Brutal Attack at Poker Game Leaves Man Comatose

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Poker Player FightAn argument over a jailhouse poker game has left a Winnipeg man in a permanent vegetative state.

Nicholas Tanner, 22 was critically injured in the April 2009 incident at Headingley Correctional Centre. Crown attorney Melinda Murray told court last week Tanner remains comatose in hospital and is unlikely to recover.

His attacker, Jason Boubard, has now pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. The 31-year-old was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison

“I actually liked Nicholas, he wasn’t a bad guy,” Boubard told court. “I went too far. I’m sorry. I was scared.”

Boubard claims he was simply trying to defend himself after Tanner allegedly tried to stab him in the head with a pen. The Crown claims Boubard was angry when Tanner refused to pay him for losing a poker game they were having behind bars.

“Mr. Boubard has demonstrated quite clearly that even in the institution he is not controllable… when something as banal as a card game has him beating a man until he is in a vegetative state,” said Murray.

Witnesses say Tanner was quickly overpowered by Boubard, who repeatedly jumped on his head while he was unconscious on the ground. Correctional officers were able to stop the assault and call for paramedics. Tanner underwent emergency surgery for massive head trauma, including the removal of part of his skull to relieve swelling of the brain.

Boubard was being held in custody at the time following his arrest for a violent attack against his ex-girlfriend, for which he has also pleaded guilty to and received an additional two years jail. In that case, he burst into the woman’s home with a knife, assaulted her new boyfriend and tied him to a post in the basement for several hours.

Boubard has an extensive criminal record including more than 50 prior convictions, court was told. He met Tanner for the first time at the Headingley jail, where the young man was also being held on remand custody.

Tanner’s mother appeared in court Friday, saying she didn’t even recognize her son after seeing him in hospital for the first time after the attack.

“I just cried and said ‘That’s not my son,'” said Pam Cook. “Nicholas is young and should have his whole life head of him. No one should have to go through what my son is going through.”

(Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 16, 2010 B4)

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