04/14/2014 01:41 EDT | Updated 06/14/2014 05:59 EDT

Robert MacKay Stanley Cup Beating Sees 3 Men Convicted

VANCOUVER - Three young men were convicted Monday of beating a Good Samaritan during Vancouver's Stanley Cup riot — an act of violence that has been singled out for special condemnation, even when compared with the chaos and destruction that swept through the downtown.

A fourth man also charged was acquitted.

Robert MacKay was assaulted on June 15, 2011, outside the Bay department store during the riot that broke out following the Canucks' loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.

David Leonati, Carlos Barahona Villeda, Michael MacDonald and Ioannis (John) Kangles were charged with assault and participating in a riot, while MacDonald was also charged with mischief.

In a trial earlier this year, a judge reviewed photographs and videos captured by witnesses and, more often than not, uploaded to the Internet and spread by social media.

Provincial court Judge Greg Rideout said the video evidence, along with Leonati's own confession, proved Leonati, Barahona and MacDonald assaulted MacKay. They were each convicted of assault and participating in a riot, while MacDonald was also convicted of mischief for throwing a sign through a broken window.

Kangles, who told the court he only intervened because he believed MacKay posed a threat to others, was acquitted of all charges.

The riot began in the dying minutes of Game 7 at an outdoor viewing party downtown, where thousands of fans gathered to watch the match on giant screens. A vehicle was set on fire at the viewing site, and the rioters quickly spread, igniting vehicles, smashing windows and looting stores over several square blocks.

MacKay told the court he wandered downtown after the game to check out what he thought would be celebrations of a near win, but instead came across the riot. At some point, MacKay found himself outside the Bay, standing between a mob of rioters and the store.

MacKay conceded he had been drinking and said his actions were likely influenced by alcohol and adrenaline.

The court heard MacKay grabbed what appeared to be a bus pole from a rioter and then used the pole in an attempt to push the crowd back.

More than a dozen people then set their sights on MacKay, bringing him to the ground and repeatedly kicking and punching him. MacKay was injured, but told the court he recovered within a couple of weeks.

The judge said photographs and video showed Leonati kick MacKay in the head as MacKay was crouched in the fetal position.

Leonati, who didn't testify, later gave a statement to police in which he initially denied any involvement. However, when presented with photographs and video, Leonati told the officers: "I kicked him."

Leonati then sent a letter to MacKay, in which he wrote: "Assaulting you was very childish of me and you did not deserve it whatsoever."

Barahona, who was 22 at the time of the riot, denied any wrongdoing and said he didn't even realize a riot had taken place until months later. He said he was downtown after the game taking photographs because, he claimed, he intended to provide them to the police.

When presented with a video clip that showed him hit MacKay from behind, Barahona insisted he was attempting to protect one of his friends.

The judge described Barahona's testimony as "unbelievable" and said it was clear Barahona intentionally pursued MacKay.

MacDonald, who was 19 at the time of the riot, admitted hitting MacKay, but said he only did so to protect his girlfriend. The judge rejected MacDonald's defence and concluded the young man hit MacKay 12 times.

"When MacDonald testified that he got 'three good shots' in on MacKay, I had the clear impression that MacDonald was boasting about those, 'good shots,'" Rideout told the court before delivering the verdict.

"Without question, the lower body blows were precise, powerful and designed to cause harm."

Kangles, who was 24 at the time, told the court he was downtown to watch the game at a movie theatre. While walking back to his car after the game, he saw a man, who turned out to be MacKay, holding a pole outside the Bay, he told the court.

The Crown alleged a video showed Kangles kick MacKay, which Kangles denied. Kangles admitted to grabbing MacKay by the head and pulling him to the ground, but he told the court he believed he was disarming a rioter.

Rideout concluded the video did not clearly show whether Kangles kicked MacKay. While the judge said he had "reservations" about Kangles' testimony, he said Kangles' explanation for bringing MacKay to the ground — that he was attempting to protect the people around him — created reasonable doubt.

Kangles, now 27, was acquitted of all charges, and outside court he said he was relieved the process was over.

"I'm just really happy that it's over and I can get on with my education, my career," said Kangles, who is living in Ontario and studying to be a commercial pilot.

He said he regrets going downtown on the day of the riot.

"I feel that, morally, what (MacKay) did was the right thing — you see your city in a blaze, you want to do what you can to protect it," he said.

"I wish I had a different angle of what happened that night, and if I did I would have been standing there beside him. But I didn't have a bird's eye view, and I'm sorry for what happened to him."

Leonati, Barahona and MacDonald are set to return for sentencing on June 23. Leonati has also been charged with breaching his release conditions.

Two other men charged in MacKay's attack were convicted in May of last year.


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