A Winnipeg soccer player's goal for justice was denied by a Court of Queen's Bench judge who overturned a conviction of assault causing bodily harm, ruling a goal-line scramble for the ball is part of the game.
Goalie Scott Keast, 37, suffered extensive injuries when he and Greg (Grzegorz) Pawel Adamiec struggled for control of the ball. Adamiec, 28, had been convicted following the July 13, 2009 game, described as a competitive amateur match in the adult men's Manitoba Major Soccer League.
Adamiec was accused of kicking and stomping Keast in the head during a struggle for the ball.
Justice Chris Mainella's ruling stated "although the conduct of Adamiec was contrary to the rules of soccer, it was not beyond soccer's playing culture, let alone gravely so, which is required for sporting misconduct to be a crime."
Keast was disappointed in the judge's ruling.
"Jumping on a guy's head causing repeated cleat marks in multiple directions, that's not part of the sport," Keast said in a telephone interview from Saskatoon. "I was the goalie, so I was down on the ground. You don't jump on somebody's head."
Keast suffered a hip pointer, broken hyoid bone and deep bruises to much of his upper body and said in his impact statement in the 2011 trial that he was in intense pain and sank into a depression that included suicidal thoughts and gained more than 30 pounds from inactivity and being unable to work for an extended period of time.
"The message is that there's a lack of common sense in the court system and, minus taking a knife or a weapon to somebody even though a cleat is a weapon, you can get away with absolutely anything but murder on a sports field, which is not correct," Keast said.
Greg Brodsky, Adamiec's lawyer, said his client did not want to speak to the media.
"My client would like me to convey that he is really happy that the matter has been resolved. It's taken a long time," said Brodsky. "He couldn't travel, he wanted to go out of the country and he was unable to do so because of this conviction... He's been very upset about these proceedings."
Adamiec's sentence of 12 months' probation and an order to pay Keast $1,500 in medical costs was thrown out.
"Just because somebody gets off doesn't mean they're actually innocent," Keast said. "A truly innocent person would just hire a lawyer off the street, anybody they could possibly get. If you have money in this world, it helps."
The murky issue of consent, in a sport such as soccer in which contact is part of the game, is at the heart of the acquittal.
"The first defence (in the provincial court conviction) was that it was an accident. The (provincial court) judge ruled that this was no accident because it was intentional," Brodsky said. "There was an implied consent to that intentional application of force as long as it is in the course of the game."
Keast said he did not consent to getting stomped multiple times.
"Anybody that I've spoke to that plays soccer in Europe says a cleat is a form of a weapon but for some reason in Canada, they don't consider a cleat a weapon," Keast said. "When it comes to having multiple cleat marks underneath your chin, on your face, that's proof right there -- that's no one-time accident, it's repeated force."
The defence successfully argued the kicking that occurred was just part of the game.
"Two people were going for the ball from opposite teams as part of intentional contact on both sides. The goalie (Keast) grabbed the ball, and my client, whose leg was entrapped when the goalie grabbed the ball, kicked to extricate himself," Brodsky said.
"We argued (in the appeal) that it was intentional, but not to inflict harm, but to have the contact. The kicking was intentional, that wasn't accidental, but we argued that it was in the course of the game."
-- with files from Mike McIntyre