Mr. Jetz: a cautionary tale on how not to apply for bail

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(Darrell Ackman/Winnipeg Sun)

Darrell Ackman, AKA the notorious Mr. JetzTV, wants you to know “the truth.”

Those are his words, not mine.

That’s straight from the former MLA hopeful’s lips today after he rejected an opportunity to put a publication ban in place on his case pending trial. He also rejected an opportunity to hire a lawyer to represent him.

Make no mistake. Today was a crucial turning point in the Queen v. Ackman.

It sets the tone for everything that will follow in a case of immense public interest to see prosecuted.

Ackman, arrested on May 8 after a scuffle with Winnipeg cops who were trying to arrest him on breaches of his prior bail order, made another bail application today.

You can read the meat and potatoes of it here.

While that article will get you up to speed, it doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the details of his life and history he disclosed during his three-hour-long submission to Judge Harvie.

And by and large, virtually everything he had to say was irrelevant to the matter at hand.

It is 100 per cent Ackman’s right to represent himself in court.

But as the pithy truism goes: A person who represents himself has fool for a client.’

Ackman’s situation today, to me, demonstrates the truth in this.

I stand by my position that today’s hearing should have been videotaped (no pun intended) for 1st-year law students as an example of the perils of representing yourself.

If Manitoba Justice hasn’t already ordered a transcript of his three-hour-long, rambling, submission today, I can guarantee you they will in coming days.

Ackman was duly warned: Anything he might say at the hearing — especially statements against his interest — could be used by the Crown at any future hearing.

You want to pick your comments carefully,” Judge Mary Kate Harvie told him, prior to explaining to him how “judicial interim release” works in Canada.

I’m no lawyer by any stretch — but I’ve come to understand a little sage wisdom about bail applications.

Rule number one: Barring a major, glaring hole in the Crown’s case, people seeking interim release should focus on their bail plan and not the allegations of their case; how they will satisfy the court they’ll either a] show up to deal with their charges b] not pose a risk for reoffending.

(I’ll leave out the public confidence aspect as it’s a seldom used ground in release hearings. It was raised today but didn’t form part of Harvie’s decision to deny and revoke).

Objectively speaking, Ackman could have made a succinct argument that for the many months he’s been free in the community [barring his recent breach allegations for sticking up posters at or near schools] he’s been compliant with his bail orders [a release secured by a $25,000 surety in his 79-year-old mom’s name].

He could have argued that the Crown’s concerns on his being free could be met by tightening up his curfew to an absolute one instead of a 6 p.m.-6 a.m. one, for example.

Hell, he could have at least presented the court with a definite address at which he planned to live at pending trial.

He didn’t. Instead, he said he believes he should be allowed to live wherever he wants.

That, even with a judge whose patience bordered on saint-like today, surely cemented the rejection of his application.

Here’s some other things over the course of three hours Ackman did have to say — and remember, it’s all from his lips.

So take that for what it is. Also remember: he was cautioned to pick his comments carefully.

