SINGAPORE: A man who was standing up for a stranger against racist remarks was later punched with such force that he blacked out and suffered multiple facial fractures.
The aggressor, American Pettijohn William Samuel, was sentenced to jail for a year and eight months (20 months) on Tuesday (Sep 3).
The 31-year-old, who intends to appeal against conviction and sentence, was also ordered to pay the victim S$1,000 in compensation.
Pettijohn, an educator with Chatsworth International School, had been found guilty of one count of voluntarily causing grievous hurt after claiming trial.
VICTIM DEFENDED STRANGER AGAINST RACIST REMARKS
The American was at a taxi stand outside Swiss Club in Bukit Timah at about 1am on Sep 24, 2017 after an Oktoberfest event.
The victim, Arora Neil Kant, who was dubbed a "Good Samaritan" by the prosecution, had been with his friend Patel Kanak in the queue when they overheard Pettijohn making remarks to an Indian man they did not know.
He said: "Don't touch me you Indian ... you may be allowed to queue like that in your country but you can't ... like that here."
Neil and Kanak went to the aid of the Indian man and chided Pettijohn for making racist remarks.
Neil's group of friends and Pettijohn's group began quarrelling and security guards separated them.
However, when Neil's group left the stand to board an Uber taxi, they saw Pettijohn and a friend approaching them.
When Neil saw his friend Kanak fall to the ground, he surmised that he had been pushed by the aggressors and held onto Pettijohn's sleeves below his elbow to prevent him from hurting anyone else.
However, Pettijohn broke free of Neil's grip and punched Neil, who fainted.
VICTIM HAD RECONSTRUCTION SURGERY, HAS PERMANENT DOUBLE VISION
After the incident, Pettijohn fled and Neil had surgery to reconstruct his eye socket using titanium plates. He has lost sensation in his face from underneath his nose, up to his cheekbone, and has permanent peripheral double vision and occasional flashbacks of the assault.
The defence had argued that a friend of Pettijohn's had said: "Settle down, this isn't India", and that a heated argument arose after Neil and Kanak accused this friend of racism.
Pettijohn claimed that he had been struck on the face by a fist and that Kanak had punched him.
He also claimed that he had struck Neil as Neil held onto his sleeve and he could not release himself.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Kelly Ho had asked for at least 21 months' jail, and for Pettijohn to pay the victim S$1,000 for the out-of-pocket expenses his medical insurance did not cover.
District Judge Mathew Joseph said the case, which started out with what was supposed to be a night of enjoyment among friends, was a stark reminder and warning that racist remarks and intoxicated persons are likely to be "volatile and dangerous mix".
A SINGLE PUNCH INFLICTED SUCH REMARKABLE INJURIES: JUDGE
The victim suffered multiple facial fractures, was hospitalised for six days and now suffers from double vision, said the judge.
He said he took into account the fact that Pettijohn was a first offender and had no previous convictions, but found that he had "no genuine expression of remorse".
"You even attempted to lay the blame on the victim," said the judge. "I find that your testimony was far from contrite."
"What I find quite astonishing is that your single punch had inflicted such remarkable injuries," he added. "(It) goes to show the extreme force and intensity of that single punch. I find that very disturbing."
Pettijohn's lawyer said he intends to appeal against conviction and sentencing, and said his client is still under contract with his employers in Singapore and will not be a flight risk.
For voluntarily causing grievous hurt, Pettijohn could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined, or caned.