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Split verdict in beating death of gay B.C. man

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VANCOUVER - A B.C. judge has convicted one of two men charged in the beating death of a gay man in Vancouver's Stanley Park but acquitted another.

maryIn a decision handed down Friday, Ryan Kran, 22, was found guilty of manslaughter in the killing of 41-year-old Aaron Webster, who was beaten to death with a club in November 2001.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Mary Humphries said it was clear that both Kran and Danny Rao, 22, had driven to Stanley Park, armed with baseball bats and looking for "peeping toms" after they had been drinking.

But Humphries acquitted Rao, saying the evidence against him was unreliable.

People in the courtroom groaned at the mixed verdict and reacted in anger when Humphries agreed to let Kran stay out of jail until his sentencing in January. Observers of the trial shouted: "he killed a man," "this is ridiculous," and "what a joke."

As the courtroom cleared, one man stepped forward and told Rao he had got away with murder. Rao wheeled around and cursed loudly at him, continuing to swear as sheriffs pulled him back and out of the courtroom.

Webster's naked body was found in an area of the park where homosexual men cruise at night, prompting allegations of gay-bashing.

Much of the Crown's case was based on the testimony of two youths who have already pleaded guilty in connection with Webster's death.

The two, who were juveniles at the time of the attack, were each sentenced to three years.

Humphries said she found their testimony was filled with lies and inconsistencies, and too self-serving to base a verdict on without corroborating evidence.

She noted that the two young witnesses had each made a deal with the Crown and police to be tried in youth court, and that bound them to self-serving testimony.

Court heard that the four young men had gone to the park late at night looking for "peeping toms."

Read more info on: CBC.ca

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Page last updated December 16 2004.

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