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Judge rejects grower's plea for leniency

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Former B.C. Fruit Growers' Association president Kirpal Boparai was sentenced to six months of probation and ordered to apologize for threatening another grower.

A judge ordered a former leader of the province's fruit growers to apologize formally to the grower he threatened to kill last summer.
Kirpal Boparai must undergo victim-offender mediation with Karmjit Gill, the target of his lengthy tirade, as long as Gill agrees to the supervised meeting, Judge Anne Wallace ruled Monday.
"Kelowna isn't that big. I expect your community is very close. The best thing is you two can build a bridge and put this behind you," she said.
Boparai, president of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association in 2012, argued for a conditional discharge on grounds that he was humiliated for his well-publicized tantrum and he obeyed a curfew and other restrictions while on bail.
The judge disagreed and sentenced him to six months of probation. She said media attention on public officials who misbehave has no bearing on their punishment in court.
"When you take on a role as a community leader, the community expects more from you than a regular citizen who's frustrated," Wallace said. "To go to the extent you did … is beyond a case where I believe a conditional sentence is appropriate."
Boparai was upset he hadn't been invited to a growers' meeting with MP Ron Cannan to discuss crop insurance after a hailstorm ravaged apple orchards in Kelowna.
He called Gill, a director for the local packinghouse, on Aug. 19 and asked why he was snubbed.
Boparai claims Gill was rude to him, so he drove to Gill's house on East Kelowna Road and demanded he come outside. Gill wasn't home. His son told police Boparai was slamming a shovel on the ground as he threatened to kill Gill "right here and now," said Crown counsel Karla Dodds.
It appeared Boparai had been drinking as he continued his profanity-laced rant, the son said. Boparai's own son arrived and tried to restrain him after he broke the shovel.
Three Mounties drove up, prompting Boparai to hurl more threats at Gill. One officer smelled booze as he led him to a patrol car. Boparai told him he wanted to go to jail and continued swearing and yelling out the car window.
As the officer drove him to the RCMP detachment, Boparai called Gill again on his cellphone and told him he'd kill him once he was out of custody. He said "police are useless" and became more aggressive when
officers told him to remove his turban at the police cells, the Crown said.
Several Mounties had to tackle and handcuff him. He spent a night in jail and was charged with uttering threats. Voice messages on Gill's phone revealed Boparai threatened to kill everyone in Gill's village in India and to "cut you up."
Clarke Burnett, defending, said Boparai has no prior record and wanted to plead guilty right away. Letters from supporters say how kind and generous he is. He's embarrassed and has brought shame to his family, the lawyer said.
Boparai sells most of his fruit to packinghouses in the U.S. and can't travel south of the border with a criminal record, Burnett said.
Boparai ended up quitting as BCFGA president in November 2012 after the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-op voted to cancel all his contracts and membership for selling his fruit out of province.
In a victim-impact statement, Gill said he lives in fear and his peace of mind is destroyed. He has pulled back from his business interests and contributes less to the Indo community, court heard.
While on probation, Boparai must stay away from Gill and his family, abstain from alcohol and drugs, get counselling and obey a weapons ban.
Gill was unavailable for comment Monday.

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