Man who slashed Chilliwack homeless man’s face with utility knife to be sentenced Tuesday

Robert Giesbrecht, 35, has already been in custody nearly two years since downtown incident

A 35-year-old man who sliced a homeless man’s face with a utility knife downtown Chilliwack two years ago could be facing a sentence of nearly five years in jail.

The incident occurred on March 3, 2018 when Robert Matthew Giesbrecht pulled up to a group of people camped on the street in front of Auld Phillips on Yale Road. He asked a woman for crack and when she told him to get lost, he became angry.

He drove away, but then came back and, brandishing a large utility knife, he came at the group. A fight ensured that included a male trying to fend Giesbrecht off with a skateboard.

Giesbrecht sliced a man from the middle of his left cheek to the right cheek. The slash caused considerable bleeding but was deemed superficial.

“He spent four or five days in hospital,” Crown counsel John Lester told the court at a sentencing hearing Feb. 4, 2020. “He does have a permanent scar from this slash.”

Giesbrecht was charged with aggravated assault and assault with a weapon.

Lester said that a sentence in the range of five years was appropriate for the vicious attack after the altercation involving drugs.

But Giesbrecht’s lawyer Stephen Price asked for him to be released on time served. Giesbrecht has been in custody since the incident on March 3, 2018 despite being granted bail on a $2,500 surety three days later.

He never perfected bail and he remained in custody.

Because he had been at Surrey Pretrial for 697 days as of the hearing Feb. 4, he will be given credit for 1,046 days or nearly three years. Lester said because of that, he was seeking a provincial sentence of two years less a day followed by three years probation to allow for supervision.

Probation is not available for federal sentences of two years or more.

Lester pointed to a history of violence from Giesbrecht, but he downplayed possible concerns about psychiatric disorders. Giesbrecht had been deemed not-criminally responsible in a previous case, but Lester argued that the current case involved behavioural issues rather than mental health ones.

Lester did point to the possibility of some developmental issues and that he had a “tough upbringing” in an orphanage in Haiti. He was born in Haiti on Aug. 4, 1984 and adopted by a family in Abbotsford when he was eight or nine.

At one point he was diagnosed as schizophrenic and spent time at Colony Farm, but he was long ago discharged, and does not exhibit signs of mental illness.

Judge Ormiston is set to hand down her judgment on Feb. 11.

• RELATED: Two dead following stabbing in downtown Chilliwack in 2017

• RELATED: Targeted stabbing at notorious Chilliwack apartment complex

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