A man convicted of trapping and torturing an Indigenous man in a Richmond condo in 2020 apologized to the court and his family, but not his victim, during a sentencing hearing May 5 in B.C. Supreme Court.
Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes found Taymour Aghtai guilty on Jan. 27 of sexual assault with a weapon, assault with a weapon, extortion, unlawful confinement and use of an imitation firearm in relation to the unlawful confinement. On Feb. 21, Aghtai pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.
“I haven’t done a lot of good in my life,” Aghtai admitted.
“Going forward, no matter how long I get, not matter what happens, I will put a lot more thought into the decisions I make, people I associate with, things I do, jobs I have.”
Aghtai and his co-accused held a man against his will for 30-hours beginning Sept. 4, 2020. Aghtai bound and zip-tied his victim, a vulnerable Indigenous man who resides on the Downtown Eastside in a single-room occupancy hotel.
Crown prosecutor Patrick Fullerton said Aghtai was not just an active participant, but the planning mind.
“He was the reason that [the victim] was bound and stripped of clothing,” Fullerton told the court. “He was the reason or part of the reasons that [the victim] was made to attempt to have sexual contact with a dog. He was the person who video recorded the sexual assault with a weapon and the underlying conduct that was to be for the extortion.”
Fullerton asked Homes to sentence Aghtai to 11-to-13-and-a-half years in jail. Kevin Westell, the 28-year-old’s defence lawyer, asked for a sentence of six-to-eight years.
Fullerton said that Aghtai had exhausted all his pre-sentence credit for time served. While Westell agreed his client’s crimes were serious and requiring denunciation and deterrence, he said the case law does not support the Crown-proposed sentence. Additionally, Westell said Aghtai’s 33 months in custody — a “period of unbroken incarceration,” he called it — should be taken into account by the judge.
“For a 28-year-old, I would suggest an 11 or a 13-year sentence is a crushing sentence, which will deprive the offender at that age of a great deal of the younger years of their life,” Westell said.
Even a six-year sentence would significant federal time, longer than Aghtai has served previously, he said.
“Whether it may be crushing to add a lengthy sentence on top of that, quite frankly, is not an appropriate reason to opt for a lower range on the jail sentence,” Fullerton countered. “To put it colloquially, Mr. Aghtai’s made his bed, he has to sleep in it. He made a strategic decision to use dead time or pre-sentence custody on these other files.”
Last September, Aghtai used credit for time served when sentenced in Richmond Provincial Court to nine months for using a needle to threaten corrections officers when he fled custody in Richmond Hospital.
In February, a North Vancouver Provincial Court judge sentenced him to two years time served for the March 2020 spree of 63 prank calls to four managers, six nurses and two administrators at the Lynn Valley Care Centre. The incident caused chaos during the COVID-19 outbreak at the North Vancouver seniors care home, just before one of the elderly residents became the first-known COVID-19 victim in Canada.
Fullerton said that between Jan. 19, 2021 and April 13, 2021, police intercepted 160 phone calls between the in-custody Aghtai and another co-accused. They were conspiring to dissuade the victim from the Downtown Eastside to change his story or not testify at all. They even discussed bribing him with $200 and a phone.
Fullerton cited a call on Jan. 23, 2021 when Aghtai told his co-conspirator that if he gets convicted of “the broomstick thing, in other words, the sexual assault,” he will get a 20-year sentence and be considered a sex offender.
“He states that [the victim] needs to do the right thing, and go to the Crown, as going to the police doesn’t really work,” Fullerton said.
The “best thing,” Aghtai suggested at the time, would have been for the victim to not show up at the trial.
Fullerton told the court that Aghtai has 19 convictions as an adult: Five for property offences, four for crimes of dishonesty, four for crimes of violence, two for firearms offences and four breaches of court orders, including being unlawfully at large.
A 2023 psychiatric assessment submitted to the court said Aghtai blamed his recent crimes on too much spare time during the pandemic, which Fullerton called a “far-reaching effort to deflect blame.”
“The vast, vast majority of Canadians and people across the world have weathered [the pandemic] without turning to criminality, and such violent criminality as Mr. Aghtai did,” he said.
The report concluded there is “little to no real prospect of rehabilitative success” for Aghtai. He grew up in Richmond, North Vancouver and Surrey and enjoys a close relationship with his father who indulged him over the hears, but has no legitimate work history outside of jobs for his father.
“Without the support, financial support of family, Mr. Aghtai cannot stand on his own two feet,” Fullerton said.
Aghtai does not have a major mental illness or any symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions. But he downplays his criminal and anti-social behaviour, the report said.
“He refers to criminal prank calls, where people’s lives were very much thrown into chaos because of his conduct, as very funny at the time, and purely for fun,” Fullerton said.
The beginning of the sentencing hearing was delayed for an oral submission by a lawyer on behalf of Aghtai’s co-accused in the obstruction of justice case. Holmes agreed to an interim order banning publication of the person’s name, over the lawyer’s concern that it would harm the person’s right to a fair trial.
The sentencing hearing will continue May 16.
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