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Kelowna Capital News
UPDATED:Man lit on fire: a prank gone wrong or intentional act?
UPDATE: Mathew Sweet-Grant sentenced to 18 months jail and two years of probation. More details to come.
A short amateur video showing the moment a passed out man wakes up as flames crawl up his back was shown in court Monday as lawyers argued how long the fire starter will go to jail.
The cell phone video leaves no dispute that Mathew Sweet-Grant set his friend on fire, but the degree of culpability for his actions is up for debate, with the Crown calling the act intentional and the defence describing it as a prank gone horribly wrong.
On Dec. 8, 2012, Tyler Weir was passed out on the floor of an apartment at Vecchio’s Corner, located at the corner of Highway 97 and Highway 33, when Mathew Sweet-Grant, who was also drunk, poured Aqua Velva on the prone man and then set him on fire.
Weir left the unit after the fire started, but was brought back by a neighbour. He promptly fell asleep and when he awoke at 10 a.m., went home and slept some more, the court heard.
It wasn’t until afternoon that his injuries—second and third degree burns to 90 per cent of his back—were discovered and began to be treated.
“My nerves in my back were completely gone so I didn’t feel it till I seen it,” Weir wrote in a victim impact statement that was read in court.
He was hospitalized for 51 days and said the pain is more “than any man should have to go through.”
As a result of his injuries, he can’t do the things he loves, like long boarding, mixed martial arts and swimming, he wrote.
Sweet-Grant, in reports provided to the court for sentencing, describes the burning as a "oke gone bad” and said he didn’t intend to hurt anyone.
“This just demonstrates a lack of understanding on Mr. Sweet-Grant’s part how dangerous fire is,” argued Crown counsel David Grabavac.
The court heard that Sweet-Grant had in the past seen and participated in similar fire-starting activities, sparked by images he saw on TV, but no one was injured.
Those past actions “inculcated a level of complacency,” argued defence lawyer West Munson.
When Sweet-Grant lit Weir, who was wearing a hoodie that absorbed the accelerant, “he never imagined the harm that would come.”
“He values his friendship with Tyler and didn’t intend to hurt him,” said Munson.
Munson added that Sweet-Grant accepted responsibility “from the get-go,” pleading guilty just days after being charged with aggravated assault and assault with a weapon.
Sweet-Grant, he noted, had a troubled childhood, living with his drug addicted mother in extreme poverty. At times, he lived on the street and at the age of 14, suffered strokes that left him with frontal lobe damage.
However, the Crown argued the judge’s focus should be on Sweet-Grant’s recent actions, not his past.
“He intended to light him on fire,” said Grabavac.
Crown suggested a six to eight year sentence for the aggravated assault and a two to three year sentence, running concurrently, for the assault with a weapon offence.
Munson called the suggested sentence “an extreme case of overkill” and instead suggested three to six months in jail, plus probation.
A weapons prohibition and a ban on possessing incendiary devices has also been proposed.
Judge Anne Wallace is expected to deliver a sentence for Sweet-Grant Tuesday.