Court verdict stems as a warning
A STRANGLED shout of relief burst from Johnas Todd as a Lismore District Court jury yesterday gave him his life back.
It’s been more than two years since Mr Todd, 26 of Uki, became the focal point of an explosion of violence at Uki’s Mount Warning Hotel, which ended with the pub’s then owner, Alex Georgopoulos, suffering serious cuts and life-long scars after a tussle with the young man.
For most of that time Mr Todd has had serious charges hanging over him – he was accused of attacking Mr Georgopoulos with a broken bottle, with smashing a window at the pub and with affray over the riot that surrounded the attack.
Yesterday, at the end of a five-day trial, a jury found Mr Todd not guilty of attacking Mr Georgopoulos with the bottle and prosecutors dropped the other two charges, which would have been heard in the Local Court.
“I’m just glad it’s over,” a relieved Mr Todd, surrounded by family and friends, said outside the court. “I’m sorry that it ever happened.”
However, after the long court case, he said he would be less quick to jump in to help people suffering apparent injustices.
Mr Todd got into strife on July 27, 2007, when he saw a young man being jumped on by several bouncers at the pub. He didn’t know at the time the young man had thrown a punch at a bouncer, so he stepped in to stop another security officer joining the melee by, according to witnesses, putting him in a headlock.
He was told to leave but returned about 20 minutes later, after chatting with people across the road, to buy drinks from the pub’s bottle shop. Mr Georgopoulos pushed him from the pub, knocking him down. When he rose he was punched in the face, possibly by a bouncer, and sent sprawling onto Kyogle Road.
That punch triggered a riot that trashed the bottle shop and sent glass flying from bins and tables across the pub’s veranda.
Mr Todd, still stunned from the punch, took a swig of beer to wash out his injured mouth and smashed the bottle onto the road before walking back onto the veranda.
That action was the cornerstone of the Crown case against Mr Todd. Prosecutors alleged he broke the bottle to create a weapon to use on Mr Georgopoulos. However, that assertion faltered after a series of defence and prosecution witnesses, including Mr Georgopoulos, told the court they did not see Mr Todd with a broken bottle.
After yesterday’s verdict, Mr Todd, who works at a caravan park he part-owns with his father at Coomera on the Gold Coast’s northern fringe, said he wanted to get his life ‘back on track’.
He said he felt no responsibility for the violence that night at the Uki pub.
However, he also expressed sympathy for Mr Georgopoulos and his wife, Angela, who sold the pub a few months after the riot.
“I’m glad it’s over for them and I’m glad his kids didn’t lose their father,” he said.
Mr and Mrs Georgopoulos were not present for yesterday’s verdict.