Halifax actor Gary Levert, 60, won’t have a criminal record after throwing his common-law wife across the room in a drunken rage last year.
On January 11 in Dartmouth Provincial Court, Judge Alanna Murphy accepted a joint recommendation from the Crown and defence that he be given a conditional discharge after serving a term of probation.
While the lawyers requested a term no longer than 18 months, Judge Alanna said she not only had to take into account the effect the sentencing would have on him, but on the victim as well. (You don’t say!! — ed.)
Just before passing sentence, Judge Alanna said she had no doubt that Marilyn McAvoy’s fears are completely reasonable given everything Gary has put her through.
"In this instance Ms. McAvoy has suffered greatly in her own home, she has concerns, rightly or wrongly, of fears that Mr. Levert will cause her harm in the future,” said Judge Alanna.
“It’s something that is difficult to disagree with - that her fear is coming from a very real place.”
So she decreed that Gary Levert won’t have a criminal record for assaulting NSCAD instructor and local artist Marilyn, 59ish, after he serves a full two years of probation.
Gary — an ACTRA-award winning actor who can boast bit parts in several locally shot Hollywood productions such as The Shipping News — was charged last spring with assault and unlawful confinement after the incident took place on March 13 at McAvoy’s Fairbanks Street, Dartmouth home (Frank 790). He opted to take part in rehabilitation and was admitted to the Ledgehill Treatment and Recovery Centre in Lawrencetown on April 18, a fact which the judge took into consideration.
Judge Alanna read the facts into the record.
He arrived home drunk on the evening of March 13. Apparently the relationship had already ended 10 days earlier, but he had been staying there anyway, the judge noted. He started arguing with Marilyn, who tried to leave. The police record shows he grabbed her and a struggle ensued, and he finally threw her an estimated six feet, bruising her rear end and head and breaking her glasses.
She went into the bedroom and texted her friend to call the police, which, upon finding out, angered her boyfriend of 18 months. That scared Marilyn, who then ran to the back door and onto the deck. Gary grabbed her again and tried to pull her back inside, but some neighbours approached and he let go.
The actor then stayed in the house until the police arrived.
Gary wept as he addressed the court, making it difficult to understand him. He called his ex a wonderful person who didn’t deserve what he had done to her.
He said it was unacceptable and he was seeking help, and that he wouldn’t wish being treated that way on anyone. Also, that it would never happen again.
He seemed almost as upset while the victim impact statement was read. McAvoy wasn’t in court to read it so her friend, Isla McEachern, an artist and art teacher herself, showed up and read it for her.
Marilyn said her relationship with Gary has ruined her life and has affected everything she does, from her job as a professor at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design to her art to her home life. Even her pets.
“Many things remind me of the assault,” she said through her friend.
“Even looking at the surrounding tiles in my kitchen reminds me of that evening and the memory of being airborne and how quickly it happened.”
As for being thrown so hard she flew through the air, fortunately some athletic training she received when she was younger stayed with her. She said in her statement that she still has nightmares, and the incident would have been worse were it not for her 16 years of figure skating training, which she believes allowed her to fall in such a way that her skull wasn’t fractured upon impact.
Almost a year later, she still has scars from when their dog, a 90-pound bouvier, joined in on the attack, and bit her hand. There’s no evidence that Gary commanded the dog to attack her, but she maintains that the dog’s pack mentality kicked in and he was mimicking Levert’s actions, and, she said, Levert didn’t call the dog off her.
She alluded to other incidents in their relationship.
“The night brought back memories of past incidents when I had to run from my home for my safety from Gary,” she said.
“I have a constant reminder of my hair being pulled out as I looked in the mirror daily as it grew back.”
She said it’s that memory and many others that continue to resonate like a nightmare compounded by the confusion of it happening at the hands of a man she didn’t recognize but knew well.
“It’s unfathomable that my common-law partner of one and a half years could be responsible for this assault,” she wrote.
“Despite my friends’ concern for my safety and their urging to stay away from him, the fact was he was still living in my home and I had to believe him when he said, ‘You know I’d never hurt you’.”
She said she’s still afraid of being alone at night. She had to bring in a housemate because, as she wrote, any feeling of security she felt in her own home is gone. She still wakes up with nightmares and panic attacks. Immediately after the attack she could not return to her own home for fear that Gary would be there in spite of the restraining order that was issued just after the attack. She wrote that she feared he would get to her and kill her, even with the new locks and new alarm system she had installed. She said it wasn’t until Gary checked into rehab two weeks later that she felt she could return home.
The attacks, Marilyn said, have also affected her on a professional level. As an artist she was afraid to go to her own studio because Gary had the keys. As a professional artist, writing grant applications and exhibition proposals are necessary to perpetuate momentum and opportunities, she explained in the statement. Even now the ability to tackle that aspect of her work, “Has been challenged and compromised.”
She’s apparently scheduled for a solo exhibition on May 2 at Studio 21 in Halifax, which is more difficult for her to complete, thanks to what happened to her at the hands of the actor.
It has affected her teaching, too, she said.
“For 30 years I’ve prided myself on being able to give my full attention to everyone in class. But since the assault I know I’ve let my students down. This entire ordeal has prevented me from being the teacher I was,” she wrote.
McAvoy has even been afraid not knowing where Gary has been living or working. She won’t go to any place in the North End of Halifax where he is known to hang out, nor any places or businesses they used to frequent together.
For his part, Gary’s legal aid lawyer Antonios Amoud said his client has also suffered professionally. As an actor he was released from an unspecified recurring television role that he received.
“Protection of the public is something the court has to take a very strong view of, (and Ms. McAvoy) should have some sense of security and a reasonable period of time while she tries to get her life back on track,” Judge Alanna said while handing down the sentence.
She said a 2015 drunk driving conviction — for which he was fined $1,200 and given a one-year driving prohibition — didn’t have any bearing on this case that she could see.
“Taking all the circumstances of this event into consideration, especially in view of the fact that Levert appears to have committed an offence of this type for the first time, it does appear that he has achieved a very mature age without this type of offence in his past,” she said.
“I take that with some skepticism in some offenders, but this is not a situation in my view where the public requires a conviction to be entered given Levert’s age and the fact that his family is aware that it has happened. He appears to be reaching out and accepting of his family’s assistance, he appears to be somebody who is motivated in getting ongoing assistance for the issues that caused this event.”
The Sudbury native’s IMDB page shows he co-starred in the television mini-series Moby Dick eight years ago with Ethan Hawke and William Hurt, and also had parts in a few Jesse Stone TV movies with Tom Selleck.
Both his ACTRA awards — one for Trudeau II: Maverick in the Making and a short film called Heart of Rhyme — came within the last decade.
He has been ordered to stay away from Marilyn, her residence and workplaces. He also has to stay away from alcohol and other intoxicants and to continue with treatment — including for anger management — as specified by his probation officer.