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Criminal Justice and Sports

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Criminal Justice and Sports

Criminal Justice and Sports

Blindsided Attack

Brett Yvon



On the night of March 8, 2004, the Vancouver Canucks were playing the Colorado Avalanche in a National Hockey League (NHL) game. During the game, Todd Bertuzzi (Vancouver Canucks) slugged Steve Moore (Colorado Avalanche) in the back of his head and drove his face into the ice. Steve Moore was hospitalized with three fractured vertebrae, facial cuts, post-concussion symptoms and amnesia. Todd Bertuzzi was charged with assault on June 24, 2004 and was suspended indefinitely by the National Hockey League, missing the last 13 regular-season games and seven post-season games and losing nearly $502,000 in salary.

Bertuzzi's trial for assault charges was set for January 17, 2005. Bertuzzi faces a maximum sentence of 18 months if convicted. Bertuzzi also could face a possible civil action from Moore, who has hired Toronto lawyer Tim Danson. Bertuzzi appeared in court for 10 minutes and did not speak to any reporters as he left with his wife in a limousine. His four words in court- "Not guilty, your honor" - were his first public words since March when he tearfully apologized for his actions. Bertuzzi's public statement was an apology two nights after the game. "Steve, I just want to apologize for what happened out there," he said at the time. "I had no intention of hurting you. I feel awful for what transpired." "I don't play the game that way," he added. "I'm not a mean-spirited person. I'm sorry for what happened." I watched ESPN Sportcenter when Bertuzzi was on television apologizing for his actions. What he did was a disgusting act, but I do believe he is sorry for his actions, and I know he did not mean for any of this to happen. I play hockey, and when emotions are running high anything is possible in a dangerous sport like hockey. The punch was witnessed by more than 18,000 people at the arena and has been shown repeatedly in TV clips broadcast across North America and Europe. The attack was seen as retaliation for a hit Moore put on Vancouver star Markus Naslund that left the Canuck captain with a concussion and sidelined him for three games just three weeks earlier. Since the league didn't do anything about Moore's hit on Markus Naslund, the media hyped up the hit and made it a bigger story then it really was. When the two teams played again, everyone knew someone would retaliate back for what Moore did to the Canucks captain. What happened during the game was that Moore was getting into a scuffle with a smaller play on the Canucks, so Bertuzzi came over to protect his teammate and then grabbed Moore's jersey. Moore, knowing he was much smaller then Bertuzzi, backed away and was followed until he was hit in the back of the head. Moore was knocked unconscious while lying in a pool of his own blood before being brought to the hospital.

Government lawyer Garth Loeppky told the court he would call several players as witnesses, though he didn't say which ones. League and game officials and medical staff will also be called. Video evidence will be presented during the trial, which was expected to last three weeks. The charges: assault causing bodily harm, were announced by the criminal justice branch of the ministry of the attorney general after an investigation that lasted four months. Bertuzzi was ordered to appear in provincial court. If found guilty, Bertuzzi could face a penalty ranging from an absolute discharge with no criminal record, to serving jail time. This depends on in which court the trial is heard, which could be determined by the Canadian police before the court appearance. Bertuzzi could face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison if the trial is held in British Columbia Supreme Court. However, that penalty is usually reserved for only the worst cases involving repeat offenders and is highly unlikely in this incident. If the case is heard in a British Columbia provincial court, the maximum penalty is 18 months to two years in jail.

Steve Moore walked out of Rose Medical Center under his own power, just two weeks after his neck was broken. Moore will continue his rehabilitation in Denver for the near future. He had been at Rose Medical Center since March 13; five days after the Canucks' Bertuzzi hit him from behind during a game in Vancouver.

Recently, Bertuzzi received a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to assault, more than nine months after slugging Moore. Bertuzzi accepted a plea bargain from the British Columbia Crown after being charged with assault causing bodily harm. The sentence, which leaves Bertuzzi without a criminal record, was the one recommended

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