Calgary Criminal Lawyer Greg Dunn Defends Man on Assault Charges after Racial Tirade

Article originally appeared in: Calgary Herald
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A man who was reportedly responsible for unleashing a racist tirade against a cab driver after leaving a company party in Calgary is out of a job and at the centre of public shaming online.

Video footage from the taxi shows a front-seat passenger shouting racial slurs against driver Sardar Qayyum, implying the man behind the wheel is a terrorist who would retaliate by strapping a bomb to his chest.

The abusive rant and the consequences now facing the passenger follow other cases of otherwise low-profile people who became notorious for using offensive language that ultimately cost them their jobs.

 The taxi passenger has been identified as an employee of Calgary-based Alcro Electric who had taken the cab after leaving a company party, paying for the ride with a company chit.

The passenger became agitated after he asked to stop for food on the way to his Airdrie home, but was told by his Checker Yellow Cabs driver that his chit was about to expire.

“You son-of-a-bitch; you f—ing (expletive), go back to where you came from; take your wife and four kids,” the passenger says in the video-recorded rant.

Later, the man yells, “What are you f—ing going to do, strap a bomb to your body, huh?”

Alcro Electric, a contractor in the oil and gas industry, did not respond to interview requests but issued a statement on its website Thursday denouncing the racist comments.

“At Alcro Electric we would like to acknowledge the public’s concern,” the company said in its statement.

“We do not condone such behaviour and we believe in accountability. All people need to be treated with respect and dignity. This incident is not a representation of Alcro Electric. Effective immediately the employee involved is no longer with Alcro Electric.”

RCMP investigated the November 2013 incident, and originally charged the man in the video with assault with a weapon and mischief. The charges were later dropped. After intense media scrutiny of the video footage this week, the Mounties said they have reopened the investigation.

“We are taking it seriously,” Cpl. Sharon Franks said. “If and when there will be charges against the offender we will certainly be letting the public know.”

Greg Dunn, the lawyer representing the passenger, says there’s no need for RCMP to re-examine the situation other than social media backlash.

“There’s no new information, there’s no new evidence that’s going to be introduced,” Dunn said. “It’s simply, really, a response to Twitter and Facebook blowing up.”

Dunn says his client has been co-operative and remorseful from the beginning, offering both an in-person and written apology to Qayyum of his own accord. Dunn says both of these were rejected, but the passenger also paid about $10,000 to Checker. The money covered the cost of repairing the security camera, which the passenger broke while leaving the taxi, and seven days of lost wages for Qayyum.

According to Dunn, there’s more to the story that the public isn’t aware of.

“He has had some issues with alcoholism,” said Dunn. “He has taken some steps to address those particular issues. To my understanding he’s been clean and sober now for about four months.”

Though Dunn says he can’t comment on whether his client’s actions in the video reflect his beliefs, he says the man is truly sorry about the incident.

“I’m not a mind reader, but I can certainly tell you he really does regret his actions,” Dunn said.

The arc of the taxi passenger’s story — making offensive remarks before landing at the centre of public ridicule and losing his job — is becoming increasingly familiar.

Shawn Simoes, a soccer fan in Ontario, was fired from his top-earning job at Hydro One in May after he said in front of a rolling television camera that he respects a trend in which bystanders interrupt reporter interviews and yell, “F— her right in the p—-.”

Similarly, Justine Sacco was ridiculed and sacked from her position at an American media company after she tweeted her travel plans in 2013: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

Kurt Enders, president of Checker Yellow Cabs, said the Calgary incident also shines a light on the abuse that taxi drivers can face, especially during twilight hours.