The son of ‘Black Widow’ murderer Helen Milner, found guilty of punching and stomping former All Black Justin Marshall outside a Queenstown bar, has avoided jail.
Adam Kearns, 23, was sentenced at Invercargill District Court on Friday morning to a period of four months’ home detention and 250 hours of community work after he was earlier found guilty by jury of assault with intent to injure.
The assault, described by Judge Michael Turner as “unprovoked, alcohol-fuelled street violence”, came after Kearns and Marshall had both been inside a Queenstown bar drinking in separate groups into the early hours of Good Friday last year.
Kearns claimed that Marshall picked up his beer and drank from it. He remonstrated with the former rugby player who either didn’t hear him or ignored him, the trial heard.
Once they left, they had words on Shotover St with Kearns telling Marshall: “You think you’re the f****** man, well, you’re not.”
A scuffle broke out and Kearns and his friend, Tai Samuel Neilson, 25, who last year was sentenced to five months’ home detention for his role in the assault, started attacking Marshall.
Both men were then seen on CCTV footage punching, kicking, and stomping on the 81-Test halfback and SKY Sports rugby commentator while he was on the ground.
The trial was told that Marshall had curled up to protect himself from the blows. The assault ended with a female motorist saw the incident, stopped her car, and confronted Kearns and Neilson.
Marshall suffered bad bruising to the back, head and body, as well as lacerations and a large contusion under the left eye.
In his victim impact statement, Marshall said he now feels “vulnerable” in public and when walking in crowds. The publicity after the incident had an effect on him and his family, he said.
Kearns narrowly escaped a jail term earlier this year after caught dealing cannabis and in possession of a gun.
He told police he had the cut down single-barrelled sawn-off shotgun because his mother Milner, dubbed the ‘Black Widow’ who is serving a life sentence for the murder of her second husband Phil Nisbet, had wanted him killed.
“My old lady is paying for a hit to be put on me,” he said.
In April, Kearns was sentenced to eight months’ of home detention, 150 hours of community work, and ordered to undertake psychological assistance.
On Friday, Crown prosecutor Mary-Jane Thomas said home detention was again “on the cards”.
Defence counsel Alister James agreed, adding that he has good support in the community and is well supported by his landlord.
“Mr Kearns a year or so ago had some difficulties in his circumstances but I think he is addressing those,” Mr James said.
Marshall’s injuries “in the scheme of things” were relatively minor, Mr James said, and any concern he had with the media publicity caused by the incident came because he was “partly embarrassed”.
During his trial, Kearns claimed he was acting in self-defence after Marshall had attacked him.
Judge Turner noted that Kearns had changed his circle of friends and gave him some discount for personal factors, relating to his upbringing and his mother’s murder trial.
But the judge added that while he was entitled to some sympathy, it was not something he can “continue to trade upon from this point on”.
He sentenced him to four months’ of home detention and 250 hours of community work.
Six months of special conditions was built into the sentence to allow him to undergo anger management treatment and psychological assessment.
Kearns’ testimony helped convict his mother of fatally poisoning Mr Nisbet in 2009. He later won $55,000 from Milner after she had framed him and put him behind bars.
Milner admitted perverting the course of justice and was jailed for two years and eight months when she sent herself death threats and claimed they were from her son.
Kearns was arrested and spent 18 days in custody, while it is alleged that police took 13 days to carry out a search warrant which would eventually clear his name.
He has also launched legal action against police for allegedly failing to properly investigate his case.