A flock of sports stars, coaches and television personalities provided glowing testimonials for Tony Veitch as the disgraced broadcaster escaped a jail term for attacking his partner.
Prosecutors wanted Veitch jailed for up to a year for kicking Kristin Dunne-Powell as she lay on the ground, breaking her back and leaving her with a deformity.
Twenty character references were provided for Veitch and given to the court attesting to his good character - including statements from All Blacks coach Graham Henry, former squash champion Dame Susan Devoy and Olympic triathlon gold medallist Hamish Carter.
Henry praised Veitch as a fair and objective reporter who had not "bagged" individuals after the All Blacks' shock 2007 Rugby World Cup loss - remarks that have earned Henry the wrath of Women's Refuge.
Despite TVNZ facing heavy scrutiny for its handling of the domestic violence case, several of the state broadcaster's stars also offered positive references for their former colleague.
They included weatherman Jim Hickey and One News presenter Bernadine Oliver-Kirby.
A TVNZ spokeswoman said the state broadcaster had no problem with staff providing testimonials for Veitch, saying it was not a conflict of interest for people such as newsreader Oliver-Kirby.
But Women's Refuge chief executive Heather Henare said some of the high-profile Veitch supporters should be embarrassed after he was convicted of a "serious charge".
She was particularly disappointed by Henry's comments. "That's somebody else who needs to go to counselling, if you ask me. It's completely irrelevant for the situation. To compare them both is hideous.
"We're talking about someone who had a broken back as a result of an assault."
In a plea bargain, Veitch pleaded guilty yesterday to one charge of injuring Ms Dunne-Powell, 35, with reckless disregard on January 29, 2006. Six other assault charges were dropped.
Judge Jan Doogue told the former TVNZ sports presenter and Radio Network host that he was the "author of your own misfortune".
"Numerous references from prominent New Zealanders attesting to your good character is a testament to the fact that this single incident is very much out of character," she said in Auckland District Court.
The Dominion Post revealed details last July of the assault and Veitch's secret payout to Ms Dunne-Powell. He paid $12,000 initially to cover her medical costs, then $150,000 compensation for lost income and other expenses, and $5000 to a violence prevention charity.
He was sentenced yesterday to nine months' supervision, 300 hours' community work and fined $10,000.
Ms Dunne-Powell told TV3 last night that her injuries meant she had to use crutches or a wheelchair: "I had spinal fractures. At the time it was diagnosed as four, in court they tell me it was two. I just know it was really, really painful and very immobilising."
She believed Veitch lacked genuine regret: "I think his remorse is over what has happened in his life, as opposed to having any remorse for what he did to me."
Veitch, who yesterday threatened legal action against some media, told TV One: "The judge said I made one mistake, one. She would not leave my house, it was my house."
Veitch's lawyer Stuart Grieve, QC said today both sides had been willing to go to court for the depositions hearing.
"I was certainly ready to brawl in court," he said on NewstalkZB today.
However, he said both the prosecutor and he were concerned that if it was a defended hearing in court, a lot of people would be hurt, not only Veitch but Ms Dunne-Powell, her family and other people.
He said the guilty plea to one charge was a "sensible" way of acknowledging what Veitch had done.
Wisdom took over, he said and it was the best result for Veitch and Ms Dunne-Powell.
Mr Grieve said another barrister would be acting for Veitch in the defamation action he intended to bring against some of the media for the "grossly exaggerated accounts of what happened, accounts which can now be demonstrably shown not only to be exaggerated but to be totally false.
"I think whoever runs the case for Mr Veitch will not have difficulty in establishing it."
Mr Grieve said the "media frenzy" from the beginning made it difficult for everybody and put increased pressure on everybody.
He said because of that he was not looking forward to the depositions hearing on Monday.
Mr Grieve said Veitch was "stitched up" over several issues, including publicity of the agreement for him to pay Ms Dunne-Powell money to compensate her for loss of income, medical and other costs.
"I have got information established to my satisfaction that she was in contact with news media beforehand. That was one of the reasons the confidentiality aspects of the deed of settlement were sought and granted.
