Sozzled Zimbabwean student goes on a frenzy

A Zimbabwean foreign exchange student, who initially got picked up by Kingston Police eight months ago for being drunk in public — and very quickly compounded his problems by vandalizing a fire alarm while in custody.

This is in addition to failure to show up for court the following month — didn’t end his streak there.

Luke Chadzwa, 26, was subsequently arrested again in July for assaulting his Canadian girlfriend. Granted bail with a condition that he have no contact or communication with the victim, he was re-arrested in early August after police found the pair together.

Consequently, by the time he pleaded guilty in Kingston’s Ontario Court of Justice this week to all four charges — mischief to property, failing to attend court, assault, and violating bail — Chadzwa had already spent 35 days in pretrial custody.

He was sentenced to time served on a joint recommendation from his defence lawyer, Dave Isbester, and assistant Crown attorney Janet O’Brien and he was placed on probation for 18 months with multiple conditions.

In explaining his client’s apparent disregard for court process and orders, Isbester told Justice Paul Megginson his client had simply failed to appreciate the seriousness of his offences.

Chadzwa, the defence lawyer explained, is actually a citizen of Zimbabwe, living in Canada on a student visa.

For the past two years, Isbester told the court, his client has been attending St. Lawrence College, where he’s enrolled in a business program.

While he knew he had to attend court, Isbester suggested to the judge that he didn’t grasp seriousness of being a no-show, since he assumed the mischief charge "would be taken care of," with restitution for the damage and a fine.

"Culturally, things are a lot different in Zimbabwe than they are here," Isbester told Megginson. "In Zimbabwe, I think money goes a long way and your family name goes a long way," he explained, adding that Chadzwa comes from "as he put it, a family of chieftans."

O’Brien told Megginson that Chadzwa’s initial brush with police came after he was picked up downtown on Jan. 5 for being intoxicated in public.

Brought back to the Kingston Police headquarters, he was placed in a cell to sleep it off 

At 6:42 a. m., however, the fire alarm in his cell activated and O’Brien said the officer in charge of the area, upon finding no fire, questioned its occupant and then confiscated Chadzwa’s lighter, which he readily turned over.

Police later reviewed surveillance tapes, which captured Chadzwa climbing onto his combined toilet and sink to hold a flame under his cell’s fire alarm. No explanation was given in court for why he did it.

O’Brien said the stunt melted the housing on the detector, however, which cost $306.25 to replace.

Chadzwa was released from custody later that same morning on a promise to appear in court Feb. 10. When he failed to show up that day, Justice of the Peace Cathy Hickling issued a warrant for his arrest.

Then, on July 10, he was back in trouble again. O’Brien told the judge that Chadzwa and a young Kingston woman had been romantically involved since March, 2008, and had lived together sporadically during that time, although they maintained their own apartments.

She also suggested to the judge that there had been unreported violence throughout the couple’s relationship. On July 9, she told Megginson, they’d had drinks and dinner at her place and spent the evening socializing, until Chadzwa left about 30 minutes after midnight.

O’Brien said the woman subsequently went to Stages nightclub on her own, returning home around 2:45 am.

Chadzwa called her around 4 am., according to the Crown, to ask what she was doing. Then he arrived unannounced at her door and found her entertaining a male acquaintance who’d accompanied her home from the bar.

His initial reaction, Megginson heard, was to utter an expletive in her direction, spin on his heel and leave. O’Brien said his girlfriend tried to stop him and he hit her in the face, eight to 10 times by the victim’s account. Isbester told the judge his client admits to hitting her only once, however.

Chadzwa was again arrested as a result of the assault, but was later released with a condition that barred him from approaching within 200 metres of the woman, except at school.

O’Brien told Megginson that Kingston Police learned he was violating that order, when one of the victim’s girlfriends called them on Aug. 10. O’Brien said the girlfriend, who was familiar with the terms of Chadzwa’s bail, had been surprised to see him that day walking hand and hand with his victim on lower Princess Street.

She later told police that she’d immediately texted her friend: "Are you (expletive) crazy?" and received the reply, "Yes, but don’t tell (another female). She’d (expletive) kill me."

The victim’s friend reported the bail violation, according to the Crown, and when police went to Chadzwa’s home to question him they found the assault victim still with him, in violation of his bail.

At O’Brien’s request, Megginson ordered that Chadzwa, while on probation, abstain absolutely from alcohol and other intoxicants. He’s also barred from having weapons, must provide a DNA sample and, although the victim of his assault has indicated she wants to have contact with him, he’s not allowed to initiate it or to approach within 100 metres of her home.

He’s also been ordered to take any counselling for substance abuse and violent behaviour arranged by his probation supervisor and Megginson issued a restitution order against him for $306.25 to cover the damage he did at the police station.