Comedian and data scientist Gary Jackson has been sentenced to six weeks’ imprisonment for wounding an audience member during an open mic event at the Hong Kong Brew House in March.
Jackson was remanded in custody after being convicted of one charge of wounding at the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts two weeks ago. He was prosecuted after smashing a glass into the face of Ravi Kanasamoorthe, who criticised the comedian for telling a joke he claimed was racist.
Before the conviction, Jackson told HKFP that the joke he made before the attack, was: “I think pregnant women are hot. They are voluptuous, gorgeous, and they can’t get pregnant.” He dismissed a rumour that he had made a joke about Chinese people eating babies. He said the joke was told by another comedian.
Kanasamoorthe refused to comment when approached, though one witness told HKFP that Jackson indeed made a joke with the punchline: “they’d eat their own babies.”
‘Justice must be done’
Jackson’s counsel requested a sentence of community service instead of jail time, on the basis that Jackson has learned a “bitter lesson” after having spent 18 days on remand and that the chance of re-offending is low.
The counsel added that Jackson felt remorse, as evidenced by the fact that he waited with Kanasamoorthe for the ambulance to arrive after the incident, and that he had told the police he “should have stayed [on] stage.”
Wan rejected the counsel’s request on the grounds that Jackson had insisted it was an accident even after being found guilty. He said that Jackson was only “sorry” about getting off stage to splash beer at the victim and and accidentally hurting him. From the court’s viewpoint, Wan said, that was not considered remorse.
The magistrate also noted the serious nature of the case and the fact that Kanasamoorthe had been badly wounded and is still receiving treatment more than half a year after the altercation.
Jackson’s counsel pleaded in mitigation that Jackson is a man of good character with a good employment record, and that the incident involved “only one blow” in “the heat of the moment.” The magistrate said that “the attack seems to be out of [Jackson’s] character and out of impulse” as opposed to a premeditated crime.
However, Wan said that imprisonment was the only option and sentenced him to a nine-week jail term with a discount of three weeks after considering that Jackson paid Kanasamoorthe HK$10,000 in compensation.
Kanasamoorthe was visibly frustrated after the sentencing but declined to comment.
Jackson told HKFP before the conviction that he was shocked when the glass hit Kanasamoorthe.
“I plead not guilty to dispute how it happened and the reasons why it happened… I thought he was going to attack me. And I reacted. I really didn’t want to fight, throw a punch, so splashing him with beer I thought was the right action – a glass that I found on a table – not my own would cool him down,” he said.
He said “everything changed” following the incident as he was fired from his job owing to the media attention. The court heard during the sentencing that he has since found a lower-paying job with a supportive employer, though he says he will not perform again.
“I refuse. I am in self-exile,” he said. “I retired permanently. Once you accidentally hurt an audience member, the game is over. Not because I was asked, it goes against why I got into comedy in the first place.”
“My goal has always been to bring people together with comedy – not tear them apart,” he said.
But he also said that those who are disruptive at comedy shows can be perceived as violent. “Screaming out not to say this, not to say that – during a show – is a form of censorship.”
During last month’s trial, Magistrate Jason Wan said that as an experienced performer, Jackson should know that splashing beer will not calm an angry person down. He also questioned why Jackson went towards the victim if he “really felt threatened” as he claimed. The magistrate rejected Jackson’s evidence, saying that he was “sure that the defendant has not told the truth.”