Passenger felt violated after Sudbury taxi driver put his arm around her
A Sudbury taxi driver who put his arm around a passenger after she said she was cold has pleaded guilty to assault.
Arnold Zelinski, 63, had been charged with sexual assault, but pleaded guilty Thursday to the lesser charge.
“So what if it was just an arm: it’s still my space,” Ontario Court Justice Randall Lalande said, reading from the woman’s victim impact statement. “All I said was ‘I’m a little cold.’ All you had to do was close the window.
“All of me is private, not meant for you. So what if it was just my arm? Thank you for putting some fear in my heart.”
Zelinski had been charged following the incident that happened in his taxi in the Flour Mill area on June 7, 2018.
The court heard the woman told Greater Sudbury Police she had ordered a taxi and when it arrived to pick her up, she got in the front passenger seat.
The woman said that when she mentioned to the driver — Zelinski — that she was cold, he leaned over, caressed her and then dragged his arm along her forearm.
“He smiled toward her in an uncomfortable manner,” said assistant Crown attorney Bailey Rudnick. “She felt her sexual integrity had been violated.”
Defence lawyer William Beach said Zelinski should not have done what he did.
“He put his hand on her and rubbed her,” said the lawyer. “He shouldn’t have touched her.”
Zelinski had a prior record, but it consisted of an unrelated firearms offence more than three decades ago.
Lalande accepted a joint sentencing submission from Beach and Rudnick that Zelinski receives a conditional discharge and a one-year probation order that includes the condition he take any recommended assessment, counselling or programs. Lalande also agreed to a Crown request that Zeilinski provide a DNA sample.
If Zelinski stays out of trouble for one year, the assault conviction will not end up on his record.
In her sentencing submission, Rudnick said the incident had a “fairly significant” impact on the woman.
Beech provided the court with a letter from Zelinski’s employer that indicted his client had worked for the company for 18 years, never had a motor vehicle accident and that the company “is proud to have Arnold in our driving fleet.”
Beach added that Zelinski will be welcomed back to work now that the matter is finished with in the courts.
When given the chance to address the court, Zelinski said he wants to get back to driving a taxi.
“I’ve got about a year-and-a-half to go to retirement,” he said.