Hot-potato girl (part three) and our measures of ‘success’

Screen Shot 2013-03-27 at 10.56.14 PMWhen it comes to Manitoba’s youth justice system — and the unbelievably sad kids it often has to try and “fix” — I’ve learned one should take small successes and trumpet them.

And it dawns on me today that the case of K. falls into that category.

I wrote about K. — a high-needs permanent ward of CFS — a few months back. (It’s not her real initial).

Her tale triggered some consternation from regular readers of this blog (one commenter called the process of her case ‘disgusting’).

In a nutshell, K’s story was about what happens sometimes in our youth justice system — and the failures of systemic  concerns outside the court process to live up to the wishes and requirements of the court; that the youth justice act specifically states the criminal justice system is not to be a proxy for child-welfare concerns.

(And her concerns are immense. A short list goes like this: Violent history, FASD diagnosis, ARND, high suicide risk, broken family which “basically abandoned” her, mental illness, anxiety disorder).

You can read what little I know of K’s heartbreaking and concerning story here. And a follow up from a few days later here.

And it didn’t surprise me to learn last week that really, despite all this, nothing changed right away.

K. (remember, she’s 13 and an abuse survivor) was still released from the youth centre to go and live in a downtown Winnipeg hotel as Child and Family Services had no other placement for her.

(It’s partially her fault because her conduct had caused chaos at other bona fide foster placements, at another she was sexually abused and she was removed).

But the fact is the fact. Judge Mary Kate Harvie ordered specifically late last year K. was not to be placed by CFS or the provincial corrections department in a hotel and yet it continued to happen.

Another veteran judge, Marvin Garfinkel, lambasted lawyers and CFS over this continuing to happen in the spring and still, K. gets placed back in a hotel.

And again, this “plan” for her, however temporary the intention was for it to be, just didn’t work.

May 9, 2013: K. is at her latest hotel placement in downtown Winnipeg and a fracas breaks out with a worker over a perceived unfairness involving a cellphone. She lashes out, tosses a glass and hits the worker with it. After heading out of the hotel room, K. smashes a safety window, picks up a fire extinguisher and discharges it at another worker who tries to intervene in the hotel hallway.

Cops are called. She’s hauled off back to the youth centre and held in custody for what was termed a “freak out.” It seemed the cycle was simply doomed to repeat.

But then, something changed. Island Lake CFS came through with a placement on a rural farm. There’s animals there K.’s learning to bond with. She’s given structure and support and monitoring. The plan is she may actually return to school in the fall.

That’s some success you can hang your hat — however cautiously — on. But another success I noted was in how Judge Cynthia Devine treated K.

The relatively new judge, who also says grew up on a farm, spoke to this girl — noticed her, and noticed how this young offender with a horrific background replete with social (not criminal) problems spent two further months in custody till the placement came through.

Devine described this development, rightfully, as appalling. Because it is.

Devine saw how K. could barely utter a squeak, and hunched herself over in a defensive posture in the witness box throughout the hearing.

“It is absolutely no wonder that she comes before the court today having armed herself trying to protect her interests … little wonder that she freaked out. It is sad that she was in custody for so long on these charges,” Devine said.

“I’m appalled that this young girl was in custody for two months.”

Devine saw that the whole proceeding was likely just a bunch of gibberish to K., saying it was probably a “lot of noise” to her.

Devine saw K. And I got the sense her soft-touch approach might have made an impression.

To me, given some of the things I’ve seen over the years in youth court, that’s a success.

*[Edited slightly for typos on July 25 at 9:30 p.m. JST]

Bits at the end of a long, newsy week Part 1 — Phoenix

Screen Shot 2012-12-01 at 8.13.14 PMFrom the stunning turns of events in Boston and Texas to, locally, the provincial budget and the government’s plan to hike of the PST as of July, it’s been a hell of a week for news.

(Great blog on the budget here, BTW. h/t Cherenkov. I appreciate honesty too.)

But on top of emerging craziness, the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry resumed witness testimony after several weeks off, partly due to the delay caused by perceptions of conflict.

And while the evidence heard this week was at times disturbing and concerning (Cpl. Rob Baker’s testimony, along Alison Kakewash’s hit me personally like a ton of bricks), I’ve been turning my mind more often lately to what Commissioner Hughes could be making of it all.

As we approach what’s sure to be the gloomy end of Phase 1 on Tuesday or Wednesday, it strikes me there are two nuts-and-bolts recommendations Hughes could make today to fulfil his mandate to help better protect Manitoba kids.

