Charges stayed in bar flush stabbing case

Identification a key issue in decision, Crown says

Cheryl Wierda

Contributor

The trial of a man accused of stabbing another man during bar flush two years has ended, with the Crown staying the aggravated assault charge mid-trial.

At the beginning of what was to be Chaouki Monssef’s second day of trial, Crown counsel Murray Kaay said that he had reviewed the case and directed a stay of proceedings. That essentially means the prosecution has halted.

“I’m not surprised,” said Justice Geoffrey Barrow.

Supporters of Monssef in the courtroom clapped and hugged upon hearing the news.

Outside court, Kaay explained his decision, saying: “There was no longer a substantial likelihood of conviction.”

At issue was identification of the attacker, he said.

One witness said Monday that he saw a man with what he presumed to be a knife or a gun in the alley during the melee that led to the stabbing of Dylan Hatten two years ago, but also testified he saw the man running toward the end of the alley.

In court, he couldn’t say definitively if that man was in the courtroom.

As well, both he and Hatten did not actually see the stabbing occur, with Hatten testifying he was holding a man by the neck when he was stabbed in the abdomen.

Based on the evidence of the two men, plus the expected testimony of other bystanders, Kaay felt he no longer had a case he could prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

Crown is bound by an ongoing charge approval standard where they must always assess whether there is a substantial likelihood of conviction and whether proceeding with the case is in the public interest.

After hearing Crown’s decision, defence lawyer Marty Johnson said he was “happy” for his client, who “didn’t do it.”

The past two years have been hard for 38-year-old Monssef, as he’s been on fairly strict conditions and had to apply to the court to be able to go to Lebanon to deal with his father’s illness.

He has now been released from those bail conditions with the prosecution against him halted.

The case dates back to April 15, 2011, when Dylan Hatten was stabbed while a number of people fought in an alley outside Cheetah’s. He was hospitalized for several days and 70 staples were used to close the stab wound.