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Johannesburg - A drunken altercation that saw Oscar Pistorius thrown out of a top Sandton nightclub could have a bearing on his murder trial.
Jared Mortimer, the man the athlete had an altercation with on Saturday, could be called to testify against him – but legal experts have warned that lawyers for the “Blade Runner” won’t take it lying down.
Mortimer was in the VIP section of The VIP Room, an upmarket club in the Michelangelo Towers Mall, on Saturday when he met Pistorius.
Mortimer said the athlete ended up insulting his friends, including a relative of President Jacob Zuma, and poked him in the chest.
Mortimer said he then pushed a “drunk” Pistorius away from him and the latter fell back onto a chair before bouncers intervened.
Although both the State and Pistorius’s defence have closed their cases, there is still a possibility that Mortimer could take the stand when sentencing proceedings begin.
“Sentencing is a complete little trial in itself, you can call witnesses to be examined,” said Stephen Tuson, an associate professor from the Wits Law Clinic.
He said it would be “inadmissible” for prosecutor Gerrie Nel to introduce the incident into his closing arguments, which are expected to begin on August 7.
However, Tuson said that the State may want to use the incident to argue for a tougher sentence based on the “interests of society”, one of three major factors considered during sentencing.
“If it’s suggested that (Pistorius is) reformed and rehabilitated, they (the State) could argue he is not.”
Independent lawyer Eddie Mashele agreed.
“Gerrie Nel could say: ‘What would give the court comfort and ease to know he will act in a way that the general society considers acceptable (if given a light sentence)?’” he said.
But another independent lawyer, Peter Jay, said it was unlikely that Nel would be successful in calling Mortimer to the stand.
“The evidence needs to be tested, the defence would object to it,” he said.
Just a few hours after the altercation, Pistorius broke his five-month Twitter silence by posting three photos which were laced with religious and motivational messages.
The VIP Room hosted an exclusive birthday party called the Superhero Squad. Many of the clubbers wore superhero costumes.
Mortimer told The Star on Monday that curtains in the VIP section were drawn so that nobody could see Pistorius was there. He said he was introduced to Pistorius by Guil Yahav, a former Elite bouncer turned professional poker player who made headlines in 2002 for his role in a vicious murder.
“Oscar said to me ‘oh, you are the notorious Jared Mortimer’. I had an issue with one of Oscar’s friends about three years ago. He must have known me because of that,” Mortimer said.
He said the two of them began talking about the people they knew and Pistorius told him that he had been “screwed over” by his (Mortimer’s) friends.
“He mentioned photos that were used in the trial. I said I didn’t know them because I hadn’t followed the trial that closely,” Mortimer said.
“Then he started talking about some of my friends and he said he had statements and evidence that would get my friends into trouble. But he wouldn’t use it because he wasn’t that kind of person. He was drunk, but not bad. We were drinking tequila and I still remember putting down my drink and thinking I couldn’t drink it while my friends were being spoken of like that,” Mortimer said.
In his original bail conditions, Pistorius was not allowed to drink. But he appealed the conditions and these were relaxed.
Mortimer said Pistorius started getting aggressive. “He was poking me and saying that I would never get the better of him. He was close to my face and at that point I pushed him to get him away from me… and he fell to the ground,” Mortimer said.
Three other people who were at the party corroborated Mortimer’s allegations. They asked to remain anonymous.
Pistorius family spokeswoman Anneliese Burgess confirmed Pistorius was at the club and that he was involved in an argument.
“They sat in a quiet area of the private VIP section when they were approached by the individual you have identified as Mr Mortimer.
“The individual in question, according to my client, started to aggressively engage him on matters relating to the trial. An argument ensued during which (Pistorius) asked to be left alone. Oscar left soon thereafter with his cousin.”