A WOMAN dropped to the ground when a bare-chested man rushed towards her with a lit firework as she was entering her apartment block in Clonakilty on St Valentine’s Day last year.
Alicia O’Donnell told Judge James McNulty at Clonakilty District Court that she was terrified when this incident happened.
Lucas Bialas (39) of 51B, Woodlands, Clonakilty denied a charge of assaulting her, as well as using of engaging in threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour.
Ms O’Donnell told the court she was living in an apartment in Clonakilty, upstairs from the defendant. She was coming home from work around 7pm on February 14th last year and had planned to stay at her mum’s that night.
‘I was going to run into my place to grab some things and pulled up outside the apartment block. I could hear music and people talking in the apartment downstairs and then I saw a group of men at the bottom of the stairs,’ she said.
‘I felt a moment of awkwardness and before I had a second to make a decision whether to go through them, one of the men who was topless, had a lit firework in his hand and went towards me.’
Ms O’Donnell said she immediately ran towards her car, dropped to the ground due to the smoke from the firework and then eventually drove off.
‘I was really upset and felt I couldn’t go back to my apartment. It was terrifying and I felt anxiety.’
She said she remembered that some of the men were topless and that the man who charged at her with the firework ‘had a round face and big belly.’ She identified the defendant in court as that man.
Solicitor Myra Dinneen said her client maintains that he and his friends were lighting cigarettes and that there was no firework in the corridor of the building. However, Ms O’Donnell said it was a firework and not a sparkler.
‘I fell to the ground outside by my car, as I felt it was the safest thing to do as there was smoke outside.’
Gda Denis Kerrisk told the court that when he met Ms O’Donnell she was very distressed and traumatised. He said he spoke to the defendant who denied knowledge of any incident. However, gardaí did recover a firework in a refuse bin in the garden at the front of the apartment block and the defendant and Ms O’Donnell were the only people with access to the block. Gda Kerrisk said he also spoke to the defendant’s friends who were present on the night who all said that nothing happened.
Mr Bialas said he and his two friends had been standing in the corridor smoking when Ms O’Donnell entered the building.
‘She went upstairs and entered her apartment and came down and I don’t know why she said she ran to her car. I did not have a firework and maybe the flame from the lighter could have scared her,’ said Mr Bialas.
He denied chasing her and said she just passed them in the hallway.
‘It was St Valentine’s Day and maybe someone was shooting fireworks, because I could hear them that night,’ he said. However, Insp Triona O’Mahony said he was telling lies and that he did have the firework in his hand. She queried was it normal not to be wearing a top on a ‘cool dark night.’ Mr Bialas said that he usually wears no top.
Judge McNulty said it can’t have been a ‘charming sight’ that greeted Ms O’Donnell when she entered the apartment block that evening. He said the court was satisfied that the defendant did have a firework in his hand when he approached her, which caused her alarm and apprehension.
He found the assault charge proven but dismissed the public order charge.
Insp O’Mahony said the defendant has 41 previous convictions, including 21 for public order offences.
Ms Dinneen said her client, who is originally from Poland, has been living in Clonakilty for almost 16 years and is currently unemployed.
‘He apologises for any fear he may have instilled in her and that was never his intention,’ said Ms Dinneen.
Judge McNulty said because the defendant isn’t working at the moment, the court would look at the possibility of him carrying out community service in lieu of a 90-day prison sentence.
At Clonakilty District Court this week, Judge McNulty directed him to carry out 240 hours of community service in lieu of 90 days in prison, after the probation officer said Mr Bialas was suitable for community service.