Technology

This been a frequent underlying issue at the hearings so far. An old Child and Family Services database (CFSIS) limping along. Lack of consistent Internet access for CFS agencies outside major centres. That lack of infrastructure leading to a ‘why bother’ kind of attitude from workers, leading, in turn, to a lack of due diligence in doing things like Prior Contact Checks — the very thing which could have “changed everything” in Phoenix’s case. I’m reasonably sure Hughes has turned his mind several times now to the technology issue. There’s no reason in this day and age all communities shouldn’t have proper access to the CFS computer system. We can put infrastructure in remote areas to ensure VLT/Casino data is accessed daily. Surely we can do the same for child-welfare services.

Last fall, the Auditor General specifically noted that the province has been slow to implement a number of key recommendations dating back to a 2006 CFS audit — and electronic case management and tracking was among them. So obviously the powers that be are aware of the problem.

The Auditor General noted a plan to completely replace the CFSIS system stalled in 2009 and by time of writing hadn’t had an update:

Screen Shot 2013-04-20 at 6.34.47 PM
(From Fall 2012 AG followup report)

Screen Shot 2013-04-20 at 6.35.06 PM

Inter-departmental and external agency information sharing

This is a fundamental issue. And when you have a veteran cop like Cpl. Baker saying sharing between various government agencies — such as CFS, Employment and Income Assistance, Health and police — could be better, it probably could be better.

Instead, we’ve heard several times now how people’s fears at violating privacy and health privacy legislation has led to slowdowns in the investigative process. Baker said RCMP, his police service, has no issues quickly sharing certain information with agencies conducting “like minded” investigations — but found when investigating Phoenix’s homicide there was pushback from CFS when he hoped to access sealed “child in care” files held by a CFS agency. Luckily, EI investigators were ready and willing to co-operate and set up the ultimate “sting” which exposed Kematch and McKay — and Phoenix’s death — nine months after it happened.

Workers investigating a child-protection case shouldn’t be hamstrung by having to invoke “magic words” to glean information quickly out of other agencies who may have valuable data, and vice versa. Any abuses could be ferreted out with a strong quality-assurance program. Information is like oxygen to investigators of all stripes. If we believe they are working towards valuable goals [like the safety of at-risk kids], they shouldn’t have to fight for information.

But it’s a contentious issue, for sure. Even police agencies can’t figure out a way to co-operate when it comes to data sharing, as this (to my mind, sad) report out of Alberta suggests.

Queensland, Australia child-welfare inquiry

Interesting (350-page) read below:

A massive child-welfare inquiry in Australia is about to wrap up with a final report from its commissioner by June, likely earlier. What’s relevant is how many issues there are echoed over here, particulary the concerning rise in the number of kids being taken into care, largely because of neglect, not abuse.

The website is a model for future inquiries, I feel. It’s easy to find the disclosure, they took it on themselves to live-stream it, and staff even communicate with the public via social media. As well, people are encouraged to participate by sending submissions to the commissioner.

While I’m not knocking the effort for Phoenix’s inquiry — communications staff have bent over backwards at times to ensure media have been given proper access — but perhaps a few more of the $9.6 million we’re currently spending could have gone into making the proceedings and website more accessible to the public, virtually all of whom can’t make it to take in the hearings during working hours.

The design is a bit dated — and it’s very difficult to navigate the disclosure which has been presented, unless you note page numbers as you go along.

Here’s the recent discussion paper from the Australian affair. I’d love to foster a discussion about it with readers, so chime in in the comments and we’ll make it happen somehow. Perhaps through a live blog of some kind.

[Part two of this post will look at a few other non-PSI things I dug up this week, including an interesting tale about the infamous Darrell Ackman, AKA Mr. JetzTV]

——–

Late edit: I just wanted to point out some things which have been picking at me, relating to the internal CFS documents tabled at the inquiry.

Look closely at this, for one example:

Screen Shot 2013-04-20 at 8.05.15 PM

This was the file closing of Shelly Wiebe from December 2004.

Notice how her surname is typed one way — IE —

But her signature states it’s EI.

That’s odd, no? Who misspells their name in their signature?

Here’s another oddity, from this week’s report from Intertribal CFS.

Screen Shot 2013-04-20 at 8

Why is it that it’s the same report  — just one page apart (you can see the page break) — but the formatting in terms of spacing is so different? It’s weird.

There’s been a few other instances of documentary oddness. I’ll add them as I come across them.

