A PROFESSIONAL Sheffield rugby league player has been jailed for three years for punching and kicking an asylum seeker after a night out.
Former Doncaster Lakers prop forward Alexander Rowe, now with Sheffield Eagles, has left his victim with permanent brain injuries and deafness in one ear because of the attack last January.
A woman who witnessed the assault said she felt physically sick at what Rowe did to 23-year-old Haroon Khater, a Sudanese man who was studying business management at college in Sheffield.
Now he has to wear a helmet to protect his head after part of his skull was removed during emergency brain surgery because it was so badly bruised by his head hitting the pavement in Priory Walk after a dispute in a takeaway.
Rowe, aged 23, of East Avenue, Woodlands, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm on January 9 this year in what he described as "10 seconds of stupidness".
Despite glowing testimonials from rugby league officials and a retired policeman who had known Rowe since he was a boy, the judge at Doncaster Crown Court said he could not be described as a role model if he went out drinking and committed a serious act of violence.
Judge Jacqueline Davies noted the difference in size between Rowe and his victim, who is only about 5ft 2ins tall.
"You are a strong powerful fit man, much bigger in size than the complainant, yet you ignored requests to leave the man alone.
"While he was motionless on the ground you put the boot in and caused his head to bang on a pillar. I cannot ignore the fact that even when he was down you kicked him."
The court was told Mr Khater spent 10 days in intensive care in Sheffield after the brain surgery and has spent almost six months in the Magnolia Lodge rehabilitation unit at Balby before being allowed home.
Prosecutor Richard Sheldon said he would need further surgery on his skull, had been left completely deaf in one ear and suffered from poor balance and cognitive skills.
The dispute, which contained an element of racial abuse even though both men are black, flared up at the Caf Pino takeaway and Rowe began shouting aggressively at the smaller man.
Rowe punched him to the head, causing him to fall and bang his head on the pavement. Then he kicked him in the face on the floor, which caused his head to strike the base of the pillars at the bottom of Priory Walk.
"A young woman who had been with the defendant said to Rowe 'leave him alone, look at the size of him'," said Mr Sheldon.
Rowe left the scene but handed himself in to police the next day and told officers: "I just had a bit of a brain explosion. It was 10 seconds of stupidness."
Nicholas Rhodes, QC, defending, said Mr Khater had been "pestering" Mr Rowe in a bar and when they met again in the cafe he called the defendant a "mixed breed".
"He lost his normal perspective and delivered the blow that has brought this nasty outcome. It was not premeditated, it was a loss of self-control when affected by alcohol," said Mr Rhodes.
Rowe was said to have good prospects in rugby and Dean Thomas, an official of the Sheffield Regional Rugby League Development Trust, said: "It was totally out of character, he's always maintained his cool and professionalism. He's a large man but kids see him as a gentle giant."
But in her sentencing remarks Judge Davies said:"You are regarded highly but a role model does not go out, take drink and commit serious acts of violence at night."
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