Gregory Brotherston says his wild and violent ways are rooted in drug addiction, and that addiction stems from the abuse he suffered from an older family friend as a child.
The 38-year-old made the remarks at his sentencing hearing in Western Communities provincial court on Tuesday after apologizing for his part in a violent home invasion in Sooke in the early hours of Feb. 9, 2019.
“I realize it is later in life for me to realize the grassroots of the problem that has haunted me for a number of years, but I finally do understand what the problem is and how to solve that problem with my drug-addiction counselling and my Narcotics Anonymous meetings,” Brotherston said. “And I’m dedicated to doing those meetings.”
Brotherston was originally charged with aggravated assault, but last week pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of assault causing bodily harm to Sooke resident Geoff Crandon. He also pleaded guilty to breaking and entering into Crandon’s home.
Judge Craig Sicotte accepted a joint submission from the Crown and defence and sentenced Brotherston to four years in prison. Brotherston, who has been in jail since Feb. 11, received credit of one year for the time he served in pretrial custody, which leaves him with three years to serve. Brotherston is also prohibited for life from owning weapons and ammunition and was ordered to give authorities a sample of his DNA.
Brotherston is perhaps best known for being charged, along with his father, Ken Sr., and his brother Kenny for the murder of Keith Taylor of Colwood in 2008. All three were acquitted of second-degree murder in January 2010, after a judge found Ken Sr. was acting in self-defence and his sons were assisting him.
In this case, the court heard that Crandon and his wife, Kimberly, had separated and there was longstanding hostility between the two. Brotherston had been drinking and taking a variety of drugs on Feb. 8 when Kimberly and her new boyfriend, Justin Harrison, picked him up and all three went to a party in Sooke.
“Mr. Brotherston was in an advanced state of intoxication between the alcohol, the crack cocaine that they were smoking in Sooke and the [drug] GHB,” defence lawyer Dale Marshall told the court. “His recollection is that Kim Crandon had been quite upset about not being able to get back her property, including her two dogs. She encouraged Mr. Harrison to go over and get them and take Mr. Brotherston with him and compel Mr. Crandon to hand them over when they arrived at 2 a.m.”
Crandon awoke to Brotherston yelling outside his trailer. Brotherston broke a window close to the door, went in and started punching Crandon in the face and head and tried to choke him, said prosecutor Paul Cheeseman.
“Mr. Crandon was saying: ‘Don’t kill me, Greg. Don’t kill me.’ Mr. Brotherston was saying: ‘I just can’t kill this guy. He won’t die,’ ” Cheeseman recounted.
The assault stopped when Harrison told Brotherston the police were on their way. Crandon was severely injured, with a number of broken bones in his face that required plastic surgery.
Brotherston has little recall of the events and does not remember breaking the window, Marshall said.
The defence lawyer told Sicotte that Brotherston left school after completing Grade 11 and has been working full-time since he was 15 for his family’s logging company.
Both Brotherston and his older brother Kenny, who died of a drug overdose in 2017, had serious drug addictions, said Marshall.
“It’s been acknowledged and confirmed that he and his brother were the victims of some serious and prolonged assaultive behaviour when he was four to eight years of age,” said Marshall. “It was at the hands of an older man who was known to the family and it resulted in a conviction in 1989 when Greg was eight.”
Victim support services for the two boys fell through the cracks, said Marshall. Then in 2009, a letter arrived apologizing that their file had been lost and they were offered counselling.
“But by this time, Greg was 28 and well immersed in drug culture since the age of 19,” said Marshall.
His family believes his drug dependence is rooted in depression that came from the history of abuse as a child, and an addiction to painkillers and opiates after he was injured in a ski accident at the age of 19.
Over the years, Brotherston has experienced intermittent but successful periods of sobriety and employment, said Marshall. In 2011, Brotherston went to Germany, then for almost eight months to New Zealand, where he worked for a logging company.
“He was completely clean and sober,” said the defence lawyer.
When Brotherston returned home to apply for a visa on Oct. 8, 2012, he had a disagreement with his girlfriend outside the Country Rose pub.
Colwood resident Richard Green intervened and Brotherston struck him with a single, open-handed blow to the face. Green fell backwards, striking his head on the pavement and fracturing his skull. He died on Oct. 14.
Brotherston pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to three years in prison. He was released in 2015 and remained clean and sober and returned to logging, said Marshall.
Then, on Feb. 11, 2017, Brotherston found his brother dead from a drug overdose.
“Greg found him and Greg feels he is responsible for his brother’s passing. It led to another significant period of depression and eventually to drug use in the fall of 2017,” said Marshall. “He was drowning in pain and depression from the death of his brother.”
Marshall said Brotherston was convicted of assaulting a correctional officer at the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre this year shortly after being arrested.
“He was placed in a cell, shockingly, with a man who was present using drugs when his brother overdosed,” said Marshall. “The understanding in the family was the individual and the woman who was with him left his brother there and did not call for help. It was a very stressful situation for Mr. Brotherston.”
Brotherston, who was high on the cannabinoid THC, swung at the guard, but didn’t connect. He was taken to the ground and put into segregation for 20 days. He pleaded guilty and received a 30-day sentence. More importantly, said Marshall, he went through reconciliation with the guard and is back in the general population.
Brotherston is in the middle of the 12-step program and has a sponsor on the outside, his lawyer said, adding Brotherston has abstained from drugs since April 2.
“He’s certainly much healthier, much bigger and a much clearer-thinking individual than the man who was arrested in February,” said Marshall. “His wish now is to maintain sobriety and help raise his daughter.”
A reference letter from the mother of Brotherston’s two-year old daughter describes him as a caring father and a kind and gentle man when sober, said Sicotte.
Brotherston’s co-accused, Justin Harrison, pleaded guilty to theft and assault causing bodily harm to Cranston. On Nov. 28, he was sentenced to time served and is now on probation.