04/04/2013 01:37 EDT | Updated 06/04/2013 05:12 EDT

Court reduces sentences of Hamilton couple who tortured disabled man

Two Hamilton residents who tortured and held hostage a developmentally disabled man for more than two weeks have had their sentences reduced by judges at the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Dakota Thompson and Stanley Brown were part of a group convicted of aggravated assault and forcible confinement for inflicting horrific injuries on a 23-year-old disabled man over a period of more than two weeks in 2009.

The victim went to the Corktown apartment where three people in the group lived, thinking they were going to help him look for a missing cellphone.

- READ: Mom of tortured disabled man sickened by lenient sentences

Instead, the group of people — Thompson, Brown, their roommate and a youth — confined him there for 17 days, burned his genitals with a hair straightener, made him eat feces and drink urine, beat him with a pole and poured cayenne pepper into the bath when he tried to wash his wounds, according to court documents.

When the victim was discovered by police, he had facial fractures, disfiguring injuries and a gaping head wound. One of the first officers on the scene said he thought the man was dead.

Lengthy original sentences

Brown was originally sentenced to 13 years and Thompson to 10 years, despite the Crown suggesting sentences of about half those lengths.

A decision containing their updated sentences was released on Monday.

Brown's sentence has been reduced from 13 years to seven years and two months (less 32 months credit for pre-trial custody).

Thompson's sentence has been reduced from 10 years to six years and eight months (less 32 months credit for pre-trial custody.

Court staff said the decision was made because of a "factual issue with the judgment" that needed to resolved. An analysis of the resolved sentences reads that Provincial Court Judge Fred Campling erred in his decision to lay down lengthy sentences in the case.

In documents filed in advance of the hearing, Brown's lawyer argued that in his client's case the Crown and defence filed a joint submission calling for seven years and two months, and the lower-court judge didn't give any reason for the longer sentence.

Campling handed down the sentence minutes after the Crown lawyer finished his submissions, which suggests "a good possibility" Campling had his reasons already prepared beforehand, Brown's lawyer Victor Giourgas wrote.

Giourgas also argued the sentence for Brown was not in line with other aggravated assault and forcible confinement cases. In the analysis of the case, judges with the Ontario Court of Appeal said that Campling gave “no meaningful reasons” for the extended sentences, “save for his recognition of the general need to respect such submissions and his reference to maximum penalities.”

'Not without impairments'

The lawyers noted in the appeals that the abusers are not without their own impairments. Brown has fetal alcohol syndrome and Asperger syndrome and is of borderline intelligence. Thompson had a troubled upbringing and was addicted to Percocet and OxyContin.

Thompson was less involved in inflicting physical violence, the Crown noted, though she was still a "knowing and active participant."

The offenders had "cognitive limitations," the Crown agrees, but were functioning in society at the time of the torture.

The judge did not make an error in sentencing Thompson and Brown, the Crown says in court documents.

"It cannot be said that the sentences are demonstrably unfit, in light of the singularly horrific and egregious nature of the facts of this case," Crown attorney Eric Siebenmorgen wrote.

The victim, though developmentally delayed, was able to live on his own with the help of the Ontario Disability Support Program and his family, the Crown said. He met Thompson and Brown's roommate at a centre for at-risk youth.

Over 17 days, the victim "suffered repeated degrading and inhumane treatment," the Crown said. The group "terrorized him with threats and even tried to persuade him that they were toughening him up to be a street warrior," Siebenmorgen wrote.

They essentially used him as their "personal automatic teller machine," forcing him to give them his bank card and PIN, the Crown said. His account was completely drained and the group bought marijuana, Xboxes, iPods and video games.