Man who dressed as Pink Panther beats aggravated assault charge
St. Catharines courthouse
The Pink Panther has been found not guilty of aggravated assault for hitting Dracula in the head with a beer glass and nearly cutting off his ear.
Bugs Bunny was cleared of any wrong doing earlier this month when he faced a similar charge that all stemmed from a bar fight inside a Niagara Falls bar on Halloween night in 2015.
Judge Fergus O’Donnell said any story that starts with the words “Bugs Bunny, the Pink Panther and Dracula walk into a bar” sounds like someone is telling a joke, but the tragedy of this case is that a man almost lost an ear and two men ended up facing serious charges.
On the night in question, the judge said everyone had been drinking, and because they didn’t know each other by name, everyone was known by their persona.
Austin Shinners, 22, was Bugs Bunny, Jesse Coons, who had his broken foot in a cast, was the Pink Panther, and Christopher Myers, 46, of Port Colborne was Dracula.
The fight took place shortly before closing time inside the Sunset Bar and Grill on Thorold Stone Road. Police also received a 911 call for a disturbance taking place outside behind the bar involving a man with a shovel and others with hockey sticks. When police arrived, the fights had stopped and many people had left the bar.
When the trial began earlier this month, Shinners and Coons both entered not guilty pleas and were represented by husband-and-wife defence lawyers Ron Charlebois and Brenda Sandulak. Charlebois defended Shinners and Sandulak represented Coons.
During the trial, Myers confused who struck him with the beer glass. He thought Bugs Bunny had delivered the blow, while a number of other witnesses said it was the Pink Panther.
Assistant Crown attorney Mark Dean acknowledged the case against Shinners could not be proven and he was found not guilty.
Sandulak had argued her client acted in self-defence when he struck Myers with the beer glass because he was hit first.
Court heard how a fight broke out after Myers took offence with the way Shinners and Coons were acting on the dance floor with some unsuspecting female dancers. The two men denied anything inappropriate took place on the dance floor.
Shinners admitted he accidentally bumped into a large man on the dance floor and would have apologized, but he didn’t see who it was because he was still wearing the large head of the Bugs Bunny costume.
Myers suffered a cut to his ear that required 25 stitches to have it reattached. Shinners ended up with a black eye and while he was on the ground some blood from Dracula ended up on the Bugs Bunny costume.
In his lengthy judgement, O’Donnell said there were three versions of what might have occurred and it was difficult, if not nearly impossible to determine what took place. One thing was certain, he said, “there was lots of drinking that night.”
The judge said the version given by Coons and Shinners “may be true or not” but because he had reasonable doubt, he found Coons not guilty of aggravated assault.
Outside of the courtroom, Sandulak said aspects of this case were quite humorous, but the repercussions were not a laughing matter for the two men that were charged.
“At times during the trial there were lighter moments because of the facts, but this was an aggravated assault and that made it a serious case,” said Sandulak. “My client feels a tremendous weight has been lifted off his shoulders. He never wavered on his version of what took place.”
This case was being followed by quite a few lawyers at both the Welland and St. Catharines courthouse, who wanted to know if the judge had given his decision yet.
“We do things on a daily basis that are not humorous. We usually deal with doom and gloom so it was nice to have a bit of humour,” said Sandulak.
After being congratulated by family and friends about the decision, Coons said he was happy and elated that the case is over.
So what has happened to the Bugs Bunny and Pink Panther costumes?
Coons said they’ve been thrown out and it might be awhile before he considers wearing a costume to a Halloween party.