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‘I am not happy’ — a veteran Judge reflects on the state of courtroom 308

(Winnipeg Law Courts/Winnipeg Sun File)
(Winnipeg Law Courts/Winnipeg Sun File)

Are lawyers disrespecting Manitoba’s provincial court?

It’s a question posed today by a frustrated veteran judge, Marvin Garfinkel (appointed in December 1979) as he juggled cases in Courtroom 308 at the law courts complex downtown.

Room 308 is designated as a sentencing or plea-entry court to deal with “summary conviction” criminal matters — matters which aren’t generally complex or overly serious.

It also handles items like motions and bail variations and people who are unrepresented and want to get their cases over with.

It sits each morning and afternoon of the working week except Fridays.

It’s a busy, but smaller room, one that’s hard for the public to find a seat in. It is generally standing-room-only for lawyers from both sides of the Crown-defence divide.

Matters are slotted onto a list and estimates for how long they may take to hear are provided. But, as is often said, the wheels of justice turn slowly — things often take longer to be heard then expected. Questions needing answers arise. Bringing in-custosy accused people into the room from lockup takes time.

In the glacial-paced world which is already Manitoba court system, 15 minutes turns into 30 real quick. And in my view, that’s probably for the best. Rushed, drive-through justice is probably not much better or helpful to society than no justice at all.

Lately, however, the dockets in 308 have been plagued by last-minute add ons and transfers from other courtrooms.

What was once meant as a courtroom to hear motions morphed into a well-intentioned experiment in “summary” dispositions to reduce court backlog — and the demand is now clearly outpacing resources.

Garfinkel today was clearly nonplussed at the state of today’s 308, and refused to hear a couple of cases because they were either not on the official list nor expected to appear that day.

Several times in the afternoon, he made comments about the length of time cases went over the estimated time of hearing as advanced by the lawyers involved.

And, probably rightly, he wondered if similar situations would unfold in the Court of Appeal or Court of Queen’s Bench, the higher levels of court in the province — but due the same respect any court of law requires.

The answer – I think he knew this — is, of course, it wouldn’t be allowed in QB and the appeals court.

This isn’t to say I believe the lawyers are intentionally being disrespectful, but there’s an amount of ‘wiggle room’ at the provincial court level which clearly is being exploited.

Here’s Garfinkel’s own words on the subject, for the record.

“I’m not dealing with this matter,” he told one younger defence lawyer.

“This matter is not on the list and I’m not going to deal with it. It’s not part of this court hearing this afternoon. And I’m glad you raised this now because it gives me the opportunity to vent.

The provincial court is the only court that does not control the length of its docket. I don’t know how this list [shakes it] got to be generated but certainly the judges and the staff of the court did not prepare that list.

If you go into the Court of Appeal on a sentence appeal, there are only four sentence appeals allowed in a half-day. The Court of Appeal staff controls its list and docket.

The provincial court is treated by counsel differently than it treats the Court of Appeal and the Court of Queen’s Bench. And counsel add matters that the court has no control over. We are not dealing with [accused] today – because he’s not on the list.

And I will also add that many of these items on the list have times shown — those times are estimates by counsel of how long the matter will take. As just shown from the first matter we dealt with [Set for 15 mins, but lasted 32] Counsel are frequently wrong in their time estimate.

This court came into being because the judges wanted to deal with motions by counsel. We as judges found that we weren’t getting motions from counsel. Counsel preferred to deal with motions in a different fashion.

So we said, ‘OK — we’ll take un-represented matters from 301 and 302,’ and we found that that didn’t work. And so we said, OK — counsel could put matters into the court. But we never put a cap on it, thinking that counsel would be intelligent enough to know how manny matters can be dealt with in a half day.

In the Court of Appeal, the example given is four matters in a half day, not taking into account transfers from 301 and 302.

I’m not dealing with this matter because it’s not on the list. I don’t know how it got added to the docket. You can put it to whatever courtroom that you like — but I’m not dealing with it today for the reasons stated.

We still have I don’t know how many matters to go — and I’ll venture to guess none of the time limits shown will be followed.”

FAST FORWARD TO A LITTLE LATER IN THE DAY:

(Garfinkel sounded like he was pre-explosion after the final matter came on the docket and his lawyer wasn’t in the room to handle it:)

“How do you have a lawyer put something on a list and then not show up? Would [the lawyer] do that in the Court of Appeal? Would he do that in the Court of Queen’s Bench? Then why do it in the provincial court? Are counsel treating the Court of Appeal differently than it treats provincial court of Manitoba and if so, why?

