Gary Edwin Mattson will spent an indefinite period of time behind bars after he was declared a dangerous offender Monday, for his vicious attack on St. Albert man Tom Bregg.
Bregg was an Edmonton Transit driver when Mattson boarded his bus on Dec. 3, 2009 and swiftly went from unruly passenger to brutal and violent attacker.
Mattson punched Bregg several times in the head, knocking him unconscious before dragging him from the driver's seat to the pavement outside the bus, where he began stomping on Bregg's head.
The assault left Bregg near death. He suffered broken facial bones, brain damage and lost an eye in the attack. His recovery is still ongoing. He was unable to return to work as a bus driver.
Mattson was found a few blocks away with blood all over his shoes and pant leg and was taken into custody after struggling with police. Mattson pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and assaulting a police officer in the case. Following the plea, the court heard several weeks of testimony split into sessions over the last year aimed at determining whether or not Mattson qualified as a dangerous offender.
Brutal and senseless
In a lengthy written decision, Judge Harry Bridges described the assault as brutal and senseless, saying it was a clear sign Mattson had no ability to control his actions.
"The offender removed his victim from the bus for no other apparent reason than to facilitate the balance of the beating, administered by stomps to the face and one to the throat," wrote Bridges. "It shows that the offender exercised no self-control in carrying out this beating."
The dangerous offender designation will leave Mattson jailed until he is deemed little or no risk to re-offend violently.
Bridges' decision rejected several other proposed options the defence put forward, including a fixed term prison term or a sentence combined with a long-term offender designation.
A psychiatrist who interviewed Mattson and testified as part of the process, said the young man had anti-social and paranoid personality disorders and a host of other mental issues. He outlined a possible course of intensive treatment but Bridges said he was not satisfied the public would be protected.
"The prospects for treatment are very poor given his persistent personality problems. On the evidence before this court I cannot say that the slim treatment prospects will adequately protect the public."
The defence had argued that Mattson was intoxicated during the attack on Bregg and that Mattson would not pose a danger if he got his alcohol addiction in control, but Bridges found Mattson was aware of his actions and followed them through anyway.
"No matter how much or how little was going on in the offender's alcohol-sodden mind, while he assaulted Mr. Bregg, I infer from his dash away from the unconscious body of the victim that the offender grasped that he had done something seriously wrong."
Bridges did take into account Mattson's decision to plead guilty. He said he found Mattson's apparent remorse feigned, noting he focused more on the outcome to Bregg than his own actions.
"The only time the offender has expressed any remorse for his criminal assault was for the extent of the injuries to Mr. Bregg. Even there he felt that the bus driver deserved a couple of punches. This is not genuine remorse."
Crown prosecutor Patricia Innes welcomed Bridges' verdict and said from the beginning the Crown wanted to see the public protected from future outbursts of violence.
"I believe that society in general is a safer place and I am hopeful that within Corrections Canada Mr. Mattson will avail himself of some of the programs available and will progress."
Innes said she does not believe any one part of the evidence swayed the judge.
"I think it really is everything that the judge heard."
Mattson's lawyer Naeem Rauf said the decision was deeply disappointing and he had advised his client to appeal.
"I thought it lacked compassion and didn't see [Mattson] as a whole man. It judged his whole life on an event that took two or three minutes."
Rauf said the attack was absolutely heinous and Mattson is ashamed of what he did, but given the longest sentence he has ever served before is 90 days it makes no sense to permanently incarcerate him now.
"He himself will be the last person to defend what he did. I know that he is very contrite about what he did and is very remorseful, but you don't throw the keys away for an action that took two or three minutes."
Rauf said some of the addiction counsellors who have worked with Mattson, along with his friends and family, saw hope and wished the judge had done the same.
Mattson became emotional when the decision was read, tilting his head back and appearing to tear up. He yelled, "Can I go now?" at one point just before the hearing ended.
Mattson was also sentenced to six months in prison for assaulting a police officer, which he did during his arrest. With credit and the dangerous offender designation, Mattson will serve time specifically related to that sentence.