By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
A University of Ontario Institute of Technology graduate student has been found guilty of threatening to kill his professor and his family.
Justice Joseph A. De Filippis found the student guilty in a judge-alone trial that had originally been set to take only one day, but ended up seeing dates in May, June and September 2014, as well as February and May of this year. De Filippis released his judgment last month.
One key piece of evidence in the trial, a note written in Mandarin and found on the student at the time of his 2013 arrest, came into dispute. The defence argued the note was not a threat toward the teacher, but rather the written evidence of the teacher’s threat toward the student.
“You tortured me and made sure nothing good happened to me. You ruined my education degree and my future,” the translated note reads, according to court documents. “Someday, I will take revenge on you for sure. I will kill you, including your wife and children.”
The defence disputed the translation of the letter, saying the Mandarin words for “education degree” could also be translated as “academic position,” referring to the teacher in the case.
Both the student and the teacher are married with children.
A court-appointed translator, however, disputed this notion, saying that while the literal translation is “academic position,” it usually refers to pursuing a degree.
History of the case
The defendant began his graduate studies at UOIT in 2010, with the teacher becoming his supervisor the following year.
The defendant had been tasked with completing his thesis, and received a $1,500 monthly stipend from the university for related activities.
In December 2012, the teacher reported to his superiors that the defendant was experiencing health problems that were affecting his studies, and that when he attempted to address this with the student, he became hostile.
The teacher testified that the student had told him “be careful of your future…if you don’t treat me well.”
The teacher said he did not tell his superiors about the threats made to his family, as he did not want to engage “the legal process” and instead focused on resolving the situation. Regardless, the program’s dean reduced the defendant’s monthly payments to $500.
By March 2013, the defendant had been granted an extension on his thesis to that May, as well as having his $1,500 monthly payments reinstated.
However, the teacher testified that on March 15, things turned for the worse, saying that he was told, “I must be careful with my family and my kids if I don’t let him pass his thesis.”
Three days later, after being interviewed by security, the teacher testified that the defendant returned to his office, “clasped his teeth and spoke with determination” and said: ‘I would absolutely revenge on your whole family and I would kill your kids if you don’t let me pass my theses. I mean it, I mean it.’”
The defendant was arrested that day.
The student, however, maintained that it was the teacher who had threatened to kill him and his family, saying the teacher turned on him after reporting an attempt to extort a bribe from him to pass his studies.
The defendant said he filed a complaint with the program’s dean in December 2012 over the request of a bribe for more than $2,500, as well as how the professor was threatening never allow him to pass the program and was “spending hours during the work day reading Buddhist scripture, rather than performing his duties.”
The student testified his professor confronted him the following month after learning about the complaint, telling him “How dare you, as a student, challenge me and accuse your professor. I cannot tolerate a student with such audacity. I’m going to kill you.”
The defendant said that he attempted to get assistance in completing his studies for his thesis at the University of Toronto, approaching his professor on March 15. 2013 and again a few days later, on March 18 but was told by the professor that it wasn’t his responsibility. Later that afternoon, the student was arrested.
The presiding judge in the case did not buy the defendant’s side of the story, writing in his judgment that “it makes no sense that the defendant would seek the complainant’s assistance on March 15 and 18, when later was supposed to have earlier threatened the defendant and his family.”
De Filippis also called into question the defendant’s behaviour in December 2012 and January 2013, saying it seemed odd that the student complained that the teacher was threatening not to pass him, but neglected to mention the professor threatened to kill him.
De Filippis sentenced the defendant to two years of probation and prohibited him from owning weapons.