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No jail for violent attack; judge cites Indigenous Vernon man's past


An Indigenous Vernon man with more than two dozen prior convictions won't do jail time after he attacked a stranger leaving his victim needing 11 stitches.

In a June 5 Provincial Court of BC decision, Judge David Patterson highlighted Kenneth Allan Leo's background growing up as an Indigenous person in Canada.

"I have kept in mind that in sentencing Mr. Leo, I am required to consider the lasting consequences of colonialism, residential schools, and the resulting disproportionate incidences of addictions, crimes involving violence, poverty, and children being separated from their parents and home communities in First Nation communities," Judge Patterson said in the decision.

"I cannot ignore the reality of how the European Eurocentric worldview favours it over non-Western civilizations, has affected British Columbia's First Nation communities and left generations of First Nations peoples struggling to find their place in the world."

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The case dates back to August 2022, when Leo was drunk and standing outside of the Tiki Village Motor Inn motel in Vernon.

A guest at the motel heard a disturbance outside one morning and left his room to see what was going on.

After the 58-year-old guest stepped outside Leo approached him, bottle in hand, and said, "You got a problem?"

Leo then punched the man seven to 10 times on the head. He was arrested at the motel shortly afterwards and charged with assault causing bodily harm.

The victim was taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital and received the stitches. The attack left him with a loss of vision in his left eye, facial pain, and migraines.

Leo was released on bail and a little over a year later attacked another man at the Turning Points Emergency Shelter in Vernon.

Details of this assault are vague, as the victim wouldn't cooperate with police, the CCTV footage of the assault didn't confirm whether Leo made contact with the other person, and Leo was drunk and had no reliable memory of the attack.

However, he was charged with assault.

Crown prosecutors wanted the 38-year-old offender to spend four to six months behind bars, while his defence lawyer wanted up to a year under house arrest.

Leo has a lengthy criminal record dating back more than 20 years which included convictions for drug trafficking and robbery, as well as assault and others.

The majority of the relatively lengthy 28-page decision discussed Leo's past and gave a detailed history of his life.

"I have considered systemic and background factors that may have played a part in bringing Mr. Leo before the court," the judge said. "I have looked deeper into the realities of Mr. Leo's life experience."

The decision said Leo was raised by his grandmother until he was five when his mother took him back.

"Life with his mother was consistently unstable due to her lifestyle and addictions," the decision read. "His mother would leave him and his siblings alone for many days in a row... (and) tell him and his siblings to 'walk the alleys' or 'raid the gardens if we got hungry.'"

"Violence involving his mother and her partners was a constant in their lives: 'I saw a lot of violence. It caused me to become violent,'" the decision read.

At eight years old Leo was put in foster care.

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"In almost every foster home that I was in, there was abuse. The foster homes would scrub my arms and legs and say I was dirty. There was a lot of racism in foster homes by the foster parents," Leo said in a report submitted to the court. "I had a smart mouth and would push a lot of them over the edge. So, I got smacked in the mouth by some of them.

"My experiences in foster care affected me greatly. I thought there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t think my mom wanted me. It was very confusing. It affected my relationships later in life."

He dropped out of school in Grade 9 and started selling marijuana. Soon afterwards he became addicted to crystal meth.

Throughout his 20s and 30s, he was in and out of jail, an alcoholic and abusing methamphetamine, crack cocaine and fentanyl. He was largely homeless when not in jail.

He was behind bars when his son was born. Several years later he had a daughter.

Both his children are in care and the caregivers submitted glowing references for him to the court.

"He’s a good man and I fully trust him," his daughter's caregiver said in a report.

"Ken has always been very respectful, and we are there for him for whatever he needs," his son's foster parents said in another report.

The decision said Leo has been sober and drug-free for more than a year.

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Leo addressed the court and apologized to his victims.

"I believe that his actions since his crimes show genuine remorse," Judge Patterson said.

The motel victim had planned to read a victim impact statement outlining how the attack had affected him.

However, in what the judge described as "a show of kindness and empathy" towards Leo, instead the victim said he hoped Leo got the help he needed to heal so no one else has to suffer from his actions.

Ultimately, Judge Patterson sentenced Leo to 12 months of house arrest whereby he will have to remain inside from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily. He also ordered him to do 60 hours of community service.

"And I mean this when I say this, good luck moving forward," Judge Patterson said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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