Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bodybuilder vows fresh start at sentencing for assault

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An award-winning Manitoba amateur bodybuilder vowed Thursday to rebuild his reputation after being called to account for roughing up a stranger to help his girlfriend collect a debt.

"I was wrong in what I did, and I'm accountable for that -- and it has cost me more than probably anyone in this room knows," Todd Payette, 44, told court Thursday as he was sentenced on an assault charge.

"It has cost me the respect of my family and my friends, and my standing in the bodybuilding community," Payette told provincial court Judge Tracey Lord. "I've lost the right to compete and represent Manitoba -- which I did so proudly," he said, his voice breaking.

Winnipeg police arrested Payette March 12, 2011, not long after he assaulted a man outside his girlfriend's home. According to the Crown, Payette's beau requested his help, believing a tenant was a violent alcoholic.

Payette, a chiselled and imposing 230-pound figure, confronted the 166-pound victim outside and tossed him up against a car.

The man fell to the ground and Payette wouldn't let him up. Payette then roughed him up a bit more before telling him to cough up the $90 he owed in unpaid rent, Crown attorney Mandy Ambrose said. The victim got away and sought medical attention for a sore neck at a walk-in clinic, Lord was told.

The car was damaged to the tune of $2,390, an amount Payette has agreed to immediately pay to Manitoba Public Insurance. Charges of extortion and uttering threats were dropped.

Because of his pending charges, Payette was barred from bodybuilding competitions. The sport has been at the core of his life since he was a teen. He's been to national competitions several times and placed third in the 2009 Canadian National Bodybuilding Championships.

He had no prior record and the assault was completely out of character, court heard.

"I've always done my best to avoid violence and I often joke with friends and co-workers the reason I got big was so that I never had to fight."

Payette doesn't drink or use drugs but some family members had troubled histories with alcohol, court heard. When Payette's girlfriend told him about the debtor tenant's suspected alcohol use and violence, it triggered bad memories for Payette and he overreacted, said Bourcier.

"He's certainly not an enforcer or anything like that. He's simply a friend trying to help a friend and he did a very bad thing here," Bourcier said.

Lord agreed to a conditional discharge and a year of supervised probation.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2013 A16

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