RESPONDING to taunts to hit a man was the wrong thing for John Leslie Morgan to do during an altercation at the Metropolitan Hotel, according to his solicitor Philip Boncardo.
But Mr Boncardo said his client did not deserve the misdirected public humiliation in the newspaper that followed the incident.
Morgan, 54, pleaded guilty in Orange Local Court on Thursday to assaulting Sean Downey at the Metropolitan Hotel on May 4 this year, but he did not have to answer two further charges of reckless wounding and assault occasioning actual bodily harm against Katrina Catanzariti as they were withdrawn by police.
The accused was convicted and fined $1800 but in his defence submission Mr Boncardo told the court his client’s reputation had been tarnished by being labelled a gay basher and homophobic following what he described as “wildly inaccurate and prejudicial reporting”.
Mr Boncardo told the court his client was a hard-working man who had been deeply affected by his wife’s death as a result of cancer and he also cared for his elderly parents.
The court heard the accused went to the Metropolitan Hotel for a drink with his son on the night of the incident.
“After they had consumed an amount of beer my client’s son licked him on the ear and my client responded with, ‘You are a queer bastard’,” Mr Boncardo said.
He said the victim and his friends at a nearby table took offence at the remarks, believing incorrectly they were aimed at them.
Mr Boncardo said his client then made an error of judgment and responded to a taunt from the victim’s female friend to “go ahead and hit him”.
“My client recognises it was a stupid thing to do and he is genuinely remorseful,” Mr Boncardo said.
Mr Boncardo told the court in 2009 his client had developed a drinking problem as the result of his wife’s death.
“But now he has a new partner and is on the straight and narrow,” he said.
In his statement to police Morgan said he had no intention of harming Ms Catanzariti in the physical argument and he had grabbed her to maintain his balance. She fell to the floor sustaining a head injury in the scuffle.
In sentencing Morgan, magistrate Terry Lucas said he had taken into account the accused’s record of previous assault incidents.
He told the accused people had a right to sit down in a hotel and have a drink without being harassed by other patrons.