Victim of brutal Penticton beach attack shares trauma at sentencing hearing for attacker, as lawyers debate jail time

How much jail time?

UPDATE: 4:10 p.m.

The Crown is seeking a sentence between five and six years for Thomas Kruger-Allen's assault of a man at Okanagan Beach in 2019, which left the man facing brain surgery and potentially a lifetime of intermittent seizures.

In Penticton court Tuesday, Crown prosecutor Nashina Devji asked the judge for the sentence, after a morning laying out the circumstances and allowing victim Brad Eliason and his ex-wife Chelcie Townend to say their piece.

Then, defence lawyer James Pennington had his say, asking the judge for a sentence "somewhere between 12 and 18 months," citing Kruger-Allen's difficult childhood and purported improvement and new outlook on life after undergoing counselling in incarceration.

"When you look at the circumstances of his upbringing, one may ask, did he ever have a chance at all?” Pennington asked.

“At his age, 23, one should not be too quick to close the book on him."

Kruger-Allen is entitled to 783 days of credit for time served, according to the Crown, which would be subtracted from any sentence imposed by the judge.

Sentencing is expected to conclude Wednesday.

ORIGINAL: 12:50 p.m.

"We will never be the same. We will never have the life we dreamed of. It was all taken away the night Thomas Kruger-Allen decided to assault my husband."

The sentencing hearing for the man behind a brutal attack on a stranger at Okanagan Beach is underway in Penticton court Tuesday, with emotional victim impact statements from the man assaulted and his now ex-wife.

On May 3, 2019, Brad Eliason, then 28, was knocked backward onto concrete after a single, allegedly unprovoked punch from Thomas Kruger-Allen. Kruger-Allen pleaded guilty to the assault.

According to Crown prosecutor Nashina Devji, who opened proceedings by relaying several different witness' statements in her submissions Tuesday morning, Eliason had come across Kruger-Allen in a verbal and physical altercation with a pair of young women at a fire pit on Okanagan Beach, and had simply asked "What's going on?" before Kruger-Allen, in a drunken rage, turned to Eliason and hit him, then ran away.

Devji said multiple witnesses reported that an intoxicated Kruger-Allen had placed his hand on the buttocks of one of the young women, then when she protested, he punched her chest. After another young woman tried to intervene and diffuse the situation, he hit her in the face. At that point, Eliason approached on his way back to his own fire pit, and was also punched.

Eliason needed brain surgery, was placed in a medically-induced coma for months, and continues to suffer seizures. Court heard that the incident and subsequent medical and physical ramifications lost him his job, his house, his dog and his marriage.

Devji outlined Kruger-Allen's background, describing an "exceptionally sad childhood," as both the victim of and witness to sexual and domestic violence. Citing a psychiatric report, she said Kruger-Allen has ongoing issues with depression, anxiety, impulse control and anger management, all of which are exacerbated by his substance abuse.

She also outlined his extensive and violent criminal history. Kruger-Allen was out on bail for another violent assault at the time of the attack on Eliason, and currently has a pending trial for a home invasion scheduled for this May.

"It appears that without severe and significant intervention, Mr. Kruger-Allen poses a severe risk to the community that he is in,” Devji said.

Eliason appeared in court to read his victim impact statement. Devji explained ahead of the brief statement that Eliason had been struggling to put words to paper about his experience for months, working with multiple therapists, and had only completed it Monday night.

"My wife left me, I lost my house, I lost my pets, I cannot work," Eliason said, then adding his concern for the young women Kruger-Allen had been embroiled with on that fateful night. "I wouldn’t change what I did, at the same time I apologize I wasn’t able to help earlier."

His ex-wife Chelcie Townend had a longer story to share with the court. She described the blind panic she felt May 3, 2019, the horror of arriving at the emergency room to find her husband with his head swollen beyond recognition, vomiting blood and screaming.

"I sat in his bed holding him as he rocked back and forth in agonizing pain," Townend said.

Eliason spent months in a medically-induced coma, then slowly came back to life in the summer, as Townend described. She said they had a "beautiful month" together, before he needed to return for more surgery, and serious seizures followed.

"The amount of trauma on his brain was a lot, and it changed him,” she said, describing memory loss, anger, and outbursts that "terrified" her. It was all very different from the funny, kind and hardworking husband she knew before his brain injury.

"I went on to have panic attacks and PTSD. My hair fell out, I lost weight, I missed work. I was trying to hold it all together when my life was completely falling apart," Townend said, her voice catching with emotion.

“The saddest part of all of this is that we lost each other. We will never be the same."

The hearing will resume at 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon with Crown's recommendations for sentencing, and Castanet will have the update.

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