A man who tormented staff at North Vancouver's Lynn Valley Care Centre with dozens of hoax phone calls early in the pandemic was convicted Friday in BC Supreme Court for trapping a man in a Richmond apartment and subjecting the victim to assault and humiliation for more than a day.
Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes found Taymour Aghtai, 28, guilty of sexual assault with a weapon, assault with a weapon, extortion, unlawful confinement and use of an imitation firearm in relation to the unlawful confinement.
At the time of the crimes, six months after the Lynn Valley Care Centre hoax calls, Aghtai was operating a business buying and selling merchandise from his home. The victim, who he had known since they were teenagers, occasionally supplied or purchased items.
The victim, whose name is protected by a publication ban, testified during the trial that once he arrived at the apartment near the Richmond Olympic Oval on Sept. 4, 2020, Aghtai hit him on the head from behind, and restrained him with handcuffs and zap straps. He said Aghtai and others assaulted and humiliated over the course of 30 hours until he escaped.
The man testified that Aghtai “was not the main aggressor, but played a very significant role,” Holmes said.
Aghtai denied the charges. Holmes said that he testified the man “willingly stayed at the apartment, and was at no time subjected to any restraint, violence or abuse of any type that Mr. Aghtai inflicted or witnessed.”
Holmes found the evidence showed beyond a reasonable doubt that Aghtai kept the man restrained physically and sometimes used threats and intimidation against the victim. For instance, Aghtai fired bear spray directly into the victim’s mouth and was a party to the pistol-whipping of a man with an imitation firearm.
Holmes said that he also aided and encouraged a sexual assault with a broom handle, recording it on video and laughing while he did so. Aghtai also committed extortion by aiding and abetting another man to use threats of violence to induce the victim to have or simulate intercourse with a dog, which was also recorded.
She found the victim to be a better witness than Aghtai.
“Some of the offences on Mr. Aghtai's criminal record, such as conveying a false message with intent to alarm, and obtaining by false pretenses, and fraud, of falsehood at their core,” Holmes said. “This, too, weighs against Mr. Aghtai's credibility.”
He will be sentenced at a later date.
Before she read her verdict, Holmes revealed the reason for adjourning Aghtai’s previous hearing.
“It was my turn to get COVID, and I’m over it,” Holmes said. “But there is a lingering cough and occasionally it comes out of the blue and I can’t stop.”
Holmes had managed to stay healthy while presiding over the highest-profile international and domestic BC Supreme Court white-collar cases that coincided with the pandemic: The extradition hearings for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou and the fraud and breach of trust trial of former B.C. Legislature clerk Craig James.
The verdict came 11 days after a judge in North Vancouver Provincial Court reserved sentencing of Aghtai for public mischief and two counts of conveying a false message with intent to alarm.
Aghtai had pleaded guilty in December 2021 to making 63 malicious crank calls to four managers, six nurses and two administrators at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in March 2020.
The Crown recommended a sentence of two years less a day, plus three years probation. Aghtai’s defence lawyer asked for a 16-to-18-month sentence. Sentencing was originally scheduled for October, but Aghtai refused to leave his cell before the hearing.
Provincial Court heard Jan. 16 that a 2014 psychological assessment concluded that Aghtai was a narcissistic, anti-social alcohol abuser with psychopathic tendencies.
Aghtai has a criminal record dating back to 2008 for making hoax phone calls that falsely alleged heinous crimes or impersonated police officers. He also has a record of assault, robbery, break and enter, confinement and weapons offences, and violating court orders.
In 2020, he stole personal protective equipment from a seniors care home and escaped lawful custody at Richmond Hospital where he assaulted two corrections officers by threatening them with a contaminated syringe.