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Jury acquits city man in case of one-punch killing of unruly bar patron

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A Winnipeg man has been found not guilty in a deadly dispute outside a popular city bar.

Nicholas Somers, 29, wiped away tears Friday afternoon after a jury cleared him of manslaughter for the July 2010 tragedy at Bar Italia on Corydon Avenue. Deliberations had started Thursday afternoon following an eight-day trial.

Jurors accepted the claim by Somers that he acted in self-defence.

Gary Rent, 33, a University of Manitoba graduate student, died after being punched in the head, falling to the ground, landing hard on the pavement and suffering a traumatic brain injury.

Most of the facts of the case were not in dispute. But Crown and defence lawyers presented vastly different takes on the evidence during closing arguments.

Somers claims he had no choice but to act out after Rent came to the bar looking for a fight and refused to relent. The victim's brother-in-law, Darren Colomy, was also working at the bar and testified Rent, a trained boxer, was angry about a personal family issue and repeatedly challenged him as the bar closed that night.

"Gary Rent was a powder keg, ready to explode," defence lawyer Saul Simmonds told jurors. "A stick of dynamite, primed with alcohol. Violent, aggressive, unpredictable, dangerous. He was a boxer looking for a fight. He was not going to be talked out of a fight, no matter who, no matter what."

Somers testified in his own defence, telling jurors Rent made him feel threatened and he was just trying to protect himself, Colomy and others at the bar. He denied the Crown's suggestion he "sucker-punched" the much smaller Rent.

"Mr. Somers is not being honest. You can't rely on what he says," Crown attorney Chantal Boutin told jurors in her final statement. She said Rent posed little threat to anyone, largely due to his drunken state. An autopsy revealed he was at twice the legal alcohol limit to drive a car.

"Mr. Rent did not see the blow coming," she said.

Colomy -- whom the Crown described as a "mountain of a man who outweighed Rent by more than 100 pounds" -- admitted he never felt as if his safety was at risk and thought he could have defused the situation on his own.

He said Rent was "shadowboxing" with him but never actually laid a hand on him.

www.mikeoncrime.com

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