A man accused of fatally assaulting his friend outside a Whyte Avenue bar was found guilty of manslaughter on Wednesday.
Family and friends of Kyle Charles Ashton sat in stunned silence then wept after the judge delivered her verdict. Ashton himself showed no visible reaction to the news.
In December 2014, Ashton and Raad Hamza, 24, were hanging out at The Billiard Club on 105 Street after having arrived separately with their own groups of friends. The pair had known each other for years.
In one incident caught on surveillance video, Hamza is seen getting agitated on the dance floor of The Billiard Club; Ashton can be seen pulling him away from people, trying to settle him down.
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In another surveillance video, Ashton can be seen putting his arm around Hamza and the two are engaged in conversation. Then Hamza pushes Ashton a couple times in the upper chest and Ashton punches Hamza, who then falls to the ground.
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Hamza was unconscious after the blow; he later died in hospital. The cause of death was head trauma.
Ashton admitted to punching Hamza, and the judge said it was a “momentary incident that occurred… an incident between two men.”
Nevertheless, the judge concluded Ashton punched Hamza with enough force to break the bones in his face and for him to fall to the ground.
She ruled it was not an accident and Ashton intended to punch Hamza, and while he may not have known about his own strength, that was no defence.
The judge said the assault was objectively dangerous and she was satisfied that, under all the circumstances, Ashton was guilty of manslaughter.
“When I heard [the] guilty [verdict]… there is no feeling to be honest,” said Sarah Hamza, Raad’s older sister.
“There’s no way for my brother to come back. He was the one who put the smile[s] on us.”
Sarah said her family fled from Iraq and came to Canada for a better and safer life. She said that feeling was shattered when Hamza died.
Hamza’s twin sister Suhad said it was tough to show up for the trial and see Ashton. She was pleased with the verdict.
“That makes me feel good but at the same time, it’s not going to bring my brother back,” she said.
Ashton’s family said he is coping with news of the verdict.
“For the community this has to be done – because no matter what, a life was taken – but I just want everyone to know my brother is not a bad person. He didn’t mean to do this.”
Ashton will remain out on bail. He will be sentenced June 2. Hamza’s death was Edmonton’s 27th homicide of 2014.