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Judge rejects separate trial for Johnson brothers

Judge Dan Moon dismissed an application for a separate trial from two Gibsons brothers charged in the Pender Harbour May Day assaults.

Judge Dan Moon dismissed an application for a separate trial from two Gibsons brothers charged in the Pender Harbour May Day assaults. Drew and Paul Johnson are in jail after being denied bail for 14 assault and weapons charges related to the May 23 hockey stick attacks in a Kleindale campground.

In Sechelt court Sept. 1, they applied to have their trial severed from the trial of three co-accused men. Those three, Daryl Costello, Daniel Wood and Michael Webb, are out on bail and their lawyer is not available for a trial before May 2005.

Greg Cranston, lawyer for the Johnsons, said it is "totally unacceptable" to keep them in jail so long.

He asked for the Johnsons to be tried separately so they could have an earlier trial. However, Moon dismissed Cranston's application.

"The only person who has jurisdiction is the trial judge," said Moon. Because there is no trial date set for this case yet, no trial judge has yet been named.

Cranston replied, "If that is the law, it doesn't make any sense."

Moon suggested Cranston instead ask for a bail review in B.C. Supreme Court. Moon had made the same suggestion a week earlier when he rejected Cranston's argument that the Johnsons' long wait in jail violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Meanwhile, in court Aug. 30, the Johnson brothers began their trial for a different charge of assault causing bodily harm. That assault allegedly happened at the Peninsula Motor Inn April 19.

The alleged victim, 26-year-old Mark Zealand, testified that Paul Johnson attacked him after he made a joke about Drew Johnson's abdominal muscles.

Zealand testified he was talking with a woman at the bar who said "you're in such good shape, let's see those abs," and pulled up his shirt. According to Zealand, Drew Johnson then stepped up in an "antagonistic, cocky" manner, lifted his own shirt and flexed his stomach muscles at Zealand.

"I said, 'come back when you're 20 pounds heavier and off the steroids'," said Zealand.

According to Zealand, Drew Johnson then stepped up to him in a threatening manner, but he wasn't expecting a fight until Paul Johnson stepped in front of Drew and started throwing punches.

"I got hit two times right away, without even having a chance to see anything," said Zealand. "Then two more were coming at me. Then I hit the ground."

Zealand and the bar owner both testified that the Johnson brothers teamed up to administer a beating that left Zealand with severe bruises on the left side of his face, his shirt torn off and cuts and bruises on his back and shoulders.

"[Paul] hit me about nine uppercuts to my face. I remember at that point thinking, 'so this is what it feels like to get beat up'," said Zealand. "I managed to get up on my feet and he got me in a choke hold I remember panicking."

Drew Johnson told a very different story. He said he flexed his abs at Zealand and engaged in an exchange of words that were leading to "some sort of altercation." However, he said it was Zealand who started the actual fight by tackling Paul Johnson when he stepped in to separate them.

He said Zealand knocked Paul to the ground and the rest of the brief fight was "just a standard wrestling match." He said he never struck any blows in the fight because Daryl Costello was holding him back.

Drew Johnson testified he lifts weights three to seven days a week, is proud of his physique and has taken steroids in the past. However, he said Zealand's comment about his abdominal muscle was "not really insulting coming from a smaller person."

The trial will continue on a date to be determined.