Three soldiers were acquitted yesterday of beating an Iranian immigrant in the Entertainment District, but a Superior Court judge lambasted the trio, saying their "conduct was nothing short of disgraceful."
After a day of deliberations, a jury cleared Sean Jones, 21, and Ryan Crossman and Ryan Livesey, both 23, of aggravated assault upon Hesam Zeinal-Zedeh on July 14, 2006.
After the verdict was read, Justice Robert Clark admonished the newly acquitted young men, saying the military "should take a sober second look" at admitting them into their ranks.
"You've all been acquitted by the jury. But your behaviour was nothing short of disgraceful," Clark told the court.
A photograph -- which wasn't admitted as evidence -- would have exposed them "as the gang of drunken louts you are," said the judge. "The fact they were boasting about being in the military is offensive....I'm satisfied you left (the complainant) lying unconscious. It was a cowardly act. You've brought disrespect to the military."
The accused's families hugged the three men in court after the verdict and some of them wept tears of joy at the outcome. One of the accused's relatives said aloud in court that the complainant "ought to be charged" in light of the acquittals.
Crown attorney Lorna Spencer said the verdict means the jury agreed either the accused acted in self defence during the fracas or the jury was left with a reasonable doubt.
The accused testified that Zeinal-Zedeh overreacted when Jones spoke to the complainant's girlfriend, Nasim Mahani.
The accused denied earlier testimony that each held one of the complainant's arms while a third punched him and later stomped on his head while he lay on the ground.
Livesey and Crossman told the jury that Zeinal-Zedeh punched Jones in the back of the head after he walked away from a verbal altercation. Then, Zeinal-Zedeh threw a few punches at Jones' chest while he lay on the ground until Livesey intervened, court heard.
When Livesey grabbed Zeinal-Zedeh's shoulder, he swung but missed Livesey. He counter-punched. His single blow to Zeinal-Zedeh's chin sent him sprawling on to the sidewalk and roadway under a parked van, testified Crossman.
Zeinal-Zedeh, now 25, suffered a skull fracture and was physically disabled for months after the incident, court heard.
The incident started after Jones approached Mahani for "directions to a bar" on Richmond St. W. Jones tapped her on the bicep when she ignored his question and looked at her boyfriend, said Crossman.
"Zeinal-Zedeh was very aggressive, he pushed Miss Mahani against the fence and got very close to Mr. Jones," testified Crossman.
Crossman said he and Livesey pulled Jones away and walked away. But Zeinal-Zedeh charged after Jones, hitting him in the head.