A former Glengarry footballer has narrowly avoided jail after a magistrate launched a scathing attack on him in court this week, describing the accused as a “thug” and “tough guy”.
Michael Diaz, 22, from Traralgon pleaded guilty in the Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court to recklessly causing injury following an incident on December 9, 2017 which left a man unconscious.
Police alleged Diaz “king hit” the man outside the Traralgon Bowls Club in Liddiard Road last year after the victim “yelled out a comment [intended] for his brother”. Police told the court, Diaz then approached the victim, striking him in the face.
Diaz played more than 60 senior games for Glengarry between 2013 and 2018, and this year signed with the Port Melbourne Colts in the Southern Football League, which described him on social media as a “big-bodied tough mid”.
Court documents alleged Diaz had been drinking in the outdoor smoking area with friends before he approached the victim outside the bowls club and said, “you wanna play with the big boys now”.
The prosecution summary stated the victim turned his back to walk away before Diaz approached the victim, punching him in the left side of his jaw and knocking him unconscious.
The victim was dazed for about five minutes following the attack before he was taken to Latrobe Regional Hospital with swelling to his jaw and cheek and cuts to the inside of his mouth.
Magistrate Tim Walsh said Diaz had “a bit of a track record for belting people for virtually no reason; not that it’s ever justified” before he launching into his criticism.
“I’m sick of people like this,” Mr Walsh said.
“I’ve got an 18-year-old son and I worry about thugs like you every time he goes out.
“You’re going to end up killing or seriously injuring someone. I don’t know what your problem is; looking at these offences you commit time after time after time.”
Mr Walsh continued his tirade, saying he had “a good mind” to sentence Diaz to a stint in Port Phillip Prison “and you can play with the boys down there; we’ll see how you go”.
“You’ll find out how tough you are with your earrings and pretty hair and everything else. They would eat you alive in an instant, you understand?” Mr Walsh said.
Diaz, supported in court by about a dozen friends and family, replied: “Yes, sir.”
In court, Prosecutor Senior Constable Tom O’Day said Diaz could have faced a “substantial term of imprisonment within range” given the nature of his offending and his prior criminal history.
But Diaz’s solicitor, Robert Davis, said his client had completed a large amount of community work while on a community corrections order and had engaged in drug and alcohol and mental health counselling.
References were presented to the court expressing their support for Diaz, including from his “current employer, previous employer and football clubs that he’s been associated with”.
Mr Davis said there “was no excuse” for his client’s behaviour, however, he had been experiencing difficult circumstances, including the breakdown of a “long-standing” relationship with his partner and issues with drugs and alcohol, at the time of the incident.
Diaz was convicted and fined $6000. He will be required to supply his DNA for the national police database.