TWO SIDES: The Bonanno family (back, from left) Rachel, Joseph, Peter, Chris, (front) Sophie with Aislinn, Ellie and Lynnis.
TWO SIDES: The Bonanno family (back, from left) Rachel, Joseph, Peter, Chris, (front) Sophie with Aislinn, Ellie and Lynnis.

Punched teen's family says 'we're luckier than most'

THE family of a teenager assaulted in a nightclub know they're more fortunate than most who have lost their sons to alcohol-fuelled violence.

The Bonanno family has spoken out, saying there is "always two sides to every story" after the man who broke their son Joseph's eye socket in a nightclub was sentenced in Brisbane Magistrates Court.

Mark Manuel Rebelo, 22, pleaded guilty to assault occasioning bodily harm.

He was given 200 hours of community service, two years probation and ordered to pay Joseph $2600 in restitution including medical costs.

The court heard yesterday how in the early hours of Sunday, September 13, 2015, Rebelo was drinking at a Mackay nightclub. He was on the dance floor when a heavily intoxicated Joseph bumped into him.

The two began pushing each other before Rebelo punched Joseph in the head. Joseph, who was celebrating his 19th birthday, fell to the ground and struck his head on the floor.


Mark Rebelo (on the left).
Mark Rebelo (on the left). Michaela Harlow

The court heard Joseph had drunk more than 12 beers as well as vodka and had taken ecstasy pills that day. Joseph was rushed to the Mackay Hospital emergency department where he had a seizure. The court heard a medical report could not rule out the drugs having caused the seizure.

His dad Chris - the chairman of Mackay's City Safe Committee - has spoken in the past of the heartache of having to lay on top of his youngest child while watching him seizure.

A written statement from the Bonanno family yesterday claims there were "a few key facts which are wrong in the account delivered in Brisbane, far from where this happened".

"The most important of these is that Mark Rebelo punched Joseph twice, firstly while he was dancing when he was punched from behind on his right side," the statement read.

"Rebelo then kneeled over Joseph while he was lying on the ground and punched him again in the face. Security footage from the nightclub clearly shows Rebelo crouching over Joseph putting in his second hit though the vision may obscure whether he connected. The damage inflicted prove that he did."

The family doesn't deny Joseph was behaving poorly on the night.

"Yes, Joseph was very intoxicated while on a rare day off celebrating his birthday and yes he did take ecstasy tablets earlier in the day. This was not the wisest behaviour," the statement read. "But Joseph was not the aggressor. They have no past history or association so there was no reason for such violence, resulting from a mere bump on a dance floor."

The family said while Mr Rebelo had apologised to Joseph, it was "small comfort in the circumstances".

"As Joseph's family we are certainly glad that he was not more seriously hurt," they said.

"We have been more fortunate than too many other families who have lost their sons in such disgusting unprovoked attacks.

"But the slowness with which such cases progress through the court system, and the resulting minor repercussions for the aggressors does little to deter others from going out and punching away with impunity."

Rebelo's defence lawyer Michael McMillan told the court his client may struggle to see his family in South Africa if he had a conviction for a violent crime.

The court heard Joseph had recovered physically but continued to have psychological scars from the attack. In a statement Joseph said he remains nervous around drunk people and quit his job at a bar after the attack.

Mr McMillan said the attack was not "gratuitous violence" and occurred over a very short period of time.

Magistrate Bronwyn Springer did not record a conviction.

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