Host Admits To Choking Their Airbnb Tenant Over Unpaid Bill
Jason Colton is still denying murder, but he has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Ramis Jonuzi, which occurred in October 2017.
A court was told that two housemates held the 36-year-old man down while Colton beat and strangled him for not paying the $149 he owed them. Colton, however, claims that he only wanted to cause Mr Jonuzi to pass out, not seriously injure or kill him.
The Age reported at the time that Jonuzi rented the room in Brighton East because he wanted a cheap place to stay while he dealt with some “personal issues”. He first rented the room from the three men–Colton, landlord Craig Levy, and flatmate Ryan Smart–for three nights, but then asked to extend his stay for a week for that $149.
But when check-out day finally arrived, the guest had less than a few dollars in his account and was therefore unable to pay.
Prosecutor Mark Gibson told the court that Colton was the first to attack Jonuzi saying, “[He] picked him up and threw him against the wall and started choking him.”
Australian broadcaster ABC reports that Levy and Smart held their guest down, while Colton beat him until he lost consciousness. The housemates then allegedly dragged him out into the garden and continued the vicious attack there. Footage of the crime scene was played to the court, and showed the tenant half naked, lying in front of the house with a visibly broken nose and bloodied face.
Colton has continuously denied knowing that his actions would be enough to kill his victim, saying that he only wanted to knock him unconscious. If the jury accepts his manslaughter plea, he could be jailed for 20 years–but if he’s convicted of murder, he faces a potential life sentence.
Both Levy and Smart pleaded guilty to manslaughter in September last year with Smart receiving a nine-year jail sentence and Levy being sentenced to seven-and-a-half years.
In an earlier statement, Airbnb said it was “deeply saddened and outraged” by what had happened and that it had removed the listing from its site. “There is no place on Airbnb for such an abhorrent act, which violates everything our global community stands for.”