Spencer Rees Jesso was found not guilty of aggravated assault, uttering threats and breaching probation. The verdict was delivered this morning in Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s.
Jesso smiled and shook hands with his lawyer Rhona Buchan after proceedings.
It took Justice Donald Burrage just 40 minutes to make his decision after lawyers presented their final arguments.
It was made easier after Crown prosecutor Shawn Patten asked the judge to dismiss the aggravated assault charge, conceding that Jesso had acted in self defence.
Burrage agreed, and added there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude Jesso had uttered threats at the party that night, and as a result, there was no court breach.
Jesso, 25, was accused of stabbing 20-year-old Brandon Hynes in the chest several times during the fight that broke out on a beach in the Southern Shore town on Sept. 21, 2013.
He was also accused of telling a 14-year-old girl he was going to kick her in the face.
The Crown’s case was made more difficult after Hynes had little to say when he testified at the trial last month.
“I don’t recall,” Hynes replied when Buchan had asked about that night.
Hynes had the same response to every other question she asked.
“Do you generally have issues with your memory?” Buchan asked.
“I can’t recall,” Hynes replied.
Hynes — who was called by the defence and not the Crown — spent two days in hospital recovering from his injuries, but told the court he doesn’t know how he got them.
Asked about a text he sent to Jesso that night, Hynes again said he couldn’t remember anything about it.
He also said he couldn’t remember anything about a Facebook message Hynes reportedly sent to Jesso in which Hynes said he wouldn’t be a rat.
Jesso — who is not in custody, having been released on bail shortly after his arrest in September 2013 — had told the court that a fight broke out between two guys and he intervened to break it up, but things got back to normal again shortly after.
However, he said, one of the young women at the party “came out of nowhere” and slapped his face, telling him to leave her sister alone.
Jesso then got on his ATV and took off. When he stopped a short distance down the road, he checked his phone and saw the text from Hynes.
“That put the fear in me,” Jesso had testified.
He returned to the party to straighten things out. He said he couldn’t understand what it was about because he hadn’t done anything .
When Jesso went back to the beach, he said he was suddenly attacked. He said he was hit in the face several times. He said he struggled to stay conscious.
He later found out he was hit with a beer bottle, as broken beer-bottle glass was found in his hood.
After a few minutes, when he got sensation back in his arms, he began pushing and flailing, he said.
“I was just hitting whatever I could,” he said. “I don’t know where I connected or what I was hitting.”
Jesso said he got on his ATV and drove away again.
The judge believed Jesso didn’t go back to the beach to start a fight but was going back to straighten things out. He said Jesso was surprised when he was met with extreme violence.
“His response was proportionate with the very difficult situation he found himself in,” said Burrage, who noted the incident happened on a secluded beach where several people at the party were encouraging the attack on Jesso.
“I’m satisfied the assault (on Hynes) was reasonable under the circumstance. ... He believed he was in peril.”
As for the uttering threats allegation, Burrage said Jesso had no motive for threatening the girl.
He pointed out that the beach was noisy, crowded and dark. As a result, he said, the girl — who had been drinking a vodka cooler — would’ve had difficulty identifying what the comments to her were or who made them. Her attention had been directed at the ground, as she was using the light from her phone to look for her friend’s cellphone, Burrage said.
”The environment was right for misunderstanding,” he said.
Jesso was elated when he left the courtroom. When asked how he felt, he gave the thumbs up and said, “Awesome!”