| 19.03,19. 12:22 PM |
Jason Rohan Colton jailed for 11 years for 'brutal' killing of housemate over unpaid rent
Photo: Ramis Jonuzi died after being choked and suffering blunt-force trauma to the head. (Facebook: Ramis Jonuzi)
Melbourne man Jason Rohan Colton has been jailed for 11 years over the "cowardly, vicious and unprovoked" manslaughter of Ramis Jonuzi, who owed a $210 debt for a room he had found on Airbnb.
Mr Jonuzi, 36, had rented a short-stay room in Colton's rented home in Brighton East, in October 2017.
The trial heard Mr Jonuzi was choked, punched and kicked by Colton.
Mr Jonuzi originally found the room on the Airbnb website and had extended his stay, resulting in $210 in unpaid rent.
During the trial, the jury heard a police interview recorded the night Mr Jonuzi died, in which Colton told investigators Mr Jonuzi "deserved everything he got".
Colton was initially charged with murder, but on day one of the trial he told the court he was guilty of manslaughter instead.
The prosecution later dropped the murder charge.
Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth set a non-parole period of eight years.
Colton's co-accused, Ryan Smart and Craig Levy, both pleaded guilty to manslaughter last year.
Smart was sentenced to nine years in prison, with a non-parole period of six years.
Levy was given a seven-and-a-half year jail term, with a minimum term of four-and-a-half years.
'Instigator of the attack'
Colton was living in the garage of the home in Alexander St, Brighton East.
Justice Hollingworth described the "brutal and one-sided nature of the attack".
"You were very much the instigator of the whole attack," she told the court in sentencing him.
"You lunged at him, grabbed him by the collar, spun him around, and threw him against the wall.
"Even though it was not your responsibility, you became preoccupied with the issue of whether Mr Jonuzi was going to pay the rent."
In sentencing, Justice Hollingworth remarked that Colton had told "a pack of lies" to police at the scene and later in police interviews.
Colton had accused Mr Jonuzi of being the "primary aggressor" and had downplayed the "nature and extent" of the violence.
"Even after you were aware that he had died, you called Mr Jonuzi a scumbag, a piece of trash, a junkie, someone who deserved everything he got," Justice Hollingworth said.
Mr Jonuzi's family told the court that he was a happy, caring man with "infectious laughter".
"Understandably they are struggling to make sense of how he died," Justice Hollingworth said.
Victim 'posed no threat'
The court heard that the "cowardly, vicious and unprovoked" attack on Mr Jonuzi lasted at least 10 minutes, starting inside the house and ending after Mr Jonuzi had been dragged out to the front yard of the house.
"Mr Jonuzi did not fight back and posed no threat to you at any stage," Justice Hollingworth said.
The court heard Colton inserted a pencil case between Mr Jonuzi's buttocks in what Justice Hollingworth said was an aggravating factor and "an entirely gratuitous and contemptuous act".
The jury was discharged after the prosecution downgraded the charge to manslaughter following evidence from forensic pathologist Stephen Cordner.
Initially he had concluded the cause of death was by compression of the neck and blunt force trauma to the head.
But the judge said during the trial Professor Cordner "quite fairly conceded that there were three possible causes of death, only one of which was related to choking".
The court heard Colton had a history of violence.
"You clearly have a problem with anger management which you need to recognise and address," Justice Hollingworth said.
She noted that people "shouldn't resort to violence to resolve financial disputes".