TORONTO — A British Columbia man apologized to a judge on Thursday for stripping naked and jumping into a shark tank at a Toronto aquarium last year only to moments later say outside court that he did not regret his actions.
David Weaver, of Nelson, B.C., was drunk when he went to Ripley's Aquarium in downtown Toronto on Oct. 12, bought a ticket, then stripped naked and jumped into the facility's shark tank, court heard.
"I just want to take the time to apologize for wasting your time your honour, the court's time, and for my actions of last year," Weaver said to the judge after pleading guilty to one count of mischief.
But after court, Weaver said he was not inebriated, he just had "a couple of drinks."
"I'd do it again," a smiling Weaver told reporters.
He will serve a 12-month suspended sentence, must attend counselling and cannot return to Ripley's.
The prosecutor admonished Weaver for his actions that night.
"His behaviour was more than foolhardy, it was criminal," said Crown attorney Heather Keating. "There is no other explanation other than attention seeking."
Court heard Weaver, 38, has a criminal record and has struggled with alcohol abuse for the past two decades ever since his brother murdered his father when he was only 15 years old.
The murder had a major effect on Weaver's life, his lawyer Blair Drummie told court.
"That was part of why he's acted out in the past," he said as Weaver looked down at a paper clip he fiddled with.
Weaver never sought counselling for his father's death, Drummie said.
About 18 years ago, Weaver moved to B.C., where he worked at various times as a firefighter, tree planter and most recently as a fishing guide on the Pacific Ocean, his lawyer said. He has been seeing a counsellor since jumping into the shark tank.
Drummie said his client is not an animal activist, but "he just doesn't like seeing animals in cages."
"That in combination with excess alcohol is the main reason as to why (he did it.)"
Ripley's declined to comment on the guilty plea. The aquarium previously told The Canadian Press that its surveillance footage showed a man and a woman buy tickets to the event at 10 p.m. and made their way directly to the "dangerous lagoon," the 2.9 million-litre tank that is the centrepiece of the tourist attraction.
The park said the man jumped into the pool at 10:26 p.m.
"You can see Mr. Weaver is naked, but you can also see he is fairly unfazed by his behaviour," the Crown lawyer said as she played a video in court of Weaver swimming naked in the pool. There was a large crowd gathered near the main lagoon as part of a regular "jazz night." It was one of the videos captured by those in attendance, the Crown said.
Weaver swam around the tank and at one point, at the urging of security guards, climbed out of the tank before performing a back dive into the water to loud cheers from the crowd.
Sand tiger sharks, sawfish, moray eels and turtles swam in the massive lagoon, Keating said.
After five minutes, Weaver got out of the water, grabbed his clothes and left.
"He jeopardized the health and safety of animals in the tank who are in a highly controlled marine environment," she said. "He shocked and in some cases frightened visitors, who included young children, worried about the sharks."
Police arrived within seven minutes, Ripley's previously said, but by then Weaver and the woman were long gone.
The Crown noted the infamy related to the actions that were captured on video and made news around the world.
Weaver was arrested four days later near Thunder Bay, Ont., during a vehicle stop and spent three nights in jail, court heard.
Drummie said Weaver has been working hard to make amends over the past year, including a $500 donation to the World Wildlife Fund.
Police have also alleged that earlier that night Weaver assaulted a man outside Medieval Times, a jousting-themed dinner theatre. A window was also allegedly broken.
Weaver was charged with assault and mischief in that earlier incident, which is now being dealt with separately by the court.
He is scheduled to face trial on those charges next month.