  • “You know who I am right?,” he told the court near the very start of his submission. “Some people call me Mr. JetzTV.”
  • He gave the court a wealth of detail of his years (2003-2010) in Miami FLA, how he was charged down there but wound up bailed out in less than 24 hours after being picked up in a prostitution sting, how he was soon back on the streets with access to his cellphone and computer, but without his beloved/signature “bumblebee” Camaro. He came back to Winnipeg on a trip to visit family. He says he tried to go back to deal with the related charges — Ackman says a deal with reached for probation and all he needed to do was go back and sign the papers — but was turned back at the Winnipeg airport.
  • A self-proclaimed Winnipeg Jets fanatic, Ackman says losing the team in the 90s was like having the “heart ripped out of the city.” He told a story about being a Winnipeg Free Press carrier when he was pre-teen and could buy tickets for $5.
  • The “Mr. Jetz” persona was partially created because of his vast arcane trivia knowledge of the hockey team and its players. His Google YouTube channel, he says, was set up in 2010-2011? with help from his teenaged niece — whom he called his “best friend” — a relative he can’t have contact with due to his pending charges.
  • His mom was a veteran Kindergarten teacher — he says he remembers being taken to school by her at a very young age. In fact, he says his memory is amazing. He went on to go to school at Jefferson Jr. high and then Garden City Collegiate.
  • He objected to his Florida mug shot being used by city newspapers. “Is it allowed to be in a Winnipeg newspaper?,” he asked, also wondering if media publishing his release conditions violated a prior publication ban in his case (it didn’t).
  • “I don’t want to get in trouble ever again,” he said.
  • He spent a very long time challenging the most minor allegation he faces — a mischief charge from winter 2012 where he’s accused of scratching the Mr. Jetz logo into a car at the Highland Arena. “Mr. Jetz is not into damaging things,” he said. [note the 3rd-person usage]. The case lacks evidence, he claims.
  • Several times he referenced being a major fan of CSI: Miami and its main detective character, Horatio Caine and that fictional character’s lines regarding the quality of evidence.
  • He says Mr. Jetz has achieved “celebrity status” in a city like Winnipeg, where “there’s not much going on.”
  • He then talked about backing off from the persona to help his niece get a start with a music career. “I don’t think my YouTube videos they’re going to go anywhere,” he says he told her.
  • He then moves on to the fact one of the vulnerable girls related to his case has died, apparently from suicide. “I don’t like people dying,” he said.
  • “I really feel like I’m being bullied right now,” he says, later saying he has a solution to the growing problem of cyberbullying, should the court wish to hear it.
  • He says a number of people he’s met at Headingley Correctional — he says he’s made more than 40 “friends” — “don’t look guilty.” He talks about the case of Matthew Emmerling, the Ohio trucker facing a potential two-year term for bringing child pornography across the border and recently pleaded guilty. “Guilty seems to be the popular thing,” he said of the Manitoba justice system. Cops are “not the most honest people,” Ackman says. “They all know where I live. They all carry guns.” He denies biting one cop in his recent arrest, saying biting is not his thing.
  • He loves “cars, pretty girls, beaches.”
  • Cops can say “whatever they want” in their reports and there’s no refuting it. How “discovery” (perhaps he meant ‘disclosure’) is really just one person’s opinion.
  • He spent a long time talking about acquiring a voice recorder to use as a diary, to tape calls and conversations.
  • He says the Winnipeg press has “murdered” his reputation — that his big mistake was calling local CBC to see if they wanted to talk about his story.
  • He says his run for MLA of Whyte Ridge was well-intentioned to “turn Mr. Jetz into something positive,” a redemptive effort, but was quickly spun in the media as “How come the criminal is running for an election?”
  • “I love girls that look adult. And if they say they’re adult, I trust them.”
  • Says his alleged young victims may have criminal histories and he wants to see documentation. “There’s going to be some cross-examining going on.” Ackman says the girls — whom he considered his friends — didn’t have “a problem with me then.”
  • If the Winnipeg police have to comb Facebook for evidence, he says, then there’s a major problem. He accused police of doing “sloppy” policework.
  • “That’s one hell of a poster,” he told Harvie of his casting-call efforts [full disclosure: he even asked two cops if they ‘wanted to be in a movie on the courthouse steps one day. This was witnessed by me and a local defence lawyer].
  • He talked about how cops told him things might be different if he had signed “contracts” with the alleged victims.
  • “Right now it just kind of feels like my eggs are being crushed before they hatched,” he said after relaying some anecdote about being a boy and seeing some birds near his home.
  • He claims police came seeking a blood sample from him one day, apparently in connection to the death of a woman. He said a name I won’t repeat here. He says his mom freaked out at their request.
  • Police, it seems, “have a voodoo doll with my name on it” and are sticking pins into it until he “disappears,” Ackman says.
  • He says at Headingley, he was housed in a cell with two hard-looking inmates, whom he quickly won over. “That’s what Mr. Jetz does. Makes friends.”
  • In jail, he plays video games, basketball and ping-pong. “I actually feel safe because there’s no police harassing me.”
  • He says a police supervisor told him: “You’re not going to be getting out on bail this time, Mr. Jetz.”
  • Most lawyers he’s consulted, he says, just advised him to “plead out” but he’s not going to admit to something he didn’t do.
  • “The police have my passport. I have nowhere to go. I have no intention of going anywhere right now.”
  • Missing women in Manitoba are “a huge problem for police, and I agree its a major problem.”
  • “Maybe I’ll change my name legally,” to Mr. Jetz, he says.
  • Will he show up to court if bailed out? “Yes I will. Check that.” Later, he answers the same question: “I think so.”
  • He says he wasn’t offered his “Miranda rights” (his actual words) in his last arrest. “They let me call a lawyer,” but didn’t give him his rights.
  • Some of his prior bail conditions could be considered “comical,” he says, in terms of their enforceability.
  • Being in jail on remand is “kind of like a vacation, really.”
  • He claimed the fact he can’t use computers was “wasting” his talents.
  • “Will I reoffend? No.”
  • The girls: “They told me they were legal, but they weren’t.”
  • In Florida, he felt like “Hugh Hefner.”
  • If we’re going to stop abusive police behaviour in Manitoba: Mr. Jetz has the solution, he says. “Videotape everything.”
  • His ten months problems free on bail and turning up to every court date? Ackman says he deserves a “gold medal.”
  • “I don’t see why I would be a threat to anybody.”
  • The alleged victims, he says, could have walked out the door or jumped out of the car.
  • “I really should be able to go wherever I want.”
  • “You’re putting me on the spot,” he told Harvie toward the end of the hearing, when she asked him to focus on the plan for his release.
  • He can’t defend himself unless he has access to Facebook and a computer.
  • His mother is “shaken” by the whole affair, he says. Instead of returning to live with her, he’d rather live with his friend. How much of a surety might be available, isn’t clear.

