TWO sons of Independent TD Michael Healy Rae have been found guilty of assaulting a British tourist during a night out.
Kevin Healy Rae, 22, and councillor brother Jackie, 23, – who was newly elected on to Kerry County Council in this year’s local elections – had denied attacking 30-year-old Kieran James in Kenmare, Co Kerry, two years ago.
Delivering the verdict in the case today, Judge David Waters declared he was “absolutely satisfied” of the men’s guilt and adjourned sentencing until December 6.
Under the law, the Healy Rae brothers face a maximum sentence of 12 months in jail.
The pair, of Sandymount, Kilgarvan, were both charged with assault causing harm to Mr James on December 28, 2017 at Main Street, Kenmare, while Jackie faced a second charge of common assault against the same victim at East Park Lane, Kenmare.
Their pal Malachy Scannell was charged with assault causing harm to both Cornelius O’Sullivan and Kieran James at Main Street Kenmare on the same date.
The 33-year-old, with an address at Inchinacoosh, Kilgarvan, was also charged with criminal damage to a pair of glasses belonging to Cornelius O’Sullivan.
The assault arose from an incident at a chip van parked in Kenmare in the early hours of the morning when Kevin barged his way to the top of the queue and said: “This is my town, this is my chip van”.
However in a statement to Gardai the younger brother claimed he was waiting to be served and was being “stared at” by an older man whom he said had intimidated him.
He claimed he felt so intimidated he went to Jackie and asked him to accompany him back to the chipper and stand beside him while he got his food.
‘HE WAS STARING AT ME’
In his statement, Kevin said: “I went to the chipper to get food. I noticed a man on my right hand side. He was staring at me. He was very intimidating.”
He said because of the intimidation he felt he went to ask Jackie to come back with him.
When he went back “this old man struck me in the eye, displacing my contact lens”.
Jackie was restraining him and asked him if he was going to stand down. The old man said he would.
He said he did not get his chips and the group with the man was hurling abuse and shouting at them.
The abuse was relating to his father Michael. He believed the altercation was politically motivated.
Kevin said: “I believe it was started because of my family’s political connections. There are people all over the country who hate my family.
“I was brought up to let it go, to smile and to walk away”.
He denied he was drunk and said he drank very little. He said he was assaulted himself and suffered damage to his eye and a cut to the bridge of his nose. He made a complaint about this to gardai.
He also denied following the group up the Main Street in Kenmare and getting involved with his brother and Malachy Scannell there. He could not remember who was there and did not recall seeing Scannell.
His brother Jackie admitted in his statement catching Mr James in a headlock after seeing him lunge for Kevin at the chip van.
He said: “I restrained this old man. I caught him in a headlock.”
He admitted grabbing him in a headlock with his arm around his neck and he released him when he said he would leave Kevin alone.
He said the group with this man walked off shouting “stuff at us”.
They went up the main street. His brother went up too to see if the chip shops were open. When he followed him he saw there was a scuffle and he went in and pulled Kevin out.
Their sister came and collected them in her car and they went home.
Kenmare District Court heard Mr James, who resides in the UK but was visiting family in the Kerry area for Christmas at the time, said he, his now wife Lauren, and his Kerry cousins were out socialising together on the night of December 27/28 2017.
‘NOT TONIGHT, NOT TONIGHT’
After dinner they visited a number of pubs in Kenmare before going to the chip van for food.
Mr James said he was at the top of the queue when a man, whom he did not know but later learned was Kevin Healy Rae, came from behind and pushed through everyone queuing.
He said: “He put in his order and my wife said ‘there is a queue’. He turned around and said ‘this is my town and this is my chip van’.
“He started pacing back and forth staring at me. I said don’t talk to me and he was saying ‘not tonight, not tonight’.
“He walked off. He was quite aggressive towards me.
“He approached two others, one of them his brother Jackie.
“They came back pushing their way through the queue of about 15 to 20 people.
“I heard Kevin saying ‘where is he, where is he.’ He smiled at me, came up and pushed me up against the chip van. I pushed back.
“Then his brother (Jackie) grabbed me around the throat and I couldn’t breathe. I was going red in the face and after 30 seconds of people shouting to let go of me, he let go.”
They left without their food and were walking up the main street of Kenmare. They got about 30 yards when he heard shouting and saw the three lads coming running towards him.
He said: “They were shouting in an aggressive manner. Jackie grabbed my right arm and pulled it around my back. One of them started punching me repeatedly in the face”.
His nose was bleeding and broken requiring two surgeries but was still not right, two of his teeth were chipped and his shoulder was sore and his face was bleeding and cut.
The defendants’ barrister Brian McInerney described the garda investigation into the case as “shambolic” and they “were out to get the Healy Raes”.
This was completely refuted by Inspector Paul Kennedy who said a file on the matter was prepared for the Director of Public Prosecution who decided to prosecute all three defendants.
Judge Waters said that Cllr Jackie Healy Rae has a chance to defuse the situation and to take his younger brother Kevin who was intoxicated away from the scene.
He said instead he became involved and “was the third man in”.
He said he had a vision of Jackie having Mr James in a headlock and “smiling to people as he was doing it”.
He said the evidence against the brothers and their friend was compelling and he found Mr James an extremely credible witness with “no axe to grind” with them.