A man who caused a “significant and life-altering” brain injury to a University of Victoria master’s student, will be in jail for 23 days less after the Court of Appeals determined the trial judge made a mathematical error.
Latto Simian Sessay was sentenced in May 2019 to six and a half years in jail for a one-punch assault of Brian Rowley in an alleyway outside the Strathcona Hotel that occurred after he spent the previous nine hours drinking 10 to 12 alcoholic drinks and ingesting cocaine.
Sessay used a fighting technique he learned in prison to sucker-punch Rowley after he stepped in a puddle of what he believed to be urine. Rowley’s head hit the concrete with what Sessay described as a “sickening sound” that he would never forget. Before fleeing the scene, Sessay turned back to Rowley, lying unconscious on the ground, to wag two fingers at him in some sort of “final taunt or jeer.” Sessay did not make any attempt to get Rowley medical attention.
Police located Sessay a few blocks away from the scene. The officers had to Taser him twice as he tried to fight them, telling the officers “If I’m doing pen time, I’m going to take one of you with me.”
Sessay pleaded guilty of obstructing a peace officer and was convicted of aggravated assault by a Supreme Court justice following a four-day trial. Sessay’s argued the punch was in self-defence, which was rejected by the judge.
Upon sentencing in May 2019, Sessay was credited with 574 days in pre-sentence custody, which the Crown conceded should have been 597 days due to a mathematical error. Justice Gregory James Fitch allowed that appeal but dismissed Sessay’s other arguments.
In his appeal, Sessay argued that the sentencing judge had made another error by imposing a sentence that was unfit by “failing to consider his personality disorder in assessing his moral blameworthiness,” which the judge found no merit in.
“Moreover, the sentence is justified by the appellant’s violent antecedents, the risk he poses to the public, and the devastating harm he caused to Mr. Rowley. The callous disregard the appellant demonstrated by leaving Mr. Rowley unattended and in an unconscious state is a particularly disturbing feature of this case,” stated the judge.
The 34-year-old has a “horrendous criminal record” that started when he was 13 and set fire to a number of townhouses. Sessay has six assault-related offences, two convictions of uttering threats — one of which he called a woman from jail and threatened to kill her, cut her up and rape her.
In a psychiatric report prepared prior to sentencing, Sessay was diagnosed with alcohol and substance use disorders. It stated that it was probable he had a significant personality disorder with antisocial and narcissistic tendencies, but there was no evidence that his thinking process was impaired by mental illness at the time of the assault.
The judge stated that the narcissistic and antisocial traits displayed in Sessay would not assist him in his appeal and only confirm that he has a moderate to high-risk to re-offend violently.