So, that’s certainly not all of it. But I have to stop.

But all the while I was hearing this, I couldn’t help but think if Ackman instinctively knew his application was doomed to fail as presented: that the whole hearing was just another publicity stunt in the name of Mr. JetzTV.

But again, today marked a turning point in his case — a case which he says he “knows better than anyone” and was willing to take to a trial tomorrow.

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The 3rd-ever Golden Crown award

ImageThe third-ever Golden Crown, handed out to some of the best examples of Manitoba prosecutors trying to deter and denounce unlawful conduct goes to…

John Barr — head of youth prosecutions for Manitoba Justice — for at least attempting to put some backbone into what should happen when youths serving so-called “community supervision” portions of their sentences are breached for thumbing their noses at court-ordered conditions. 

Barr recently fought hard to have a provincial court judge’s decision granting bail to a kid accused (but not convicted) of breaching conditions of his 18-month sentence thrown out. 

The kid spent a year in jail with the last six months of his 18-month sentence meant to be served under supervision in the community. 

He got out in July, 2011 but by October was charged with breaching his court-ordered curfew by his probation officer. (And we all know by now what it can take to get a PO to breach a kid). 

However, Barr lost after Justice Brenda Keyser ruled it was unfair to allow adults to get bail on sentence-related breaches but not youths charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. 

Barr had argued that bail provisions in the YCJA only applied to youths who aren’t yet sentenced. Therefore, the court who granted bail in the first place had no jurisdiction to do so.

The kid’s lawyer argued it would be unfair to subject youths to harsher treatment than an adult might receive; that if an adult serving a conditional sentence can apply for bail in light of a suspected breach, then a youth should be provided the same opportunity. 

Keyser agreed, suggesting silence in the YCJA on the subject of bail for kids accused of breaching their sentences had to do with its “liberal construction” — in other words bail or release from custody is always a consideration or presumed. 

Under the YCJA, the “least restrictive” sanctions to provide criminal kids “meaningful consequences” is paramount. 

“Under the circumstances I find it to be unfair to allow an adult to apply for bail in these situations and not a youth … it would not be consistent with the expressed purpose of the YCJA to interpret the incorporated bail provisions of the Criminal Code as restricting their applicability only to young persons charged with an offence,” Keyser wrote. 

The real kicker is that if the kid is ultimately convicted of the breach, he’ll most likely get probation or even a fine, so even if it’s proven he thumbed his nose at the court, it won’t truly deter him from doing it again. 

That’ll teach him.

Regardless of the loss, I salute Mr. Barr for his efforts. We all should. 

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An (inconclusive) answer to a question that’s always plagued me

(We're obviously talking about a different kind of Warrant)

Just how many warrants are in Manitoba police computers gathering dust?

It’s something I continually have asked myself for the last few years until today, when I was given something of an answer.

It’s 20,000, give or take a few.

That was Det. Sgt. John O’Donovan’s reply to my question at the official unveiling of an RCMP-Winnipeg police warrant (read: ‘Fugitive’) squad today.

His official reply was “more or less.”

You can read all about it here. The unit is already claiming some success in catching crafty crooks who evade the law — sometimes for years,

Now, while that number seems quite large, it’s important to remember that a single offender can be the subject of several warrants at a time.

That person’s arrest can lead to the execution of several warrants.

But realistically, the quoted number of 20,000 really means nothing has changed on the outstanding warrants front since late 2006.

From Mike McIntyre (@mikeoncrime) and the Winnipeg Free Press (@winnipegnews), Nov. 6, 2006 (Can’t provide a link, sorry):

Unexecuted warrants gather dust in system

… Winnipeg police have long complained they don’t have the adequate resources to execute the majority of arrest warrants, which end up simply gathering dust in their system.

Police told the Free Press last month there are more than 20,000 outstanding warrants currently in the system for a number of alleged offences, including federal parole violations.

Sgt. Kelly Dennison said many offenders have more than one warrant against them, sometimes as many as 10.

