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Hamilton man who livestreamed assault and transphobia on city bus gets 7 months jail time

Chris Pretula pleaded guilty to assault and breaching release conditions. He was sentenced to 225 days or roughly seven-and-a-half months in jail. (Bobby Hristova/CBC - image credit)
Chris Pretula pleaded guilty to assault and breaching release conditions. He was sentenced to 225 days or roughly seven-and-a-half months in jail. (Bobby Hristova/CBC - image credit)

The Hamilton man who livestreamed himself unleashing a transphobic tirade and assaulting someone on a city bus in 2022 received a roughly seven-and-a-half month sentence on Thursday morning — longer than what Crown attorneys asked for.

Ontario Court Justice Amanda Camara told Chris Pretula the sentence was meant to "send a message to other like-minded individuals that this type of hate and violence will not be condoned in our community."

The sentence was also meant to deter the 44-year-old from re-offending, given his criminal record, which includes past assault and threat charges, as well as breaching court orders, she said.

Pretula previously pleaded guilty for the assault in August 2022 and for breaching his release conditions. His hateful comments themselves weren't considered a crime, but a factor that affected his sentencing.

The video, which Pretula uploaded online, including on YouTube, showed him berating bus riders, unprovoked, with a hate-filled rant.

At one point, he holds a clenched fist inches away from one rider's face and kicks them in the leg.

Victims didn't approach police to press charges, the judge said. Hamilton police charged Pretula with assault a day after CBC Hamilton asked the police service about the video of the incident.

The incident sparked reaction from local members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community and the mayor at the time.

'Obnoxious, offensive and disgusting'

Crown attorney Megan Nieuwoudt previously asked Pretula be given a sentence of four to six months, in addition to two years of probation, calling it a "clear-cut example" of  the "denigration and dehumanization of a group of people in a public space."

Nieuwoudt added he was profiting from his anti-2SLGBTQ+ rhetoric via donations on his livestreams. He also posted other livestreams which showed him recording people without their consent and violating his conditions.

Pretula previously apologized for his actions, said it was a "fluke" incident, denied being homophobic or transphobic, and said he shouldn't be sentenced to any time in jail because "that's not a place for a guy like myself." He added he wanted to take anger management classes.

His lawyer, Stephen De Wetter, said Pretula shouldn't go to jail, saying he already served time in custody.

He also said Pretula's life circumstances should be taken into account. De Wetter said Pretula was shot in his 20s, lost his first-born child to cancer, lives with multiple sclerosis and is a stay-at-home dad who cares for his two kids while his wife works.

De Wetter declined to comment after Thursday's proceedings.

In the live-streamed video, Chris threatens to fight riders on an HSR bus after hurling transphobic insults at them.
In the live-streamed video, Chris threatens to fight riders on an HSR bus after hurling transphobic insults at them.

In the livestreamed video, Pretula threatened to fight riders on an HSR bus after hurling transphobic insults at them. (YouTube)

Camara ultimately agreed with Nieuwoudt, saying his Pretula's "obnoxious, offensive and disgusting" behaviour was hate-motivated.

She said livestreaming and uploading the incident led to a wider audience viewing the "public denigration and humiliation of the complainant and their family."

"I have no doubt this offence has had a significant effect on the complainant," Camara said.

She disagreed with Pretula's comments that the incident was a "one-off" noting his continued livestreaming since the incident.

She added he also said some of those livestreams were hate-motivated and he said he felt "community-based sentences would not and have not had a deterrent effect upon him."

Pretula, dressed in a grey sweater, blue denim jeans and black sneakers, was silent during his sentencing, shaking his head at various points.

He had a livestream scheduled on his social media accounts for Thursday afternoon, but left the courtroom escorted by officers as they pulled out handcuffs.

When accounting for time served during pre-trial custody, his remaining sentence is 133 days or nine weeks.

He'll also face two years of probation, a 10-year weapons ban and cannot communicate with the victims.

Despite being on social assistance, Camara also ordered him to pay a $200 victim surcharge fee, noting that he makes money from his livestreaming.

'A public reminder'

Jyssika Russell, a member of Hamilton's 2SLGBTQ+ community, said the entire incident is "unfortunate" and sees the judge was trying to send a message.

"It's so rattling and a public reminder to us and people outside the community that these things happen," Russell told CBC Hamilton Thursday afternoon.

"It's direct proof that these things happen and people are so brazen to share that in the public sphere."

Hate incidents and hate-related criminal offences in the city grew by 61 per cent from 2021 to 2022, according to a report last year from Hamilton police.

Russell said they hope Pretula will be able to get the resources he needs to rehabilitate and not re-offend.

They also had a message for him.

"He's stated he's had hard things happen in his life and many of us have had hard things happen in our lives," Russell said.

"Why does someone else's experience bother you ... Why do you care so much? No one is attacking you."