Thurles district courthouse
A man who punched and bit the owner of a Thurles coffee shop while the owner was restraining another man accused of robbery, had a bench warrant issued for his sentencing at Thurles district court.
Inspector James White described it as “remarkable” that the proprietor of Rusticafé in Baker Street in Thurles, was able to restrain two men, one of whom bit and punched him while they were on the ground.
Ionel Muntean, of 5 The Barony, Strokestown, Co Roscommon, was accused of assaulting Mario Ferrão, in the area of Friar Street, Thurles, on November 15, 2019.
Mr Muntean was the larger of two men who became involved in the disturbance, heard Judge Elizabeth MacGrath.
The smaller man was followed out of the shop by Mr Ferrão, in the direction of the train station, on suspicion of robbery.
Mr Ferrão explained to Insp James White that he tried to catch this man, and keep him on the ground while the guards were called. “The person on the floor tried to rob my shop,” said Mr Ferrão.
While Mr Ferrão was attempting to restrain the smaller man, a larger individual came up behind him and “tried to pull me back.”
This larger man, Mr Muntean, punched the back of Mr Ferrão’s head once, and bit him on the arm. Mr Ferrão restrained both men on the ground.
An off-duty female garda who happened to be a customer in the coffee shop, came to Mr Ferrão’s assistance. “She restrained one person, I restrained the other person,” said Mr Ferrão. The garda heard Mr Ferrão telling the larger man to stop biting him.
Garda Stephen McDermott arrived on the scene and both defendants were taken to Thurles garda station. Mr Ferrão identified Mr Muntean to the gardaí. The court heard how Mr Ferrão is proficient in an Israeli form of martial arts self defence called Krav Maga, used by Mossad.
Solicitor Colin Morrissey put it to Mr Ferrão that his client, Mr Muntean, was reacting to what Mr Ferrão was doing to the other man, Mr Muntean’s friend. “If that happened to me, I would not strike another person,” responded Mr Ferrão, who said he used “very reasonable” force throughout.
Mr Morrissey said his client was defending his friend, and only thinking about his friend’s health and security. “At that moment, I was thinking about my health and security,” replied Mr Ferrão.
Garda Karina Looby gave evidence that she was the customer who came to Mr Ferrão’s aid. She ran down Baker Street after hearing a commotion. “Mario, the owner of the café, had two people restrained. I recognised each,” she said.
Both men were struggling on the ground while members of the public were present. “I recall Mario saying ‘stop biting me’ to the larger man,” who was Mr Muntean, said garda Looby. As the level of threat subsided, she heard the sirens coming.
Garda Stephen McDermott said the larger man was “definitely” Mr Muntean.
Mr Muntean was only arrested in relation to assault, not robbery, said garda McDermott.
Mr Morrissey said Mr Muntean was not in court to defend himself, but it was a “reasonable case of self defence” by his client.
Insp White said it was a “dirty, sneaky blow to the back of the head by the defendant.”
It was to the credit of the injured party, Mr Ferrão, that he managed to restrain Mr Muntean and the other smaller man. “It’s remarkable,” said Insp White, but the attack “was a straightforward cowardly act of assault.”
Judge MacGrath said she did not believe the assault was “self defence”. Mr Ferrão alleged that there was a robbery on his premises and he pursued the smaller man and detained him for the purposes of calling the gardaí.
What surprised both men was the ability of Mr Ferrão to restrain them. Mr Ferrão “used reasonable efforts”.
Judge MacGrath found Mr Muntean guilty of assault. A bench warrant was issued for his arrest so that he could be brought to court for sentencing.
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