It was an emotional day at B.C. Supreme Court in Penticton, where the victim of a life-altering assault on Okanagan Lake beach in May 2019 described how the alcohol-fuelled attack has ruined his life.
Last spring, Thomas Kruger-Allen, 23, pleaded guilty to the aggravated assault of Brad Eliason as well as the simple assault of two young women.
At his sentencing hearing on Tuesday, court heard the incident unfolded after Kruger-Allen and a friend came across the group of people having a bonfire on May 3, 2019.
Witnesses said Kruger-Allen grabbed a young woman’s buttocks. When she pushed him away and protested, he punched her in the chest.
Her friend tried to intervene, and Kruger-Allen punched her as well.
That’s when Eliason returned to the bonfire with a friend after collecting more firewood.
Witnesses said Eliason did not have a chance to physically intervene and did not provoke Kruger-Allen.
Court heard that he said something similar to “what is going on?”
That’s when Kruger-Allen jumped up on the concrete where Eliason was standing and one-punched him with an uppercut to the face, according to witnesses.
Eliason fell back and smashed his head on the concrete while Kruger-Allen took off.
Court heard Eliason was rushed to hospital with a traumatic brain injury. He underwent emergency brain surgery and a portion of his skull was removed to relieve the swelling.
Eliason was placed in a medically induced coma and is lucky to have survived.
Prosecutor Nashina Devji said the one-punch assault was unprovoked and unforeseen.
Eliason had no opportunity to protect or defend himself, she said, and suffered life-altering injuries.
Eliason read a brief victim impact statement out loud on Tuesday.
“I lost my life, I have lost everything. My wife left me, I lost our house, I lost our pets, and I cannot work,” he said.
His estranged wife, Chelsea Townend, also read her victim impact statement.
She said the pair were happy newlyweds, looking forward to having a family and a bright future together, until her husband was brutally assaulted.
She said Eliason’s behaviour changed after the brain injury. He had angry outbursts which scared her. The couple has since separated.
“I went on to have panic attacks and PTSD. My hair fell out, I lost weight, I missed work. I was trying to hold it all together when my life was completely falling apart,” she said.
Crown is seeking a prison sentence in the range of five to six years for the aggravated and simple assaults.
“The fact that he has a high degree of dispositional anger that he can’t regulate and he has a high rate of recidivism, it appears that without severe and significant intervention, Kruger-Allen out in the community poses an incredible risk,” Devji said.
Court heard Kruger-Allen struggles with entrenched anger and alcohol issues which results in violent, aggressive, and unpredictable behaviour.
Court also heard that Kruger-Allen was out on bail and awaiting sentencing for another violent assault at the time of the savage outburst on the beach.
Devji said Kruger-Allen had an “exceptionally sad childhood” because he was heavily victimized by violence, neglect, and trauma.
His parents abused alcohol and crack cocaine and Kruger-Allen witnessed domestic violence, court heard.
In one example, his father pinned his mother on the bed choking her, and she pointed to the phone for Kruger-Allen to call 911. He was seven years old.
Court heard Kruger-Allen lacked stability, supervision, and care during his upbringing.
He was abandoned by his mother “on a regular basis” and would wander around the Penticton Indian Band reserve looking for his mother at age five.
He completed a Grade 12 education and had stable employment in the drywall industry, court heard. His employer said he was a good and reliable worker.
Defence lawyer James Pennington called the attack “alcohol-fuelled” and acknowledged the victim sustained “catastrophic” and “extremely tragic” injuries.
“He had no intention to inflict this degree of harm,” Pennington said.
“He certainly intended to administer the one blow that he did. That said, he must take the consequences of his own actions.”
Pennington also referred to Kruger-Allen’s childhood: “Did he ever have a chance at all?”
Kruger-Allen is keen to continue his rehabilitation, Pennington said, and wants to seek admission to a residential treatment centre for substance abuse, upon release from prison.
Defence is seeking a prison term of 30-36 months and with time already served, Kruger-Allen would serve another 12-18 months behind bars.
The sentencing hearing continues on Wednesday.