Just because we’re the lowest court on the hierarchy doesn’t mean we should be treated with disdain. I’m not being critical of you [he tells the Crown] but I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to vent. Why are we doing this?”

[Get a message to the other lawyer, he tells the Crown, and let him know his client is here.]

“I am not happy,” Garfinkel said.

The  duty Crown in attendance tried to explain how the estimations are arrived at, that often they add minutes to the estimates to try and account for extra time just in case it’s needed.

“You can convey the message to the lawyers in your department. That I am not happy with this whole system in 308. It’s not working the way the judges want it to work and we … as the judges are going to have to sit down and talk about it. And we will.

“And if you want to get in some points of view and opinions, you better tell your supervisor to get that information into the chief judge quickly.”

“Yes your honour,” the Crown replies.

A meeting of provincial court judges is coming up in May, Garfinkel says.

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Catch and release: Notes on the Samantha Anderson homicide

(Samantha Anderson)
(Samantha Cherish Anderson)

What does the “supervised” in supervised probation mean in Manitoba, exactly?

It’s a question churning around and around in my head today as I dug into the wealth of justice system-related background available on Shayla Woodford, a 21-year-old Manitoba woman accused by police of murdering her one-time live-in lover Samantha Cherish Anderson.

Anderson died Dec. 21, weeks after police say she was attacked in a Boyd Avenue home on Dec. 2 — the day before her 24th birthday.

Woodford was accused (and she’s presumed innocent) right from the start, arrested just after the incident on aggravated assault and probation breach charges.

She was officially rearrested for second-degree murder earlier this week.

At the time of Anderson’s death, Woodford was out on bail (for the 7th time since late 2009) and bound by two supervised probation orders meant to either keep her in check, help rehabilitate her or, more likely, both of those things.

While the latest two cases she faces have yet to be proven, Woodford’s habit of getting collared for crimes raises questions about the level of supervision to be expected when a sentenced person is placed on supervised probation by the courts.

An unusual feature is how Woodford’s involvement with the justice system only dates back three years, shortly after she turned 18 and began her relationship with Anderson.

Since then, however, she’s been arrested and released multiple times for a variety of different offences, some of them domestic-related and others not.

To try and make sense of it, I crafted a timeline out of the available information. After taking a number of hours to consider it and its implications, I’ve decided to present it here for the record:

November 2008: Woodford and Anderson begin their relationship.

Sept 12, 2009: The couple are now living together on Young Street. Woodford, drunk on 24 Budweiser beer, assaults Anderson — even turning up the stereo to mask the sounds of the attack — and is arrested at the scene by police. She’s released on conditions she have no contact with Anderson as the case makes its way through the courts.

October 2009: The couple are back living together despite the no-contact conditions.

January 25-Feb 1, 2010: Sometime in this period, Woodford assaults Anderson again after getting a call from her lawyer, who reads to her Anderson’s statement from the prior incident.

Feb 12, 2010: Woodford asks Anderson “who she’s trying to look good for.” The incident prompts Anderson to flee their home and she tells police she’s forced to hide in a restaurant for 30 minutes to an hour to evade her lover. She spends the rest of the weekend at a friend’s home.

Feb 14, 2010: Woodford spots Anderson outside, pulls up in a car and drags her into it. Woodford pushes her into her home, pulling off Anderson’s shoes and tossing them in the snow, telling her “She’s never going anywhere again.” She then bites her on the arm.

Feb 16, 2010: Anderson discloses recent events to police and they arrest Woodford.

March 29, 2010: Woodford is released on bail to live with family, ordered to have no contact with Anderson and stay a minimum of two blocks away from her at all times.

Nov. 14, 2010: Anderson’s mother has a phone conversation with her daughter, hears Woodford in the background and calls police out of concern. Police attend and take her into custody.

Dec. 22, 2010: Woodford, granted bail weeks earlier, can’t raise a required surety, so conditions are changed on this day to remove that condition. She’s freed, ordered to abide by a nightly curfew and again, have no contact with Anderson.

March 4, 2011: Cops investigating an unrelated compliant are sent on a goose chase trying to find Woodford. They’re told she left town for her home community of Fairford First Nation for the weekend.

March 8, 2011: Woodford stops signing in at bail supervision.

June 7, 2011: Winnipeg cops finally catch up to her after they nearly hit her with a cruiser car when she walks out in front of it near Logan Avenue and Tecumseh Street. The warrant for her arrest comes to light.

