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Union boss stabbed by stepson

By Keith Lacey The teenager accused of stabbing a prominent Sudbury labour leader in the neck during a dispute has been found not criminally responsible for his actions.
By Keith Lacey

The teenager accused of stabbing a prominent Sudbury labour leader in the neck during a dispute has been found not criminally responsible for his actions.

Justice William Fitzgerald found Gavin Cole, 19, guilty of aggravated assault and possession of a weapon (knife), but said the young man was not criminally responsible for his actions because he has paranoid schizophrenia.

Cole was found not guilty of uttering death threats. The incident occurred against his stepfather, Rolly Gauthier, June 1.

Cole was accused of stabbing Gauthier, who retired last year after as president of Local 598 of the Mine Mill/Canadian Auto Workers, and threatening to kill him.

Fitzgerald ordered the teenager remain in custody to be further assessed at a mental health facility.

A three-member Criminal Code Review Committee assigned by the provincial government must hold an initial hearing into Cole?s status within 45 days.

The same committee will decide how long Cole must remain in custody at a mental health facility, when he should be released and under what conditions he must adhere to if he is granted release.

Considering the seriousness of this incident, it?s expected Cole will have to spend at least several months in custody.

Gauthier, 51, testified he and his wife, Brenda Petrant, and friends were cleaning up the Mine Mill Campground on Richard Lake June 1 when he got into an altercation with Cole.

Cole mentioned something about launching a lawsuit the day before. Gauthier told him there was no chance of success and to drop the idea, said Gauthier.

This upset Cole and he clenched his fist. Gauthier thought Cole was going to hit his mother. As he approached his stepson, Cole grabbed a kitchen knife and waved it, said Gauthier.

Cole?s mother intervened. Gauthier warned Cole he was "going to get caught" in a dangerous situation as this wasn't the first time he?d seen him wave a knife and asked him if he?d taken his medication for his schizophrenia before walking outside, Gauthier testified.

He was playing outside with his grandson when he heard a loud noise and saw Cole kicking at a stepladder and continuing to cause trouble.

They exchanged profanity before Gauthier told him to pack his clothes and leave the area.

"I wanted him off the property," said Gauthier.

Gauthier approached Cole but didn?t realize he?d been stabbed until Petrant and another friend told him so, said Gauthier.

Police were called and Gauthier was rushed to hospital, while Cole was arrested.

Gauthier needed surgery and he still has a long scar from his lower left ear to his voicebox.

Under cross-examination by defence counsel Richard Huneault, Gauthier agreed Cole was not co-operating with anything he said that afternoon.

He had no idea Cole was carrying a small pocket knife on him at the time, said Gauthier.

"It surprised me completely (being stabbed)," he said.

Cole?s mother said her son was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia more than three years ago.

She testified he?s much calmer and thinks much clearer when on prescribed medication.

She gave a similar description of events leading up to the stabbing, but added her son was acting strange and licked blood off the knife after the stabbing.

Cole testified he had just moved back in with his mother and Gauthier at the time of the incident and had taken his medication the night before the incident.

It was Gauthier who was aggressive towards him during the incident inside the residence and again in the seconds before the stabbing, said Cole.

"It just happened?he came at me forcefully and I just stabbed him," said Cole. "Instinct must have taken over?I thought he was going to punch me out or something. He?s a really big guy."

Cole admitted under cross-examination that he may have misinterpreted Gauthier?s actions because of his illness.

When asked by assistant Crown attorney Philip Zylerberg if symptoms can make him feel threatened when no threat is there, Cole replied "It?s possible, I don?t really know."

Cole said he never intended to stab Gauthier and admitted he wouldn?t resort to such violence if he wasn?t suffering symptoms from his mental illness.