Sault news: Aggravated assault conviction upheld for soccer player who punched opponent in the face

A vicious retaliation punch in a soccer game five years ago in the Sault was aggravated assault, an appeals court has confirmed.

Joshua Gauthier was playing a match for the BDO team in a recreational league against Adam Erickson and the Jiggerz FC in summer 2019 when the incident took place.

According to the decision from the Court of Appeal for Ontario, about 20 minutes into the game, Erickson and Gauthier were competing for the ball.

Believing Erickson had kicked him in the back of the leg, Gauthier turned around and punched him in the head with a closed fist using his right hand.

Erickson “suffered a fractured orbital bone and a laceration above his right eye that required 18 stitches to close,” the court decision.

Gauthier was charged with aggravated assault. At trial, the judge said the issue to be determined was “did Joshua Gauthier intentionally apply force to Adam Erickson – did he intend on hitting him in the face with his fist?”

Gauthier’s lawyer argued he acted out of self-defence, an argument the trial judge rejected.

“Gauthier’s actions cannot be found to be reasonable in the circumstances,” the judge said.

“Gauthier was taller and heavier than Erickson. Gauthier had other options available to him. He could have kicked the ball out of bounds to stop the play or made a plea to the referee to call an infraction, or called for a substitute to be removed from the game.”

He was sentenced to a 12-month conditional sentence, followed by 24 months of probation.

In appealing the sentence, Gauthier’s lawyer argued the trial judge erred by not accepting the defence argument that the punch was a reflex action.

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“The appellant’s punch to Mr. Erickson’s face flowed immediately from Mr. Erickson’s kick to the back of the appellant’s leg and push of his shoulder,” the appeals court decision said.

Gauthier testified that his actions were an involuntary response to him being kicked and shoved. But the trial judge disagreed.

“The preponderance of the evidence from the witnesses who testified has Gauthier turning around and striking Erickson in the face,” the decision said.

“There does not seem anything involuntary about it and on the evidence, it cannot be said that the actions of Gauthier in striking Erickson were accidental or not purposeful.”

The appeals court upheld that ruling, saying there was no air of reality that the punch was self-defence.

“And there was no air of reality that a punch to the face was reasonable responsive force,” the decision said.

The court also upheld the sentence, saying despite the extenuating circumstances, “given the stated goal of general deterrence, the sentence imposed by the trial judge was entirely fair and we see no error in his reasons.”

Read the full decision here.

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