From The Ottawa Citizen
Man jailed 12 years for brutal stabbing over iPod
Tire iron plunged into victim’s chest in savage attack
OTTAWA-For weeks, Hassan Al-Khazaali had relentlessly pursued Safeolah Fizeeli for his missing iPod.
The 17-year-old had left it in the back seat of Fizeeli’s car, or so he believed, and he wanted it back.
In an argument at the Coliseum movie theatre, Al-Khazaali said he’d take $80 in exchange for the device. Later, Al-Khazaali and a group of his friends met 19-year-old Fizeeli and his friends in the parking lot of a shopping plaza and demanded the iPod or the cash.
But Fizeeli didn’t know where the music player was, and wasn’t going to pay.
So, on an April night in 2007, Fizeeli was chased by Al-Khazaali and his friends from the yard of an elementary school as part of an escalating feud that a judge would eventually say was like a running battle between two packs of animals.
A few hours later, at a Petro-Canada station at Bayshore Drive and Carling Avenue, they met again.
Fizeeli drove into the parking lot with a friend in the passenger seat. Al-Khazaali and his two friends were in the store and saw him arrive.
Al-Khazaali ran to Fizeeli’s car, hitting and kicking the vehicle before opening the driver’s door and punching Fizeeli in the face. Fizeeli backed up a bit, and then he got out of the car along with his friend.
As Fizeeli’s friend fought Al-Khazaali’s two friends, Fizeeli and Al-Khazaali squared off.
By the time the short fight was over, Al-Khazaali lay bleeding to death on the ground from five savage stab wounds inflicted by a tire iron.
He was stabbed twice in the back, including the fatal blow, which broke a rib and almost cut his aorta in half when Fizeeli plunged the improvised weapon 19 centimetres into Al-Khazaali’s chest.
He was pronounced dead at hospital despite receiving immediate attention from a nurse who happened to be at the gas station.
The case took three years to get through the courts. Condemning Fizeeli’s actions as “extreme and needless violence,” Ontario Superior Court Justice Lynn Ratushny sentenced him Wednesday to 12 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
“This case is about bravado, immaturity, reaction, perception and perhaps winning an argument and being right,” Ratushny told Fizeeli. “This is not just a case about an iPod.”
The judge said she needed to impose the additional penalty of parole ineligibility for at least six years to denounce and deter the “underlying forces” that led to the “senseless and meaningless loss of a young life over something as inconsequential as an iPod.”
Those forces, she said, included a lack of respect for human safety and “groups of young people acting like competing packs of animals.”
Fizeeli had originally faced a charge of second-degree murder. He avoided a trial, and a potential life sentence, by pleading guilty to the lesser charge.
On the day his sentence was imposed, he apologized for what he had done.
“It is a day I deeply regret and wish I could take back. I know there is nothing I can say to bring Hassan Al-Khazaali back, but I am deeply sorry for the pain and grief I have caused,” said Fizeeli, now 22, as his father, mother, two brothers and a sister looked on silently from the front row.
Fizeeli’s lawyer, Vince Clifford, said his client, who came to Canada 10 years ago from Pakistan with his family, said the killing was out of character.
“This was not an intentional killing. This was not murder,” said Clifford, who acknowledged Fizeeli’s actions were needless and senseless. “Unfortunately, the injuries are severe. The force used was excessive. It was too much in the circumstances,” said Clifford.
But assistant Crown attorney Walter De Venz said no one should forget Al-Khazaali and his family, who have returned to Iraq because they were distressed by the violence they had experienced here.
De Venz said Fizeeli’s life was never in danger and the injuries he suffered in the fight with Al-Khazaali were minor. De Venz said the “sheer brutality” of Fizeeli’s “cowardly” and “animalistic” actions needed to be punished severely to send a message to other young people.
Before being sentenced, Fizeeli vowed to take “full advantage” of rehabilitation programs in prison.
Ratushny said she hoped Fizeeli would make the most of his opportunities and make it part of his “continuing atonement” for the crime.
“Hassan Al-Khazaali has no further chances of life. He is gone and I know his family mourns him deeply. Nothing I can do, nothing the justice system can do, changes this stark fact,” she said.