A Southland basketballer identified as the prime offender in a violent assault at a New Plymouth pub has been given a reprieve to play basketball in Australia.
Leon Henry, 28, is one of three who have admitted the attack at the Crowded House bar in New Plymouth early on May 25. CCTV footage showed it was Henry who started the brawl with a king-hit on a member of the bar staff.
In June, Henry pleaded guilty to injuring with intent and assault with intent to injure. Henry, Shea Ili, 21, and Reuben Te Rangi, 19, were all due to be sentenced yesterday but only Ili ended up with a confirmed penalty.
Henry was initially sentenced to four months' home detention but Judge Max Courtney deferred the penalty until March to give him a chance to take up a basketball contract with Australian NBL team Townsville Crocodiles.
But, a few minutes later, Henry was called back into court. Home detention can be deferred for only two months so the judge deferred sentencing until March 19. Henry has played for the New Zealand Breakers and the Tall Blacks but was no longer wanted as a result of the offending.
Earlier, his Auckland lawyer, Ron Mansfield, told the judge that Henry's offending was a "spontaneous act of stupidity". Henry had already paid $2500 in reparation to one victim and $1500 to the other, Mansfield said. Henry had no previous convictions.
The judge noted Henry had drunk "an astronomical amount of alcohol", the equivalent of 36 standard drinks, on the night.
In June, Te Rangi admitted assault with intent to injure, and Ili admitted assault with intent to injure and common assault.
Their victims said Henry's king-hit and the punching and kicking from the trio were the worst violence they had encountered in their jobs. But after restorative justice process, they did not want the men convicted, to ensure their future careers were not affected.
Henry and Ili agreed to carry out clinics in Taranaki to assist young basketballers, to help make good the damage they caused to the community. Neither wanted a discharge without conviction.
Ili received a four-month sentence of community detention and will pay reparation of $750 to one victim and $500 to the other.
Ili's lawyer, Susan Hughes, QC, said it was his first offence.
As a result of his offending, Ili was dismissed from the Southland team and opportunities with the Tall Blacks and the New Zealand Maori men's team were no longer available to him, the judge said.
Te Rangi will be sentenced on September 10.
- The Southland Times