Former commando Heston Russell threatened to throw group off balcony, court told

Former commando Heston Russell threatened to throw group off balcony, court told

March 29, 2023

A Sydney court has heard former commando Heston Russell had been “aggressively kissing” a man at a Sydney new year pool party before he allegedly whacked one of his friends in the side of his head and threatened to throw them all over a balcony.

Heston Russell arrives at court on Wednesday with his lawyer Michael Bowe.Credit:Oscar Colman

Gold Coast-based Russell, 38, who is an Only Fans performer and conservative media commentator, is defending a common assault charge at the Downing Centre. His alleged victim, 41-year-old Sydney man Steve Pate, told the court that the blow left his “ears ringing”, saying it took several days for the pain to subside and he feared for his life after being confronted by the elite former soldier.

Pate told the court he and two friends had been sailing on Sydney Harbour on one of seven boats which had converged to form a circular flotilla for an all-day party on January 2, 2022. Russell was on another boat, hosted by friends from the F45 gym chain.

Heston Russell, second from left, on Sydney Harbour on January 2, the date of the alleged assault.Credit:Instagram

Later that evening, Pate and his two friends – a couple – went to an after-party in a Woolloomooloo apartment where Pate told the court they were approached by Russell, who proceeded to “kiss or bite” one of his friends on the neck, in front of his partner.

Pate said his friend didn’t look “completely comfortable” with Russell’s amorous advances.

Pate told the court he asked Russell to leave his friend alone “two or three times” as his behaviour had become “too much”. He also told Russell the man’s partner was present and asked Russell to go away. Pate said Russell became more agitated and responded “how was I to know” before threatening to throw them over the balcony to the ground several stories below. He then allegedly hit Pate.

“Almost instantly after he stopped talking I was hit … I thought it was a fist, it was a very hard hit … it was a real strike … and it affected me,” Pate said.

“There was ringing, momentary blackness … I just wanted to get out of there.”

The case was adjourned to November 9 when several witnesses are expected to be called to the stand, including Russell.

Last month, Russell was in the Federal Court in a defamation case against the ABC in which a judge found that a television broadcast and two online articles conveyed a series of defamatory meanings, including that he was involved in shooting and killing an Afghan prisoner.

Justice Michael Lee’s decision on the meaning conveyed by the publications was a preliminary win for Russell and paves the way for a trial to determine whether the national broadcaster can rely on any defences.

Lee said 10 defamatory meanings were conveyed by an ABC television broadcast on November 19, 2021, an online article on the same day, and the November article with a linked article from October 2020.

The meanings included that “Russell, as commander of November Platoon, was involved in shooting and killing an Afghan prisoner during an operation in Helmund province in mid-2012”; that he “habitually left ‘fire and bodies’ in his wake when deployed in Afghanistan”; and that he “habitually and knowingly crossed the line of ethical conduct” as a commando in Afghanistan.

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