A Canadian lawyer blames weed after he’s arrested for attacking a family and will avoid time in prison, a judge has ruled. Toronto personal injury attorney Mark Phillips pleaded guilty to one charge of assault causing bodily injury. Canadian media reports that the case appears to be the first of its kind in the country’s court system.
Lawyer Attacked Family With Baseball Bat
Police arrested Phillips after he attacked a family at a mall in St. Thomas, Ontario last December. Sergio Estepa and his wife Mari Zambrano were at the shopping center with their teenage son Nick and a family friend.
As the group spoke Spanish in the parking lot, Phillips accosted them while shouting that they were terrorists.
Phillips then retrieved a baseball bat from his car and attacked the family. He subsequently struck the elder Estepa with the bat, cracking one of his ribs.
Pot Caused Drug-induced Psychosis
Justice John Skowronski heard the case in Elgin County Courthouse in Ontario last week. During the hearing, defense attorney Steven Skurka said that before the incident, Phillips had a clean record and had exhibited no signs of racial bias.
But, he said, Phillips had been mentally unstable immediately prior to the attack.
He had been ejected from Air Canada Center and had an altercation with a construction worker in St. Thomas, according to reports. Patrons at a fast-food restaurant in Woodstock witnessed him “acting strange, talking to himself, and being loud.”
After the incident, psychiatrist Peter Collins of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto evaluated Collins. During their sessions, Phillips admitted that he had been smoking marijuana heavily. He told the doctor that cannabis helped him to clear his mind.
He also reported smoking “three or four joints” the morning of the assault.
Collins determined that Phillips’ marijuana use had led to his violent and erratic behavior.
“In my professional opinion, Mark Aaron Phillips suffered from a drug-induced psychosis in and around the time of the event that led to his arrest,” he wrote in his report.
The psychiatrist also noted that cannabis available today has higher levels of the cannabinoid THC than previously. That leads to more cases of drug-induced psychosis, according to Collins.
Justice Skowronski then agreed with the psychiatrist’s findings.
“This is something that took place because of a mental illness,” the judge said.
Final Hit: Lawyer Blames Weed After He’s Arrested For Attacking A Family
Because of Justice Skowronski’s ruling, Phillips will avoid time in prison. His lawyer asked for and the judge granted a conditional discharge. If he successfully completes three years of probation, the court will clear his record of criminal charges.
During his probation, he must attend counseling and complete 240 hours of community service. He must also abstain from all non-prescription drugs including marijuana. That requirement will not change when Canada legalizes cannabis later this year.
Prosecutor Lisa Defoe had originally suggested a suspended sentence and probation. But that would have left Phillips with a criminal record.
Phillips apologized when the judge asked him if he had anything to say.
“I’m very, very sorry for what happened,” he told the court.