Aug. 5, 2011: Woodford, held in custody now, pleads guilty to three counts of assault and a number of breaches. Judge Tim Preston cautions her about her conduct toward Anderson and apportions some of her dead time to the various charges she pleaded to. She’s released that same day on a two year long supervised probation order, with conditions including avoiding Anderson for the entire term, take domestic violence counselling and a weapons ban. These marked her first-ever convictions. “That relationship was not healthy, it’s over,” Preston tells her. “I don’t want you having anything to do with her.”

Dec. 10, 2011: A heavily intoxicated Woodford steals a Duffy’s Taxi driver’s cab, only to be arrested behind the wheel not long after. Belligerent, it takes hours for police to get a breath reading off of her. She blows .210, nearly three times the legal limit.

Dec. 12, 2011: She’s released on bail.

Feb 16, 2012: Woodford is again back in court for reasons that weren’t made clear. But they obviously had something to do with Anderson, because her bail conditions are set to include having no contact with her. She is also barred from being in the City of Winnipeg except for probation and court-related meetings or appointments.

April 6, 2012: Anderson and Woodford are riding a city bus together when one of them decides to snatch an iPhone from a passenger’s hands. They flee, but the passenger gives chase. The two women play a game of keep away with the phone until the victim restrains Woodford and Anderson jets off with the phone. Police ultimately arrest both. The charge against Anderson is stayed at a later date. Woodford is charged with the theft and a no-contact breach.

July 6, 2012: Woodford’s second sentencing: Only through her probing the lawyers does Judge Heather Pullan come to discover out a small amount of the troubled past shared by Woodford and Anderson. “What about Ms. Anderson?,” Pullan asks. “(Woodford’s) victimized her before and is now getting in trouble with her,” she says. She’s told it was Anderson who contacted Woodford this time around and that the relationship is “complex.”

Neither the Crown nor defence requests any additional probation as part of this sentence.

Pullan rebuffs that and imposes another two-year term, despite the fact she appears to be holding her nose somewhat due to Woodford’s conduct on the prior order: “This whole line of behaviour tells me you don’t care what the court says, you’re going to do what you’re going to do and victimize people,” she tells Woodford. “You have to understand, Ms. Woodford, you’re running out of chances.”

Pullan did wonder aloud why it was the prior probation term seemed to be failing to help Woodford get straight, but appeared to push the onus right back on her.

“You’re treating this whole thing as a joke. It’s really hard to protect the public from you,” Pullan tells her.

Sept. 12, 2012: Woodford is accused of several new charges, including assault, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and breach of probation. The incident obviously involves Portage Place Mall, as:

Sept 17, 2012: Woodford is released on bail with conditions she live at an address in Gypsumville and not move without permission and to stay away from Portage Place mall.

October 29, 2012: A Probation officer files a report in support of charging Woodford with new breaches as she can’t be located in Fairford, and a relative says she asked for her stuff to be sent down to Winnipeg. The relative refused to give the probation officer the contact number. The officer warns in the letter that Woodford was assessed at “high risk for general criminal conduct” and she has a “propensity to become violent.” A relative told the officer: “She is supposed to be staying with me and I have tried to help her and now I don’t know what to do.”

Dec. 2, 2012: Anderson is attacked with a kitchen knife inside a Boyd Avenue home and police charge Woodford. They say the two were living at the home. A 17-year-old girl is also injured in the attack.

Dec. 21, 2012: Anderson dies of her injuries.

Dec. 24, 2012: Police announce they have charged Woodford with second-degree murder and she remains in custody.

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Court of Appeal to Manitoba Corrections: Gladue ‘lip service’ comes at a cost

(Winnipeg’s Old Law Courts Building)

A single sentence buried deep in a lengthy written decision from Manitoba’s Court of Appeal contains the words many in the city’s legal community — including, no doubt, many judges — have been eagerly waiting to hear from our top court.

They’re worth reading a few times over to soak in their gravity:

“There is presently in this province either a concerning disregard or a systemic impossibility to provide what is required for judges to comply with the dictates of the Supreme Court.”  

Justice Michel Monnin wrote the above in the court’s unanimous decision to slash in half the 10-year-long sentence Queen’s Bench Justice Shane Perlmutter handed to a 23-year-old rapist who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman in her northern Manitoba home in 2010.

Monnin’s cutting words are aimed squarely at Manitoba Corrections, the provincial justice agency responsible for preparing pre-sentencing/Gladue reports for judges, a task its been doing for many years now.