"I don't think it was any accident this thing was leaked. Where that leak came from I do not know. I am not suggesting necessarily it came from the complainant at all but as I understand it, the decision to publish it by the Dominion Post was made by senior executive level, not by journalists," he said.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry:
Veitch was fair, objective and had a good "feel" for people and their situations. He never got involved in "bagging" individuals after the All Blacks' 2007 Rugby World Cup defeat in Cardiff. "Because of his qualities as a journalist and his willingness to help others, Tony has many supporters in the community and they all hope that he gets an opportunity as soon as possible to be able to get on with his life."
Former Holmes show presenter Susan Wood:
"If something went wrong he would not blame other people, but would admit responsibility. I have kept in contact with Tony over the past few months. I have never seen anybody more devastated or more contrite. It has been painful to watch. I have absolutely no doubt that he will face up to his responsibilities. He is an honest, decent man. I sincerely hope he is given the chance to rebuild his life."
Triathlete Hamish Carter:
"I know the sort of person that Tony is, and I believe that he deserves the right to get on with his life. What I know him for, above all else, is his enthusiasm, determination and trustworthy character."
Dame Susan Devoy:
"As a passionate New Zealander I was totally dismayed and appalled at the manner with which Tony was treated ... Tony deserves a chance to get his life back and to be able to have the opportunity to work again. Are we not a society who believes in forgiveness, a society that allows people to put the past behind them and move forward? A society that realises we all make mistakes but shouldn't have to spend our whole lives paying for them."
One News presenter Bernadine Oliver-Kirby:
"Tony seemed to have one speed only and that was top gear ... keen to please everyone and not let anyone down. That's his nature. I would regard Tony as one of the most caring and honest individuals I've known. He's incredibly kind and constantly puts others ahead of himself on a personal and professional front."
Olympic and Commonwealth Games Chef de Mission Dave Currie:
"While I appreciate the seriousness of the charges he is facing and make no comment on them, my personal dealings with Tony have always been conducted with honesty and respect."
Quotes taken from submissions to court
Tony Veitch pleaded guilty to injuring Kristin Louise Dunne-Powell with reckless disregard on January 29, 2006.
Six charges, all relating to Ms Dunne-Powell, were dropped:
Between March 15, 2002 and April 19, 2003, at Auckland, being a male assaulted a female.
Between April 14, 2003 and April 9, 2005, at Mangawhai, being a male assaulted a female.
Between June 3, 2005, and June 4, 2005, at Rotorua, being a male assaulted a female.
On July 8, 2005, at Auckland, being a male assaulted a female.
On November 5, 2005, at Auckland, being a male assaulted a female.
On December 18, 2005, at Auckland, being a male assaulted a female.
WHAT THE SENTENCE MEANS
Tony Veitch may get his chance to work with charities again or he could end up cleaning graffiti from walls.
The disgraced broadcaster was ordered to do 300 hours of community work after pleading guilty to injuring Kristin Dunne-Powell with reckless disregard. He was also fined $10,000, placed on nine months' supervision and ordered to attend a Stop Violence programme if deemed necessary by his probation officer.
Veitch will be told by the Community Probation Service what his work will entail. It will be up to 10 hours a day, for at least eight hours a week, and he will be closely monitored. It could involve painting, gardening, building, cleaning up graffiti, or picking up litter.
However, Veitch is understood to have asked to do charity work.
Offenders can submit proposals to the probation service, which may or may not be accepted.
He has regularly worked with charities including Cure Kids and the Halberg Trust, often as a master of ceremonies or an auctioneer.
"I now look forward to working with the charities who I love and that is the best thing about this sentence, I can get back to working with the charities and doing my community service with charities that I am passionate about," Veitch said.
Cure Kids chief executive Kaye Parker, who provided a character reference for Veitch, said she would talk to the board about the possibility of him resuming work with the charity.
"He has done a lot of work for a lot of charities," Ms Parker said. "We did appreciate that support."
- with NZPA