One of the trials an Oliver man is facing may joining a slowly growing list of legal matters moving from Penticton up to Kelowna, this time due to security reasons.
Afshin Maleki Ighani is facing two counts of assault with a weapon and two counts of assault causing bodily harm after he allegedly entered a protective custody unit at Okanagan Correctional Centre and stabbed convicted murderer Peter Beckett, as well as David McHale, another inmate.
Ighani pleaded not guilty to all counts in a video appearance in Penticton’s courthouse Monday morning, electing a trial by Supreme Court judge and no jury.
Because the incident allegedly occurred in the jail, and both the victims and Ighani are expected to be in custody at least during a one-day preliminary inquiry, the court questioned whether it would be prudent for logistics to move the matter to Kelowna.
“I think this had better be referred to the regional administrative judge. She will enter into discussions with the sheriffs here in Penticton,” Judge Meg Shaw said. “As much as possible, we would like to keep it here in Penticton, but depending on what the sheriffs advise the regional judge, it may have to be relocated.”
Shaw suggested the complainants could appear by video, which Crown lawyer Ann Lerchs said she was amenable to, but defence lawyer Michael Patterson had raised some disagreement, though he didn’t detail his objection.
Penticton’s courthouse is far smaller than Kelowna’s, and the issue of security has come up in the past — Grace and Pier Robotti’s trials were moved to Kelowna in large part due to security concerns among the defence. Grace Robotti was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Roxanne Louie.
In that case, the defence noted there is just one hallway that all parties walk down in the second floor of the building to arrive at the Supreme Court chambers, including the accused, the judge, the lawyers, witnesses, the public and the complainant.
Other trials have moved to Kelowna, or been threatened to move to Kelowna, due to time barriers.
Jennifer Leanne Montgomery, accused of drug trafficking, is currently awaiting the remainder of her trial in Kelowna, after a three-day proceeding in Penticton was extended and time could not be found to continue the matter in the city.
The matter of Ighani is one of two trials he is facing — in the first, expected to be held in Penticton, Ighani allegedly shot an Oliver man, Thomas Szajko, resulting in a major police presence in a quiet Oliver neighbourhood.
After several hours, police entered an R.V. on Szajko’s property, but Ighani was no longer there. A region-wide search for the man began, with a Canada-wide warrant following further reports of Ighani allegedly abducting a woman in a vehicle, and he was later tracked down in Princeton.
Szajko died of unrelated causes in early December, however, and because he was a substantial portion of the Crown’s case against Szajko in the alleged shooting incident, charges of attempted murder were dropped.
Ighani will still stand trial by judge alone on related matters, and in December he was denied bail by a provincial court judge.
On the file before Shaw Monday morning, Ighani is also facing a lawsuit from McHale, who said the protective custody unit had not been secured after a guard left him and Beckett alone.
A trial date has not been determined on that matter.