It's been a common refrain among people accused of participating in the Stanley Cup riot: "I got caught up in the moment."
It might be tough convincing a judge of that fact, if the case of the first person convicted for taking part in the June mayhem has any impact on those to come.
Ryan Dickinson was handed a 17-month jail sentence – minus three and a half months credit for time served – on Thursday after he pleaded guilty to one count of participating in a riot and one count of breach of recognizance for violating a court-ordered curfew.
The 20-year-old was caught on video throwing a newspaper box at two unmarked police vehicles after the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. When police arrived at the scene and fired tear gas, Mr. Dickinson fled to another location several blocks away where he again threw a newspaper box, this time at a store window.
In a letter to the court, Mr. Dickinson said he was "caught up in the moment." Unfortunately, the judge shot down his argument.
"The video showing Mr. Dickinson's involvement in the destruction of vehicles is more than someone in a momentary lapse of judgment," Provincial Court Judge Malcolm MacLean said in delivering his sentence. "Mr. Dickinson chose to continue to participate in the destruction of police vehicles. The video shows there were times Mr. Dickinson could have walked away and he did not."
What impact Mr. Dickinson's case has on others remains to be seen. His case is different from many of the other 51 people who've been charged because he had a criminal record. The Coquitlam resident was previously convicted for an assault in which he kicked a man in the head. He served 10 days in jail as a result and was under curfew the night of the riot.
The Crown had characterized Mr. Dickinson as an "angry young man" with a pattern of troubling behaviour. Prosecutor Patti Tomasson asked that Mr. Dickinson serve 15 to 18 months on the riot count, and an additional one to three months on the breach of recognizance count.
Eric Warren, Mr. Dickinson's lawyer, argued his client's overall sentence should be no more than one year. He disputed Ms. Tomasson's claim that Mr. Dickinson was one of the riot's instigators.
The judge sentenced Mr. Dickinson to 16 months on the riot count, one month on the other count, before factoring in time served. Mr. Dickinson has been in custody since Dec. 8 and received one-and-a-half-times credit.
The judge called riots a serious threat to the rule of law and said Mr. Dickinson's actions would have encouraged others to get involved. He said rioters must be punished not just for what damage they cause, but the damage caused by others as well.
The first sentencing came nearly eight months to the day after the riot took place. It left $3.7-million in damage.
The Vancouver police department has been criticized for the pace of its investigation. The force did not forward its first major batch of case files to the Crown until Oct. 31– four and a half months after the riot.
But Chief Jim Chu heralded the sentence, saying he's not worried the time to send a message has passed.
"The sentence that was handed down is a victory for the victims and the citizens of Vancouver," he said. "We're very happy that the judge treated the offence of rioting in a very serious manner and there's been serious consequences imposed on the offender who committed the rioting, the carnage, the mayhem on city streets."
Neil MacKenzie, spokesman for the Criminal Justice Branch, said the Crown was satisfied with the "significant" sentence.
"The judge gave very careful consideration to all the submissions that were made and obviously took into account the seriousness of the offence that was committed," he said.
Mr. MacKenzie said Thursday's decision will be a factor in other cases, but, as the judge noted, each file has its own unique circumstances.
Mr. Dickinson's name made headlines in recent weeks after the Crown, on order of Premier Christy Clark and Attorney-General Shirley Bond, pushed for his sentencing to be broadcast. The Crown dismissed that application Monday. The government later that day dropped its push for riot cases to be broadcast.