 Here’s hoping the new warrant squad makes a dent in a number that has apparently stayed unchanged in the last five years.
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Bill C-10 and the YCJA: an important note

Sgt. Smith to teen shoplifter, by phone: ‘This is Sgt. Smith of the Winnipeg police. I understand you are being held for shoplifting. I am hereby warning you.’

Teen shoplifter: ‘Huh?’

Smith: ‘I am warning you.’

Teen: ‘OK?’

-end conversation

[Three days later, different store, same cop, same shoplifter, by phone]

Sgt. Smith: ‘This is Sgt. Smith of the Winnipeg police. I understand you are being held for shoplifting. I am hereby cautioning you.’

Teen: OK.

Sgt. Smith: ‘You are hereby cautioned.’

-end conversation

It’s often stated that the kids who actually wind up in custody at the youth centre and have to go before a judge are just the top of an iceberg in the city in terms of the number of offences committed by kids.

Under the YCJA — and its current focus on rehabilitation and ‘meaningful consequences’ for kid offenders — there’s a huge number of diversion tactics, known as extra-judical measures and sanctions that are often used as a first, last resort to scare non-violent kids from crime and keep them out of the court system.

Will the police consider these measures for me?

Yes. A police officer must consider using an extrajudicial measure if the offence is non-violent and if you have not been found guilty of a previous offence.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act sets out as a key principle that it should be presumed that an extrajudicial measure will be sufficient to hold a young person accountable for his or her behaviour.

These sanctions can range on a quasi-sliding scale from a police warning and caution [as evidenced above from a real-life example] to Crown warnings and cautions and voluntary referrals to programming etc.

In other words, it’s a number of ‘first, last chances’ before actually being charged with a crime and having to come to court.

While Bill C-10, the federal government’s omnibus crime bill, won’t remove these measures [that I know of], it does propose to make a major change that should prove revealing regarding their effectiveness.

Judges will now be told of them in court, and Crowns can rely on prior uses of extrajudicial measures as a reason for jail in indictable [serious offences]

Today, I’ve yet to hear of a judge be told of a kid’s pre-criminal history, of efforts made by police and justice officials to give them chances to get right or else.

The YCJA reads as follows today:

Clause 173: Relevant portion of subsection 39(1):
39. (1) A youth justice court shall not commit a young person to custody under section 42 (youth sentences) unless
(c) the young person has committed an indictable offence for which an adult would be liable to imprisonment for a term of more than two years and has a history that indicates a pattern of findings of guilt under this Act or the Young Offenders Act, chapter Y-1 of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1985; or …
And is set to be changed to:
A youth justice court shall not commit a young person to custody under section 42 (youth sentences) unless
(c) the young person has committed an indictable offence for which an adult would be liable to imprisonment for a term of more than two years and has a history that indicates a pattern of either extrajudicial sanctions or of findings of guilt or of both under this Act or the Young Offenders Act, chapter Y-1 of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1985; or

It’s another, dare I say, clever way of the federal government to try and put some sharper teeth into our youth justice laws.

It’s also one I have yet to hear word one about.

The question is: does so-called small crime like shoplifting pave the way towards more substantive offences?

Some authorities say yes — and the tale of ‘Burglar Jimmy’ is one example of this.

The only issue I can see with the proposed rule is that now cops and Crowns will have to keep detailed records of how many times they gave Jimmy a chance before he burned down the house or mugged the maid. I’m not 100 per cent sure they do right now.

[See comment below].

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As an aside: Could we please legislate in C-10 the addition of that peculiar British vernacular where being convicted of a crime, or getting arrested is referred as: “Got done for?”

Example: “I got done for drink drive when I was 18 and never got my license back,” said Ms. Butterfarthing.

Your ‘open’ justice system

(CBC)

From The WFP:

Former junior hockey coach Graham James quietly wrapped up his high-profile bail hearing last week when lawyers set out the conditions of his release.

James is believed to have been released from the downtown Winnipeg Remand Centre late Friday and flown to Montreal, where he will be allowed to live pending his trial on sex abuse charges…

It was set to resume Monday afternoon, but lawyers brought the matter forward last Friday.

James’ name didn’t appear on the public docket that day, meaning the media and public weren’t aware of it.

From the Sun:

Graham James has been released from jail and is living in Montreal.

The disgraced former junior hockey coach and scout was quietly released Friday afternoon following an appearance before a justice of the peace.

From CBC:

James, 58, was to have had his bail conditions made final in court Monday, but documents indicate that a justice of the peace actually signed off on his release late Friday afternoon…

The judge said he first wanted to hear from the Crown and the defence, and both sides were expected to deliver their submissions Friday. The date for the bail hearing was then set for Monday. For some reason, however, the decision took place Friday.

