Bertuzzi must complete 80 hours of community service
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Vancouver Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi received a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to assault Wednesday, more than nine months after slugging Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore from behind during a game.
The sentence, which leaves Bertuzzi without a criminal record, was the one recommended by the prosecutor after Bertuzzi agreed to a plea bargain.
"I have concluded that the imposition of a discharge is not contrary to the public interest," judge Herb Weitzel said Wednesday night.
Bertuzzi received a year's probation during which he is not allowed to play in a game against Moore, who was hospitalized with three fractured vertebrae, facial cuts, post-concussion symptoms and amnesia after the March 8 hit.
That might never come into play because Moore is without an NHL contract and still has health issues from Bertuzzi's punch.
Bertuzzi must also perform 80 hours of community service. If he complies with his community service and probation requirements, he will not have a criminal record.
Moore was not present in the courtroom but delivered a statement that was read in court before the sentence was handed down.
"I have no desire to interact with (Bertuzzi) in any way," Moore said. "If I'm ever able to play again, I would ask that Todd Bertuzzi never be permitted to play in any sporting activity I'm involved in."
Bertuzzi was suspended indefinitely by the NHL, missing 13 regular-season games and seven postseason games while losing nearly $502,000 in salary. On Friday, he was barred from playing in Europe by the International Ice Hockey Federation because of his violent conduct.
Prosecutor Garth Loeppky told the court he asked for the conditional discharge with no criminal record for Bertuzzi following the guilty plea.
Tim Danson, Moore's Toronto-based attorney, said he became aware of the plea bargain Monday, and neither he nor Moore had a chance to travel to Vancouver to address the court. Danson initially hired a Vancouver lawyer to ask for a sentencing delay until January so Moore could speak to the court in person.
That request was denied.
In his statement, Moore's first since March 29, he described in detail how most of the Vancouver players threatened him verbally during the game against the Canucks. He said they told him they were going to get him and that he was dead.
Moore angered the Canucks three weeks earlier when he knocked Vancouver captain Markus Naslund out of a game with a hit that was not penalized. Naslund was sidelined for three games with a concussion.
After he was struck by Bertuzzi, Moore said he didn't know if he was awake or asleep.
"The next thing I knew, I was in a dark room with a neck brace," he said. "I was told I had a broken neck. My heart was in my throat. My parents and brother and girlfriend watched on TV. They waited in terror and prayed."
The court also heard from Bertuzzi in a videotaped statement. Bertuzzi wished Moore a speedy recovery and said he recognizes what he did was wrong and that's why he pleaded guilty.
"I don't think of myself as a criminal," he said, "but it's important for people to know that certain violent conduct has no place in hockey. I hope I can repair some of the damage I've done."
Before the plea bargain, Bertuzzi faced a maximum of 18 months in prison. Bertuzzi, who had been scheduled to stand trial Jan. 17, was accompanied in court by his wife and Naslund.
Loeppky said prosecutors would have been unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Bertuzzi's punch ended Moore's NHL career.
"If his career is over, the Crown can't prove that," Loeppky said.
Loeppky said the spinal damage is no longer a factor for Moore, but he still has symptoms of post-concussion syndrome.
"He has good days and bad days," Loeppky said.
His physical activity is still minimal, consisting mostly of light workouts.
"He has not returned to skating or hockey," Loeppky said.
Bill Daly, the NHL's chief legal officer, said the league expects Bertuzzi to ask for a quick hearing to reinstate his playing status despite the ongoing lockout that threatens to wipe out this season.
Danson, speaking in Toronto, said a civil suit against Bertuzzi hinges on whether Moore can resume his career.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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