‘Pay or I’ll smash your skull’: Violent tradie set free
A GYMPIE tradie who threatened to smash a client's skull to "mush" and drove his car over another client's fence after harassing her has been sentenced to prison with immediate parole.
In July this year, Ben James Friske, 30, pleaded guilty to counts of extortion, one count of property damage and one count of using a carriage service to menace or harass, and he appeared in the court's dock this week for sentencing.
Between November and December last year, Friske extorted two clients of his business, Friske Fencing and Creative Carpentry, who had refused to pay the balance of their invoices, after he did not complete the jobs to satisfactory or industry standards.
After one client said she would not pay her balance until he fixed the defects, Friske refused and sent her several threatening texts, and said he would cut the fence down with a chainsaw.
He later called her a "grub" and texted her "pay your bill or I'll smash your skull to mush", the court heard.
He then threatened to shoot her and her children and smash her car.
A second client, who also had defects with her fence and would not pay the full invoice until it was fixed, received dozens of demands for payment through email, Facebook, text and voicemail.
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Friske threatened property damage again, and this time went through with it; driving his work car over the fence one night in December 2019.
Police attended and warned Friske not to return to the property or contact the client, who had to pay a $500 insurance excess for the damage he caused.
The next morning Friske sent the client several messages, and said he had "nothing to lose" and would go to jail to prove his point.
"Such is life, f--- the law," his messages read.
Both clients reported feeling frightened for themselves and their families due to Friske's menacing and harassing behaviour.
Several character references were supplied by Friske's defence lawyer before the sentence was handed down, which "indicated Friske's positive qualities."
"I do wonder how much some of these people know about your past criminal activities," Judge Gary Long said.
The court heard Friske has offers of employment from family members, and had been re-engaging with a mental health specialist after his release on bail in June.
Mr Long said it needed to be made clear to Friske that extortion was a serious offence, especially with threats and violence.
He also said the tactics Friske used to manage the civil disputes could not be tolerated in society, and there were other ways he should have handled the situation.
The court heard Friske spent close to six months in pre-sentence custody from December 19, 2019 to June 5, 2020.
"There's no logical explanation as to how you were granted bail," Mr Long said.
Mr Long said ordinarily a longer period of time in custody would be considered, but there were difficult circumstances now he was back in the community and making positive changes to his life.
On the first count of extortion, he was sentenced to 18 months prison, on the second extortion count he was given two and a half years, and on count four, wilful and unlawful property damage, he was given 12 months.
His 170 days in custody were declared time served, and Friske was released with immediate parole from September 16.
On count three, using a carriage service to harass, he was sentenced to six months prison, but Mr Long ordered his immediate release upon signing a $1000 good behaviour bond of three years.