Article from The Press December 3rd 2004
A freezing worker and a flower grower were yesterday jailed for seven and four years respectively over the death of Mosgiel man, Stephen Casey. Mr Casey, 39, died on New Year's Day, soon after being struck in the back by a bullet from a .22 rifle fired from across the street by Shane Montgomery, with the encouragement of Roger Alexander Bryant.
Freezing worker Montgomery, 35, had been convicted of Mr Casey's manslaughter and Bryant, 37, flower grower, had been convicted as a party to the death. The two had been drinking at the home of a third man, Jason Mowat, 33, a courier, who was acquitted of both murder and manslaughter.
Justice Chisholm told the High Court at Dunedin yesterday there was every chance Mr Casey would still be alive, had it not been for the involvement of drugs and alcohol. "If ever there was a case which illustrates the folly of combining drugs, alcohol and the use of weapons, this must surely be such a case," Justice Chisholm said.
Montgomery had gone to Mr Mowat's house after the latter had complained about an assault by Mr Casey at a local hotel the previous night and the breaking of a car window, allegedly also by Mr Casey. Mr Mowat wanted Mr Casey "doshed up" but, although there was a confrontation between a group of people from Mr Mowat's house and Mr Casey, nothing happened at that stage. Some time afterwards, Montgomery was heard to say he had a gun and that he felt like shooting Mr Casey. He then went home to his parents' place, retrieved his brother's .22 rifle and a jar of ammunition and returned to Mr Mowat's home.
He and Bryant continued drinking before the rifle was loaded and Montgomery sat in the back seat of his car with Bryant standing nearby. Montgomery pointed the rifle across the street towards where Mr Casey was sitting outside with two others. Bryant said "shoot now, Monty", and, within a relatively short time, Montgomery fired.
The bullet struck Mr Casey in the back, severed a large vein and, within a fairly short time, he was dead. Justice Chisholm said he interpreted the jury's verdict of manslaughter as meaning neither Montgomery nor Bryant had a murderous intent but meant to scare Mr Casey. The judge said he agreed with Crown counsel Robin Bates that Montgomery's action had been reckless, dangerous and irresponsible.
"I have no doubt you intended to fire close to Mr Casey and this illustrates the folly of what you did," the judge said. To make matters worse, the scare was intended to be in the nature of an act of retribution. While Bryant was not involved in getting the gun, he was aware of its presence after Montgomery returned and uttered the words of encouragement which could only be interpreted as a crucial factor to a mind "addled by drugs and alcohol".
But for that, Mr Casey could still be alive, the judge said. He had no doubt that what Mr Casey's sister, Janine Sabiston, said in her Victim Impact statement would have been driven home to both men. He was not surprised the family felt bitterness about the blackening of Mr Casey's character during the trial and had taken the opportunity to "restore the balance".
"Whatever his character, he did not deserve to die."
In her statement, Mrs Sabiston told the court it seemed "incredibly unfair" and "perhaps unjust" that one aspect of the victim's past could be highlighted as a defence ploy. She suggested that, perhaps, the victim should be afforded the same rights as the accused, as it appeared the justice system was geared in favour of those accused, while an "anything goes" attitude was adopted for the victim. "We were not naive to Stephen's faults, but we knew those flaws were merely a part of the whole person."
Describing her brother as "fiercely supportive and protective of those he cared about", Mrs Sabiston said many of his assault convictions were the result of defending friends. "A life has been lost because of one senseless act," she said and, speaking to Montgomery and Bryant, said that regardless of what sentence they received, a second chance was available to them both.
"The same cannot be said for Stephen."
Date of Birth
Shot Mosgiel man Stephen Casey to death on New Year’s Day 2004.
He was the lead offender
Sentenced to seven years in December 2004
To be updated
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