TWO men who threw a couch over an internal hotel balcony, seriously injuring a woman sitting below, have been sentenced to two years’ jail.
Joshua Timoteo, 27, of Varsity Lakes in Queensland, and Luke Ledingham, 32, from Lennox Head, appeared in Tamworth Local Court yesterday where they were both handed the maximum penalty that can be dealt by a local court.
Magistrate Roger Prowse said it was “drunken, violent behaviour” that deserved punishment.
“The outcome might have been reckless, but the lead-up parts were deliberate,” Magistrate Prowse said. “There was no way of controlling (the couch) after it left their hands.”
Magistrate Prowse said he had no choice but to impose a custodial sentence, because the incident fell into the middle to upper end of the offending scale.
He said Ledingham was “the one that had the disastrous idea” in the first place and sentenced him to two years’ jail with no parole, while Timoteo was sentenced to two years’ jail, with a non-parole period of 22 months.
Both men appeared in court dressed in suits and were supported by their wives, but remained quiet throughout the sentencing proceedings.
They were charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm in company of others after the March incident.
Brooke Dewberry, 43, sustained serious head and neck injuries and was in court for yesterday’s sentencing.
Outside the court, Ms Dewberry said she was “content with the outcome” but wouldn’t be making any further comment until any other court proceedings, such as an appeal, had passed.
The men’s solicitor, Michael McMillan, said his clients’ contrition was demonstrated in their pleas.
They both “expressed deep remorse about the injuries sustained by the victim”, Mr McMillan told the court.
“Their remorse is true,” he said.
Mr McMillan told the court despite the amendments to the charges, which saw two offences dropped and replaced with the current charge, both of his clients had always intended to plead guilty.
He tendered a psychological assessment and counselling reports for Ledingham, who sought medical help after the March incident.
Several references supporting the two men was also presented to the court.
Mr McMillan said the behaviour involved some recklessness to general public safety and it could only be described as “serious conduct”.
He said both of his clients had each presented cheques of $5000 to be forwarded to the victim for compensation and to help cover some of her out-of-pocket medical costs.
“A genuine sign of their remorse,” Mr McMillan told the court. “Alcohol was clearly a trigger.”
Mr McMillan said Ledingham had alcohol issues which were now being addressed.
“What we have here is drunken, reckless conduct, rather than intentional conduct,” he said.
Mr McMillan said that during interviews with police neither of his clients were aware someone had been injured. These are family men who run businesses. They are loved by their children and their families,” he said.
“It was one gratuitous act of violence. This is recklessly drunk idiocy.”
The court heard the duo was working in Tamworth at the time but decided to go out when the rain set in on March 1.
According to security surveillance that night, both were drinking upstairs in the nightclub area at the Good Companions Hotel on Bridge St about 9.59pm.
Ledingham then began to lift a two-seater couch before Timoteo assisted, flipping the lounge over the internal balcony railing.
It fell six or seven yards to the floor, slamming into Ms Dewberry, who was seated below with a friend. Shortly afterwards, Ledingham and Timoteo walked down the stairs and left the hotel before walking to another hotel up the street.
Ms Dewberry sustained injuries to her neck and head and was treated at the scene by ambulance paramedics before she was rushed to Tamworth hospital. She was later flown to John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle for further treatment.
Police were called and obtained descriptions of the men, who were later arrested at the Central Hotel.
The men were shown CCTV footage of the incident and were taken to Tamworth Police Station and charged.
The court was yesterday told the impact of the 15kg lounge hitting Ms Dewberry from that height fractured one of her vertebrae, causing the loss of sensation down one side of her body.
In medical evidence tendered to the court, a doctor said Ms Dewberry had suffered a mild traumatic brain injury and would need ongoing care.
Magistrate Prowse said in sentencing he needed to determine where the offending fell on the scale.
“For no reason whatsoever Mr Ledingham decided to lift up (the chair). For no reason whatsoever they threw or tipped the chair up and over the balcony,” he said. “Up in the air and they let it go.
“Three distinct, deliberate acts. There could have been no other consequence.”
Magistrate Prowse said, just like Newton had discovered, it would have undoubtedly fallen down.
Both men stared at the front of the court throughout the proceedings, only turning to look at their wives before being led away by Corrective Services officials.
Timoteo will be eligible for parole in June 2015, while Ledingham will be released in August 2015.