London, Ontario – A London man has been acquitted of aggravated assault by a jury after a week-long trial that centered around a late-night brawl on Richmond Row. The fight resulted in a severe brain injury for one individual. Yaseen Muhammed, 22, was visibly emotional when the jury announced the verdict of not guilty on Friday after four hours of deliberation.
The victim, Muhammed Ahmad, 24, suffered a catastrophic brain injury on August 3, 2021, and remains in a persistent vegetative state, requiring constant care. The trial heavily relied on surveillance video footage captured during the altercation, which occurred around 2:30 a.m. The videos showed the sidewalk area north of Jack’s Bar, an alley between two buildings, and a nearby parking lot.
Notably, the jury was unaware that two other individuals seen in the videos delivering kicks and punches to Ahmad had already faced charges in the Ontario Court of Justice. Additionally, another participant in the brawl was never identified.
Lakin Afolabi, Muhammed’s defense lawyer, chose not to present any evidence in their case. During his hour-long address to the jury, Afolabi asserted that his client was not an attacker but rather a mediator. He claimed that Muhammed intervened to stop Ahmad, whom he described as a “drunken, irrational, dangerous, aggressive, large individual,” from choking another man who had attempted to deescalate the situation.
Afolabi emphasized the moral obligation to assist a person in distress and argued that Muhammed used lawful force to preserve life. He commended the jury’s decision, stating that it affirmed Muhammed’s actions as courageous and necessary.
The videos showed the sequence of events, with Ahmad being pushed to the ground three times. The altercation started with a brief scuffle between Muhammed and Ahmad. Although a stranger to Ahmad, Firas Firani appeared to intervene and defuse the situation. However, the altercation quickly escalated, leading to Ahmad putting Firani into a headlock. Muhammed and others proceeded to punch and kick Ahmad when he was on the ground.
The battle ceased when Ahmad was pulled to safety, but it reignited moments later in the nearby alley. Ahmad was once again subjected to punches and kicks in the parking lot, rendering him unconscious. Paramedics arrived to find him unresponsive, which necessitated emergency brain surgery and intubation for life support. Unfortunately, Ahmad has never regained consciousness.
In her closing statement, assistant Crown attorney Victoria Zavitz argued that Muhammed acted in tandem with the others involved and was complicit in the offense. While she acknowledged that Muhammed may not have delivered the most severe blows, she maintained his guilt as a party to the crime.
Afolabi countered this argument in his closing remarks, dissecting the crucial moments captured in the videos. He portrayed Muhammed as a mediator trying to prevent Ahmad from harming Firani. Afolabi emphasized the life-and-death nature of the situation, pointing out that Ahmad was the largest individual present that night. He expressed sympathy for Ahmad’s suffering but maintained that Muhammed and the others faced a choice to either defend Ahmad or watch him perish.
Ultimately, the jury found Muhammed not guilty. The trial highlighted the complexities of the case and the importance of interpreting video evidence in determining culpability.
In conclusion, a London man has been acquitted of aggravated assault after a jury found him not guilty in a trial associated with a late-night brawl. The altercation resulted in a severe brain injury for Muhammed Ahmad, who remains in a persistent vegetative state. The defense argued that Muhammed acted as a mediator, while the prosecution maintained his complicity in the offense. The trial emphasized the significance of video evidence and highlighted the challenging decisions made by the jury.