A New South Wales man convicted of the manslaughter of Filipina trans woman Mhelody Bruno has been sentenced to 22 months in jail after initially avoiding prison in a sentencing error.
A Wagga Wagga District Court judge initially sentenced Rian Ross Toyer on March 19 for Mhelody Bruno’s manslaughter.
Bruno fell unconscious when Toyer choked her while the pair were having sex in September 2019. He told the court the choking was consensual erotic asphyxia.
25-year-old Bruno later died at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital after doctors placed her in an induced coma.
Toyer, a former Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) corporal, said he and Bruno had shared a relationship for about three weeks before her death. The pair met on Grindr.
He admitted Bruno had not verbally consented to the choking. However Judge Gordon Lerve ruled he was “satisfied on balance” the choking, while “inherently dangerous”, was committed “in the course of a consensual sexual act”.
“The deceased at least impliedly consented to the conduct,” Justice Lerve said.
“The matter is towards the lower end on the scale of seriousness for matters of manslaughter.”
On March 19, the 33-year-old avoided jail time for Bruno’s death after pleading guilty to her death.
Justice Lerve sentenced Toyer to a 22-month Intensive Correction Order (ICO) with conditions including 500 hours of community service.
However the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions said the judge had made an error as ICOs are not permitted for a manslaughter.
Justice Lerve reopened the case on Monday (March 29).
Mhelody Bruno’s killer walked free after ‘significant’ legal error
In Wagga Wagga District Court on Monday, Rian Toyer was resentenced to prison, ABC News reported.
Justice Lerve acknowledge an ICO wasn’t available for the offence of manslaughter under sentencing procedure laws.
“Clearly in purporting to impose an Intensive Correction Order I made an error,” he said.
“That error was fundamental and significant and one which I must take ownership [of].”
Justice Lerve reopened the case to correct the error. He sentenced Toyer to 22 months’ jail with a non-parole period of 12 months.
However he said his inability to impose an ICO was “a matter of considerable regret” in the case.
“I remain firmly of the opinion that if the law permitted the offender to serve the sentence by way of an Intensive Correction Order it would be the appropriate course in this matter,” he said.
The prosecution reminded the court of “the level of dangerousness of the conduct [and] the need for general deterrence” regarding Toyer’s non-parole period.
However Justice Lerve said “given the offender’s age and lack of record, given he will spend some time in custody and the issues of the post-traumatic stress as diagnosed … he will in all likelihood require assistance in reintegration into the community.”
After the ruling, outraged Filipino and trans rights groups gathered for a rally for Mhelody Bruno outside Sydney Town Hall.
The protesters mourned the 25-year-old and condemned the judge’s initial sentence for her manslaughter as unjust.
The groups also called for an end to disproportionately high rates of violence against trans women.
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