July 12, 2002
Libin attacker sentenced
PAT JOHNSON REPORTER
The only adult among the three people who attacked Joel Libin on
a West Side street two years ago will spend the next three years
in prison. The sentence was handed down last week to Dude Lenon,
who has already spent 21 months behind bars awaiting trial.
The sentence, given by Madame Justice Wendy Baker of the B.C. Supreme
Court July 4, amounts to about six years in total, because the court
calculates time spent before sentencing as double that spent after
conviction. Lenon has been in custody since August 2000. Two youths
who also participated in the assault earlier received 18 months
of house arrest. The Libin family was angered at the sentences received
by the youths, and were not satisfied with the sentence handed down
"I wasn't expecting much and in that regard I wasn't disappointed,"
said Joel Libin's father, Len. "I don't think anything could
Joel Libin, now 19, is working as a counsellor at Camp Hatikvah
this summer and was not in court to hear the sentence. He was considered
medically dead when the ambulance arrived after the beating on Aug.
19, 2000. Paramedics revived him and he spent several months in
a coma before beginning an arduous rehabilitation. Libin, who had
been an excellent golfer and good student, has not picked up a golf
club since the attack and has struggled to complete his courses
at college, said his father. In an earlier news conference after
the young offenders were sentenced, Joel Libin spoke of the difficulties
he has in everyday living. Though he looks the same on the outside,
he said, everything has changed for him.
In her statement to the court, the judge cited numerous precedents
she considered in settling on Lenon's sentence. Sentences for aggravated
assault tend to range from 16 months to six years, she said. The
low end would be for a participant in a fight that escalated into
aggravated assault while the extreme end would be for a premeditated
attack on a defenceless individual.
Baker recounted some of the findings of Lenon's criminal trial,
noting that he was the instigator of the attack, goading his two
younger friends into kicking and beating Libin, who had just emerged
from a bus near his Dunbar-area home. Libin, who is Jewish, was
apparently chosen at random by the three, who were out to find someone
to attack after a night of heavy drinking.
The attack was unprovoked, it was a group assault dubbed during
the trial as a "recreational beating," there was an aspect
of premeditation and the effects on the victim were both life-threatening
and life-altering, the judge noted. For these reasons, she chose
to sentence Lenon to the higher end of her stated precedents.
The judge said she took into account Lenon's ethnicity. Canadian
courts have declared that aboriginal Canadians deserve special consideration
in judicial proceedings, a factor that could have reduced Lenon's
sentence. (He is a member of the Musqueam band in South Vancouver.)
Baker noted, however, that protection of society and the fact that
Lenon has two prior convictions for violent offences override any
ameliorating factors his ethnic identity might have presented. She
also took into consideration that Lenon's mother was an alcoholic
who abandoned him at the age of 18 months, leaving Lenon to grow
up in foster care and institutional settings.
In setting Lenon's sentence, the judge stressed that she was not
giving up on the hope that the convicted assailant could be rehabilitated.
Lenon's inability to control his anger and his demonstrated abuse
of alcohol and other substances makes him a prime candidate for
some of the programs that will be available to him in prison, she
Lenon still does not appreciate the effect his attack has had on
Libin, said the judge. Though Lenon showed emotion during the trial,
it was the judge's conclusion that Lenon still underestimates and
denies the effects his actions have had on his victim.
Joel Libin has what is referred to as "permanent structural
brain damage," said his father. It is difficult for medical
professionals to predict recovery levels for victims of brain damage
but, already, the younger Libin has far surpassed what doctors expected
him to accomplish.
"Physically, Joel's recovery has been remarkable," said
his father outside the courtroom. "His resolve ... has been
A bright spot amid the whole dismal matter has been the support
the Libins have received from the Jewish and general communities.
"We have always appreciated the support of the community,"
said Len Libin. He specifically cited Rabbi Philip Bregman and Cathy
Bregman and their son, Shai, who is a close friend of Joel Libin's.