A young British Columbia man was sentenced Thursday to three years in custody for a manslaughter conviction stemming from the beating death of a gay man in a Vancouver park. The sentence imposed was the maximum under Canada's young-offenders law. Two thirds of the time must be served in closed custody. The man, who was 17 at the time of the killing and whose name cannot be revealed because of his age, pleaded guilty to manslaughter July 30 in Vancouver youth court. Defense lawyer David Baker said he planned to appeal the sentence, which exceeded the 22-30 months recommended by prosecutors.
The judge said the killing of Aaron Webster, 41, in the early morning hours of November 17, 2001, was a "savage" example of gay bashing. Ryan Cran and Danny Rao, both 21, have also been charged with manslaughter in the case and are scheduled for a preliminary hearing in April. Webster was repeatedly beaten on the head and upper body with a baseball bat or pool cue near a path in an area known to be frequented by men having anonymous sexual encounters. He was found naked except for his hiking boots.
"To have Aaron's murder recognized for what it is--as a hate crime--is very important to me personally and the community," said Donna Wilson, executive director of a local GLBT community center. "I don't know what an appropriate sentence would be, quite frankly," she said. "It just doesn't seem that anything would truly reflect the impact of murdering a person for their sexual orientation."