From CTV:

Convicted sex offender Graham James was given his bail conditions by a provincial court judge this past Friday.

The hearing was originally scheduled for Monday morning. It’s not clear why it was moved ahead.

[For some reason my linking button is not working — but you know where to look for more…]

Sweeping publication ban, hearings held in the background, public not notified.

An ‘I told you so:’ This case has now officially fallen into the black hole of the Manitoba justice system.

To be revisited 2-3 years from now.

Deja vu

In late November 2003, a 22-year-old woman is convicted of assault and given a short time-in-custody sentence and 18 months of probation.

She’s released from jail that same day.

One of the conditions of her probation is to take up immediate residence at the Behavioural Health Foundation to seek help for her cocaine addiction.

She never turns up.

A warrant is issued. She’s arrested and convicted of breaching probation on Jan. 9, 2004.

She’s released after 22 days in jail.

A few days later, on Jan. 26, 2004, she’s arrested at the scene of a 77-year-old man’s home on Maryland Street.

He’s already been carted off to the Grace Hospital in an ambulance.

From the Crown’s submission at the woman’s bail hearing on Jan. 28:

The accused sometimes attends to the complainant’s home to drink.

..The accused had consumed some liquor and then an argument started between them. It escalated to the point where the accused struck the complainant on the head with a small wooden coffee table. During the attack the accused said to the complainant: ‘I will kill you.’ She took his house and car keys and left the residence.

The elderly victim suffers cuts to his face and several to his hands. He’s admitted and spends at least the night under observation of doctors.

The Crown continues:

While the police were at the complainant’s house investigating, the accused returned to the address, but when she saw police she took off on foot. She was captured a short distance later and was arrested for the offences.

The accused, Mary Ellen Thomas, AKA Mary Ellen Young, AKA Mary Ann Smith is read her rights and given the usual caution by officers. She’s charged with assault with a weapon, theft under $5,000, breaching probation and uttering threats.

The Crown rattles off a number of Thomas/Young/Smith’s priors for Judge Ron Meyers:

  • December 2000, 2x breach of undertaking; 2x communicate for the purposes of prostitution
  • January 2002, Fail to appear and breach of probation
  • January 2002, Fail to comply with conditions of release, communicate for the purposes of prostitution
  • February 2002, communicate for the purposes of prostitution
  • July 2002, breach probation, communicate for the purposes of prostitution
  • January 23, 2003, 4x court-order breaches, mischief under $5,000
  • Nov. 24, 03, assault, breach recognizance

The Crown:

“She admitted the assaults verbally on the complainant by stating, ‘he acts like he’s helping me and he’s not. When I’m sleeping he touches me. I just got fed up and beat him up,” Shelley McFadyen tells Meyers.

Her defence lawyer pledges to the judge that if she’s let go, she’ll be good this time.

Meyers says, flat out: no way.

His decision sticks until April Fool’s Day, 2004, when Young/Thomas/Smith and her lawyer take that decision to a higher court judge for review.

In an affidavit filed on her behalf, the woman, a mother to three young kids, claims she suffers from depression and cocaine addiction.

A rehab placement at the Pritchard House is awaiting, she says.

She will live there, get help and not leave the place unless accompanied by a staffer. She also will post $1,000 cash money, not drink alcohol or take drugs and stay away from the victim of the assault.

Justice Colleen Suche agrees to let her go on those conditions.

———-

Fast forward to July 31, 2010.

A woman freshly out on bail and breaching her release conditions is arrested at Mike Allan’s home in Winnipeg’s Lord Roberts neighbourhood.

She had been granted bail June 23, despite the judge’s reservations about her record of violent priors and violations of court orders.

By now, she’s also amassed further convictions for violence and served her first federal prison sentence of 2.5 years.

Neighbours had called in a report to police that there had been some kind of disturbance in the home.

Allan is found dead by officers inside, and the woman is also suspected in a stabbing that occurred a few blocks away. An 18-year-old woman is badly injured in the attack.

Allan, 62, and the woman had just met that night, police say. Allan’s family says the two were drinking beer when there was an escalating argument that turned physical.

The neighbour tells CBC News that the woman had emerged from the home and claimed to have knocked him down.

Allan, a frail, sick man who was also alcoholic, likely couldn’t have put up a fight.

Police said after Allan and the woman had the fight, she left the home and then returned, where she was arrested and held in custody.

Police identify the suspect as Mary Ellen Thomas, 30. She’s charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault and multiple bail breaches.

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