Woman living ‘nightmare’ of mall bathroom attack
By STEVE BRUCE Court Reporter
Mon, May 2 – 10:13 AM
Antron Corey Allison Dann
A 2009 attack on a woman in a washroom at a Halifax shopping mall horrified the community and requires a federal prison sentence for the offender, a prosecutor says.
“This crime, quite frankly, is the stuff of nightmares, and (the victim) is living this nightmare," Crown attorney Susan MacKay said Friday in a Halifax courtroom.
“This is the type of crime that rips the fabric of the community. It puts tears in places where there shouldn’t be and requires reparation. And reparation is something that the public looks to the courts to provide."
Antron Corey Allison Dann, 20, pleaded guilty last month to two charges stemming from an incident at Park Lane mall on Spring Garden Road on Sept. 14, 2009.
Dann admitted assaulting the woman with a weapon and committing common assault on a security guard who tried to stop him as he ran through the mall.
A sentencing hearing was held Friday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, with Justice Richard Coughlan reserving his decision for three weeks.
The Crown asked that Dann, a homeless man in jail since last September on other matters, be sentenced to two years in prison.
Defence lawyer Roger Burrill said a sentence of three to six months in custody, followed by a year or two of probation, would be more appropriate.
According to the statement of facts presented to the court, a young woman who worked in the mall was in a stall in the lower-level ladies’ room at about 8:15 p.m. when Dann slid under the door and confronted her.
Dann was carrying a long, shiny object that the woman thought was a knife, but the defence said was a cellphone.
The woman screamed in terror and fell between the toilet and the side of the stall. She screamed again and, after Dann told her to shut up, kicked at him while trying to protect herself by covering her head with her hands.
Dann ran off without ever striking the woman. She left the stall and sat on the washroom floor screaming until mall cleaning staff and employees from a nearby gym came to her assistance.
A security guard grabbed Dann as he ran through the main level of the mall, but Dann elbowed him and got away.
Dann was charged about a month later with two counts each of assault with a weapon and common assault and single counts of voyeurism and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. He told police he was under the influence of drugs, particularly Risperdal and Prozac, at the time of the attack.
The woman, a university student, detailed the effects of the incident in her victim impact statement to the court.
She said the attack was so traumatizing that four weeks later she was experiencing nausea, stomach pain, sweats and shaking, had trouble breathing and had lost 12 per cent of her weight.
She tried to return to work but could not settle down enough to do her job. She quit and looked for a job away from the mall.
The young woman said it took all the energy she had to force herself to go to class, and when she got there, she couldn’t focus.
Her relationship with her roommates, who had no idea how to help her, deteriorated and she moved into her own apartment.
“I cope mostly by avoiding everything to do with this attack," she wrote. “I don’t discuss it; I don’t remember it. I spend my energy motivating myself to move on and do positive things.
“I have a very supportive family who were very determined to understand post-traumatic stress disorder and to learn how to support me through this recovery. My experience with my roommates taught me what it might be like for people without a support group.
“My assailant chose his moment, but having escaped whatever his plan was, I choose my response and my life."
Dann told the author of his presentence report he had been drinking all day and his plan was to rob the woman, but the prosecutor said the victim didn’t know what he had in mind for her.
“She didn’t know what his intention was," MacKay told the court. “She didn’t know what was going to happen. That must have added to her terror."
The Crown attorney said crimes of extreme personal violence are becoming an almost daily occurrence in the Halifax area, and citizens are “very concerned."
“The public has a right to expect to live in our community in peace, unmolested, unharmed," she said.
“Members of the public who make use of public washrooms should not have to live in fear of being attacked."
Burrill agreed that the incident “must have been a very frightening time" for the woman, but he urged the judge to “look at all the circumstances here."
The defence lawyer said there were no physical injuries, the only weapon involved was a cellphone and his client had no criminal record at the time and was living on the street or in homeless shelters.
“It’s very clear that you have a troubled, disadvantaged young man before the court with a number of significant issues," he said.
“The emphasis here should be on probation. . . . Please do not lose sight of the rehabilitative aspect of our correctional services. Mr. Dann is a person who needs those services."
Given an opportunity to address the court, Dann said: “I’d just like to apologize to (the victim) and her family for what I’ve done. I would just like the community to know that while incarcerated I’ve been working on the person that I am rather than the person that I was, and I will continue to do that when I’m outside."
Last month, Dann was found not guilty of attempted murder, aggravated assault and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose in connection with an attack on a man in a Halifax apartment last August.
He pleaded guilty to stealing the man’s car, two breaches of a recognizance and one breach of probation and was sentenced last week to three months in jail, considered served during his eight months on remand.
Dann has only been formally remanded on the Park Lane charges since April 14, but his lawyer wants the Supreme Court judge to give him credit for some of his remand time on the other matters.
“I’ve not had that suggestion made to me before, that remand time from one offence be applied to another," Coughlan said.
“It’s a novel argument, but it’s been raised and I certainly want to give it some consideration."