was in a nearby courtroom in October of 2000 to testify in the trial of Boston Bruins defenceman Marty McSorley, who had slashed Brashear over the head in an NHL game in February of 1999. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Vancouver player, with a reputation for rough play, suffered a concussion.
McSorley also was handed a conditional discharge and placed on probation by Judge William Kitchen after conviction for common assault. McSorley also was suspended for the rest of the season by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
This time, Brashear was the defendant. Lawyer Mark Andrews, acting for Brashear, characterized his client as a man of few words whose emotions got the better of him, although Brashear acted with restraint, Andrews said.
"It's in your best interest, and not contrary to public interest, that you should receive a conditional discharge," McGivern said. "You, by way of your plea, have acknowledged your responsibility."
Brashear, 29, was charged with common assault after an incident on Nov. 27, 2000, in the exercise room of his trendy Yaletown residence near General Motors Place arena. Brashear shares the residence with Gabrielle Desgagné, his common-law partner.
Court documents indicated Desgagné was in the exercise room with the couple's 12-month-old son, Jordan, when Charach asked Desgagné to not have the boy roaming around the gym for safety reasons.
There was a verbal altercation between Desgagné and Charach about 10:37 a.m. and eight minutes later Brashear entered the room to confront Charach.
Crown counsel Ken Madsen introduced a videotape from the exercise room that showed Brashear putting his right hand on Charach's neck.
Police were called, and two hours later there was no indication of red marks on Charach's neck, a statement of fact noted. Charach, also a resident of the complex, later claimed to have had headaches and nightmares. He refused to comment yesterday.
"Mr. Brashear is a person of reputation and some face in this community," the prosecutor told the court. "One cannot ignore the public status of Mr. Brashear because he's looked up to in this community.
"He has a physically imposing presence. People with those capabilities cannot lose them. Mr. Brashear must be able to control his temper."
Madsen cited court rulings in 12 other assault cases during his lengthy summation, including those of former NHL players Dino Ciccarelli and McSorley.
Andrews told the judge that Brashear's sentencing prevented him from attending yesterday's annual visit to the Children's Hospital by Canucks players.
"Even though his emotions got the better of him, he acted with restraint," Andrews said. "Think of what he didn't do. He didn't use his physical prowess.
"There is in this case something of a shadow of a civil suit. There is a suggestion where the complainant saw something of an opportunity."
Brashear, who was born in the United States but raised in Quebec, is considered one of the best fighters in the NHL. He also has improved as an overall player, with four goals and 12 points in 25 NHL games this season.
Canucks general manager Brian Burke and team captain Markus Naslund wrote letters to the court in support of Brashear's character.
Witnesses to the assault were not present at sentencing, nor was Desgagné, who's expecting the couple's second son in January. Her letter to the court said Brashear is a caring person who likes to be home with his family.
The judge noted Brashear did not have a criminal record, although there was no mention of Brashear being charged with two counts of aggravated assault in 1997 in North Wildwood, N.J., after an incident outside a bar.
Those charges were dropped when Brashear agreed to 48 hours of community work. Brashear also settled out of court with the alleged victim. There also was a $415,000 default judgment against Brashear from the same altercation, and a New Jersey couple has since filed a writ in B.C. Supreme Court demanding payment from Brashear.
His next game on the ice will be tomorrow against Anaheim at GM Place.