The usually peaceful Cowichan River, pictured here in winter, was the scene of an altercation between neighbours in August, 2016, that involved dog feces and beer. (File photo)

Only one of four charges sticks in bizarre neighbour fight at Cowichan River

Altercation between neighbours involved dog feces and beer

A provincial court judge in Duncan has dismissed all but one charge of common assault against one of two defendants after a bizarre incident that took place in the summer of 2016 along the Cowichan River.

Jesse Thomas Bergman and Courtney Brianne Peterson were, altogether, charged with three counts of assault and one of uttering threats after a violent encounter with two of their neighbours while washing their dogs in the river on Aug. 22, 2016.

Warrick and Janice Whitehead alleged that Bergman and Peterson had physically assaulted them, smeared them with dog feces and Bergman poured beer over Warrick after the Whiteheads had complained to them about washing their dogs in the river with soap when water levels were low, impacting the ecosystem.

But the accused claimed that it was the Whiteheads who aggressively approached them at the river, and smeared their belongings with dog feces that they claimed was left on a trail to the river by their dogs.

There was already bad blood between Bergman and Peterson and the Whiteheads over a number of issues between the neighbours before the fight at the river.

Judge J.P MacCarthy ruled on Oct. 30, 2017, that on the first count in the case, in which it was alleged that Bergman uttered a threat to Janice Whitehead to cause death or bodily harm to her husband, the Crown failed to prove the allegation beyond a reasonable doubt and dismissed the charge.

On the second count, that Bergman assaulted Warrick Whitehead and caused bodily harm, McCarthy concluded that while Bergman did strike Whitehead in the ribs, he did so in circumstances where he was protecting Peterson from Whitehead and dismissed the charge.

On the third count, which alleged that Peterson assaulted Janice Whitehead, the judge ruled that the Crown had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Peterson either spread dog excrement on or punched Janice Whitehead and dismissed the charge.

On the fourth count, which alleged that Bergman and Peterson assaulted Warrick Whitehead, McCarthy concluded that the Crown had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Peterson either spread dog excrement or poured beer on Whitehead or in any other way assaulted him and dismissed the charge against her.

The judge also concluded that while Bergman did strike Whitehead on the ear, as was alleged, he did so in circumstances where he was defending himself from the assaultive behaviour of Whitehead.

But MacCarthy did find Bergman guilty of common assault for pouring beer on Whitehead as he lay prone on the ground during the incident.

Bergman received an absolute discharge.

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