Assailant sentenced for 2018 stabbing in downtown Kingston

The Frontenac County Courthouse, which serves as the Superior Court of Justice in Kingston, Ontario. Photo by Iris Van Loon.

In the summer of 2018, a group of men from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) were in Kingston working for a week. At the end of that week, the men were out in downtown Kingston when they became involved in an altercation with two Kingston men in the early morning of Saturday, Jun. 30. One of the Kingston men, Malik Downer, was stabbed; despite a punctured lung, he survived the attack.

Kingstonians may recall the 2018 stabbing, as Kingston Police requested information from the public in piecing together the events of the night. In the end, six men, all from the GTA, were charged by Kingston Police in relation to the incidents.

Some four and a half years later, on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022, the man convicted of possession of a dangerous weapon and aggravated assault in connection with that stabbing appeared at the Superior Court of Justice in Kingston to receive his sentence from Justice Graeme Mew.

Justice Mew had found Abdul Mohib Mohammad guilty on Friday, July 29, 2022, following a seven-day judge-only trial, which took place more than four years after the violent events, the delay due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. Having overseen the trial, Justice Mew was familiar with the case. For the purposes of understanding Mohammad’s sentencing – and Justice Mew’s reasoning for it – the following is a chronological synopsis of the events that occurred that night in 2018.

As Justice Mew briefly recounted at the sentencing, the events occurred at approximately 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jun. 30, 2018, in the parking lot area out front of The Spot Nightclub House of Donair (located in the plaza on the east side of Division Street just south of Princess Street). There were eight men in total involved in the altercation: six from the GTA, and two from Kingston. At the December 2022 sentencing, the court heard that issues between the two groups of men were seemingly ongoing off and on for some time that night:

“Video footage from The House of Donair security camera taken between 2:34 a.m. and 3 a.m. shows members of the two groups – the Kingston group and the Toronto group – in different combinations, moving around. There are a number of minor skirmishes and altercations between members of the groups,” Justice Mew stated.

“At 2:54:55 on the security camera timer, security personnel and a number of the other individuals who had been hanging out on the concrete pad in front of The House of Donair are seen moving quickly away from the camera. It was at that time that I concluded that the incident during which you stabbed Malik Downer occurred.”

The court also heard that Mohammad had, by his own admission, engaged in a face-to-face altercation with the other of the two men from Kingston. It is that man – not Downer – whom Mohammad alleged spat in his face and made racist remarks to him. In retaliation, Mohammad punched that man.

According to Justice Mew, it seemed Mohammad had no reason to assault Downer; Downer had not spat or made racist remarks towards Mohammad, nor had he physically assaulted him.

“Before the stabbing, several witnesses had either seen you brandishing a knife or saying that you were going to stab, or ‘poke’ someone with it,” Mew stated.

“As to the stabbing itself, you and one or more other members of the Toronto group attacked Malik Downer. Witnesses saw you making stabbing motions during the course of the attack, and DNA taken from bloodstains on your clothing corresponded with Malik Downer’s DNA,” he continued.

“The evidence did not disclose any particular reason for you to attack Mr. Downer. While you appear to justify your engagement with members of the Kingston group because one of them spat on your face and disrespected you with a racial comment, it has not been suggested that Mr. Downer attacked or disrespected you, and indeed, as you would have observed, Mr. Downer is himself a racialized person.”

Justice Mew gave a brief insight into Mohammad and his life, noting that the offender has no criminal record outside of this case. Currently 25, Mohammad was born in Afghanistan and moved to Canada with his family in 2005. Referencing the defendant’s “hard-working parents” and “stable home environment” that is “devoid of abuse or substance abuse,” Mew noted that Mohammad “played soccer and avoided the influences that were prevalent” in the Toronto neighbourhood he grew up in. While Mohammad did not complete high school in favour of gaining employment, the pre-sentence report in the case indicated that the defendant plans to go back to school and become an electrician.

“Your friends and family all regard the offences you have been convicted of as being completely out of character,” Mew remarked.

