KAMLOOPS - A suspended sentence is one of the options a Kamloops judge is considering for a man convicted of holding his 73-year-old former mother-in-law hostage when he broke into her home two years ago.
Rudolf Atzenberger, 58, has been found guilty by a jury of assault causing bodily harm, forcible confinement, break and enter, and uttering threats in Kamloops Supreme Court.
His lawyer, Ken Walker, believes Atzenberger should receive no jail time for the offences, considering he has no criminal record and has had a lengthy battle with depression.
Court heard today, Dec. 16, at a sentencing hearing that Atzenberger broke into his ex-mother-in-law Susan Denison's home in July 2014 while she was asleep, dragged her by the hair and held her in the home for at least an hour.
Crown prosecutor Iain Currie says Atzenberger used violence and threats against a vulnerable older woman who had no way of defending herself. He says Denison had lost weight between the offence and trial, but she still didn't stand a chance defending herself.
"She still would be no match for Mr. Atzenberger," Currie said.
Currie says Atzenberger struck Denison several times while at her home and forced her to sign a document which cleared him of debts.
Currie argued money was the motive in this case and said Atzenberger methodically planned out the home invasion. He said the man also conducted himself in "an aggressive manner" toward Denison and her family the last time the case was in front of the court.
Atzenberger was unrepresented through trial, but court heard Supreme Court Judge Ian Josephson and Currie helped persuade Atzenberger to seek counsel before a sentencing hearing.
Currie says Atzenberger has shown no remorse or responsibility for the offence, which leaves the possibility he could commit another offence.
"It shows a significant need for specific deterrence in this case," Currie said.
Atzenberger considers himself the victim of the court system and the Denison family, Currie said, and asked for a prison sentence between two and three years.
"Mr. Atzenberger's degree of responsibility could not be higher," Currie said. "I'm at a loss to understand how a discharge could even be considered... A non-custodial sentence is so far out of the range... considering the findings of the jury."
Meanwhile, the accused defence lawyer is asking for a conditional discharge on the counts of assault causing bodily harm, forcible confinement and uttering threats convictions, as well as a suspended sentence on the break and enter conviction.
"This is a peculiar case," Walker said. "He's a man of good character."
Walker says Atzenberger has been on strict bail conditions for more than two years, since being released in October 2014. He says his client has complied with all of the conditions, which include staying out of B.C., not consuming alcohol and having no contact with Denison.
Court heard since Atzenberger and his ex-wife Leanne Denison divorced in 2012, he's been isolated from their children and grandchildren.
Walker admits Atzenberger is a challenging person and doesn't always cooperate with authorities, but attributes that behaviour to his mental illness. Although Currie argues Atzenberger doesn't have a reasonable prospect of rehabilitation, Walker says this has been a wake up call for him.
"He's driven to succeed," Walker says. "He's going to stay well away from the criminal justice system."
Walker says Atzenberger never wanted to steal or harm anyone during the offence, but didn't go into detail about what his client's true motive was. He argued a conditional discharge and suspended sentence wouldn't be dangerous to the public.
"It is very, in fact, supportive of the public interest," Walker said.
Judge Josephson asked both lawyers if a sentence served in the community was available. Walker said it wasn't his preference but would be better than jail, however Currie said a community-served sentence is not allowed to be imposed under three of the four convictions.
"This is, indeed, an unusual case," Josephson said.
The judge is expected to make his sentencing decision near the end of January, 2017.
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