A young man may have assaulted a TV reporter and his friend in a vicious and unprovoked homophobic attack because he was offended they were standing next to a church, a court has heard.
Joden Martin, 20, is being sentenced today after earlier pleading guilty to two charges of injuring with intent to injure and assault with intent to injure.
He had failed to show for his court appearance when the case was called just after 10am in the Auckland District Court.
"Martin?" The prosecuting police sergeant called out to those in the court's waiting area before shrugging his shoulders at Judge Robert Ronayne.
However, just after 11.30am, Martin arrived and Judge Ronayne withdrew an arrest warrant before adjourning the sentencing hearing until this afternoon.
Martin faces the possibility of prison for his unprovoked attack on Newshub reporter Aziz Al-Sa'afin and his friend Fergus Fauvel on Karangahape Rd in February.
The court heard today from Martin's lawyer that he was drunk, distraught at the anniversary of his father's death, and believed Al-Sa'afin and Fauvel may have been "being disrespectful" while standing next to a church.
Martin's lawyer said at an earlier hearing her client carried out the assault because he held certain "religious views".
Al-Sa'afin and Fauvel were standing on the corner of the busy central Auckland road and Cobden St just after 1.30am when they were assaulted without warning, court documents released to the Herald show.
Martin first swung at Fauvel and punched him behind his left ear.
Stumbling to the side, Fauvel then suffered a kick to his shoulder as Martin continued to attack and punched him again in the face.
Al-Sa'afin was next as Martin lashed out and landed two closed fist blows to the left ear and jaw of The AM Show reporter.
During the February 10 assault, Martin yelled "fags" and "homos" at the pair, court documents read.
Fauvel ran on to Karangahape Rd but was pursued by Martin, who threw him to the ground, pushed him up against a wall and continued throw punches.
Luckily, Fauvel managed to break free and fled.
At Auckland City Hospital, he was treated for a broken nose and abrasions to the left side of his back.
Al-Sa'afin, meanwhile, had a swollen left eye and cheek, a cut on his lip and bruised jaw.
Judge Ronayne said at an earlier hearing it was a "vicious, unprovoked" attack and the victims had been targeted because of their perceived sexual orientation.
"Prison is the starting point for this sort of behaviour," he said.
Today, Al-Sa'afin made a statement to the court as he reflected on the "horrific night".
"Growing up here in New Zealand, never did I think that I would be subjected to an assault like this," he said.
"I never thought that I would be the victim of a homophobic attack."
Al-Sa'afin said Martin made the two men "feel humiliated and worthless".
"The actions of Joden were made to feel like we didn't belong and that we were wrong in living our lives the way we were," he told the court.
After the attack, Al-Sa'afin said he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder which "worsened" after Martin's initial not guilty plea.
"It was further salt in the wound, it halted our recovery," he said.
"I find it really hard to speak about that night, it's like a knife in my stomach every time I do."
Al-Sa'afin said his physical injuries have healed but mentally he still struggles to comprehend what happened.
He said he wanted to think the attack and Martin wasn't a representation of New Zealand and that it was an isolated incident.
"Sadly that homophobic rhetoric still exists out there, as do the kind of people who hold those extremist views," he said.
Addressing a now crying Martin directly, Al-Sa'afin said: "You have a lot of life left to live and you have a lot of learning to do.
"I forgive you for what you did to me."
After the attack, Al-Sa'afin appeared on morning television and described the night he was out with friends celebrating Pride Week.
"I thought it would be one of my safest places," Al-Sa'afin said of Karangahape Rd, an area of Auckland known for its gay bars.
They were approached by two or three men, who at first made polite conversation, he said, but "before I knew it, my friend was on the ground getting bashed ... pulverised".
"Then as I was walking towards him, I got decked in my left eye. I got shoved back and I was still trying to make sense of the situation and as I was falling back I could just see my friend absolutely getting pulverised on the ground. Getting kicked in the stomach punched in the face. He was trying to protect [his head], he was in a fetal position," Al-Sa'afin said.
"Then another fist made contact with the right side of my jaw ... they were yelling out 'f***, homos, you're going to hell.' I lost vision and sight and I had no idea where I was. I actually thought, and I don't say this lightly, but I thought I was going to die in that moment. It was a place I don't think my mind has ever been before."