“You maintain your innocence of these offences which, of course, is your prerogative to do. However, when you addressed the court you apologised for your actions, saying you made poor decisions and that you regret it all.”

Justice Mew then weighed the aggravating and mitigating factors in the case, first noting that the “obvious aggravating factor is that what you did was extremely dangerous” and could have easily resulted in Downer’s death.

“Mr. Downer was in a vulnerable position, having been set upon by at least two if not more people, including yourself,” he continued.

“The fact that others in the Kingston group may have been aggressive towards you is not a mitigating factor. You had a more than ample opportunity to remove yourself from the earlier jostling and engagement with that group. Indeed, you testified that you stepped away for a few minutes to call your mother shortly before Mr. Downer was attacked by you.”

The judge said, however, that Mohammad’s lack of criminal record was “a significant consideration,” as was the “lengthy period of time – in excess of four years – during most of which you have been subject to restrictive bail conditions.” Those conditions, Mew shared, included the requirement Mohammad live at his family home and only leave the home when accompanied by his older brother.

Citing numerous examples of case law, Mew explained that, in sentencing Mohammad, he must decide on a sliding scale the egregiousness of the defendant’s offences. Noting that there was no premeditation and that the crimes were not entirely unprovoked, Mew alluded to the eventual sentence:

“It seems to me that the circumstances of this case fall closest to the mid-range. You are a first-time offender. Your involvement in this incident appears to have been out of character and not pre-meditated. The group dynamics in the half hour or so before you stabbed Mr. Downer did involve elements of verbal and physical jostling between the two groups, although it does concern me that there was no particular reason for you to have picked on Mr. Downer,” he said.

“Nor can I ignore the fact that the outcome, in terms of Mr. Downer’s injuries, could have been much more serious. Furthermore, when it comes to cases of aggravated assault with a weapon, the factors of denunciation and deterrence are paramount,” Mew continued, pointing to a quote from Justice Leach from R v. Kavinsky:

“The community must not think that carrying knives to social functions, and using them to resolve differences when conflict occurs, is generally something that will be taken lightly, regardless of the potentially lethal consequences, provided the offender is young, has no prior criminal record, regrets his or her conduct after the fact, and seems unlikely to reoffend once confronted with the tragic consequences of such stupidity,” that case reads.

“To the contrary, the community, and young people in particular, should know that carrying readily accessible knives to social functions creates extraordinary risks, with potentially very serious consequences, and that such conduct will be dealt with sternly when such knives are used, with predictably tragic results. All concerned need to factor that into their decision making, and hopefully take the smart and sensible course of leaving knives alone or at home.”

Noting that Mohammad’s pre-sentence report was “largely positive,” Mew again voiced his concern that the defendant had not accepted responsibility for his actions, but then said that fact is not an aggravating factor in the sentencing decision. Mew then noted that Mohammad was 21 at the time of the incident and is a first-time offender; Mew also alluded to the three years Mohammad “lived under house-arrest type conditions.”

Considering all the above, and “given the length of time that it has taken to get to this point, some of the delay being attributable to Covid-19,” Mew said in his decision, “I have concluded that a fit sentence in your case is a term of imprisonment of nine months, followed by two years’ probation. You will get credit for the equivalent of 69 days of pre-trial custody.”

Specifically, on the charge of aggravated assault, Mew sentenced Mohammad to nine months imprisonment, and on the charge of possession a weapon, Mew sentenced Mohammad to six months imprisonment, to be served concurrently with the nine-month sentence. A DNA order and a 10-year weapons prohibition were mandatory given the convictions against Mohammad.

The two years of probation thtat will follow the completion of Mohammad’s custodial sentence will, in addition to the statutory conditions, require that he report to a probation officer within two working days of his release, not communicate with either of the victims in the case, not be within 100 metres of any place where those victims would be known to be, and not possess any weapons, as defined by the Criminal Code.

“Good luck, Mr. Mohammad,” Mew concluded. “I hope we do not see you in a courthouse again.”

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