(Please note strong language in second paragraph)
By Estelle Shirbon
LONDON (Reuters) - A mentally ill British man who shouted abuse at Usain Bolt and threw a beer bottle on the track at the start of the men’s Olympic 100 meters final was found guilty of a public order offence on Friday.
Ashley Gill-Webb, 34, shouted “Usain I want you to lose, Usain you are bad, you are an arsehole” at the Jamaican sprinter in the minutes before the race on August 5 last year, a key moment of the London Games.
As 80,000 fans in the packed stadium fell silent and all eyes were fixed on the competitors in the starting blocks, Gill-Webb looked over each shoulder to check no one was looking at him, hid behind a group of spectators and lobbed the bottle at the track, video evidence showed.
“I am sure that he was at that point acting rationally and wrongly and that he intended to cause harassment, alarm or distress to the competitors, and accordingly, he is guilty,” said judge William Ashworth at Stratford Magistrates’ Court in east London, a short distance from the Olympic Stadium.
The court had heard that Gill-Webb, who suffers from bipolar disorder, was in the throes of a manic episode at the time.
The crux of the legal case was whether, despite his condition, he acted with the intention to cause distress to others.
Ashworth found Gill-Webb guilty of a charge of behaving in a threatening and disorderly way “with intent to cause the 100 meters finalists harassment, alarm or distress ... thereby causing spectators present at the Olympic Park harassment, alarm or distress”.
He will be sentenced at a later date. The maximum penalty he could face would be six months in jail and a fine.
Gill-Webb did not have a ticket for the 100 meters final but had somehow made his way to an exclusive seating area where he mingled with members of the Dutch Olympic team in orange tracksuits.
One of them was judoka Edith Bosch, an Olympic bronze medallist, who testified earlier in the case that Gill-Webb’s behavior was so disruptive that she missed the entire race.
Bosch confronted Gill-Webb after he threw the bottle and blocked him from walking away. He was then restrained by Olympic volunteer workers and arrested.
Bolt did not hear the abuse or see a green plastic beer bottle land behind the starting line, and went on to win the race in 9.63 seconds, the second-fastest time recorded.
At the police station later, Gill-Webb handed officers a written statement which he signed “Alan Cumming”, the name of a Scottish actor.
Gill-Webb’s lawyer, Rhiannon Crimmins, told the court that he was not in a fit state at the time of these events to make rational decisions or consider the consequences of his actions.
“He would not have acted in this way but for his illness,” she said in her closing speech.
She said that, in his manic frame of mind, he behaved the way he did because it was making him feel good and not because he wanted to cause alarm to those around him.
From his perspective, she said, the tirade against Bolt was merely “about being a part of it, about taking the contrary view”.
Prosecutor Neil King had argued that while Gill-Webb’s judgment may have been impaired, it was not absent.
King argued that he must have known what he was doing was wrong if he took pains not to be noticed, as shown by the video evidence. But Crimmins said that it was impossible to analyze his behavior as if he had been acting rationally because in fact he had not.
Editing by Peter Griffiths and Guy Faulconbridge