Gladue reports are written to help inform judges about the particular circumstances of individual aboriginal offenders. They look at the community from which an aboriginal person hails from, their family history and what factors may have led them into contact with the criminal justice system.

The overall intent of the reports is to help judges satisfy their legal requirement (enshrined in s. 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code) to consider “all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances.”

These “should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders,” the law says.

The intent of the Criminal Code provision — put in place in the 90s and often called the “Gladue” section — was to try and address the vast over-representation of aboriginal offenders in Canada’s jails. (Article spelling this out is here)

Roughly 74 per cent of adult inmates in Manitoba jails in 2011 were aboriginal, according to the latest Stats Can numbers.

A shameful total that’s climbed in each of the the last five years despite the intent of the law of the land.

The wake of Ipeelee

Earlier this year, a shockwave went through Manitoba’s courts, prompted by the Supreme Court’s decision in Ipeelee.

Manitoba judges started loudly demanding Gladue-based information, and demanding proper waivers if the offender didn’t wish to pursue a report (they take weeks and weeks to prepare).

The high court in Ottawa had basically issued an edict: Criminal court judges of all stripes weren’t doing their jobs to look long and hard at Gladue factors each and every time they sentence an aboriginal offender. If they didn’t start doing so, the top court implied, judges could expect to start seeing appellate courts retooling their sentences.

That’s what happened in the above rape case.

It is apparent from Monnin’s ruling that the sentencing judge got a poorly/hastily written Gladue report from Manitoba Corrections that appeared to contain ‘cut and pasted’ material from other reports — hardly the individualized effort the law requires. The law, the Supreme Court says, is not to provide a “race-based discount” on sentencing, but to ensure the sentences handed out to aboriginal offenders were made in light of the necessary context.

“The judge had at his disposal a pre-sentence report that also purported to address the Gladue factors that a judge must consider when imposing a sentence on a person of aboriginal descent,” Monnin says.

“I say purported, because the only difference that I can see between the report that was presented to the judge and a commonly-prepared pre-sentence report was that it contained a short history of the accused’s home community and the general loss of culture and identity that has afflicted aboriginal communities generally. That portion of the report is a near mirror image of a report that was submitted [in another case.] …

… Furthermore, although the report states that it “will pay particular attention to the unique circumstances of the aforementioned aboriginal individual,” I remain hard-pressed to understand how it does so, or how it could have been helpful to the judge, or any other judge for that matter, to discharge his obligation to consider the Gladue principles in crafting an appropriate sentence of this accused. 

The report, without wanting to criticize the individual who prepared it, but rather the system that permits it, reflects the problems raised by [Provincial Court Judge Fed Sandhu in an unrelated case where Sandhu talks of the lack of public confidence and respect for Gladue due to a lack of community-based and other resources to really put some teeth into the law.]

I mentioned above a “shockwave” that went through the courts at the time Ipeelee came down. It was apparent.

The net affect of the renewed focus on Gladue was for lawyers to start requesting more Gladue reports from Corrections.

My understanding of what happened is they were caught totally off guard and are still trying to keep up with the increased Gladue workload — including some totally novel requests from certain judges.  [Side note, the report took weeks to prepare, came back and the judge said he didn’t find it helpful at all in a bail setting.]

The pressure on Corrections to produce Gladue materials has sparked complaints from many lawyers who claim probation officers/report writers are simply doing “cut and paste” jobs [as referenced by Justice Monnin above] that may give the impression Gladue considerations are being given attention, but really, they’re not, in many — but not all — circumstances.

Then, quietly, a quandary developed when an NGO stepped in to fill the void.

A private aboriginal restorative justice agency in Winnipeg, Onashowewin, began writing full and comprehensive Gladue reports for offenders — reports that are repeatedly praised by judges for how informative and well-prepared they are.

Defence lawyers hipped to them in droves, many times forgoing the Corrections reports entirely.

I can’t tell you how many times the agency’s reports were lauded by judges. It’s clear from reading them that a lot of time and effort went into them.

Corrections, I’m told, got in a snit partly because the Onashowewin reports didn’t include any risk-analysis of the offender, as their mixed Gladue/pre-sentence reports do. Fair point.

Corrections won’t just write up a Gladue report without an accompanying pre-sentence report to go along with it.

The end result: Onashowewin, which receives government funding, recently introduced a new policy of charging $500 per offender for their Gladue reports.

Now, Legal Aid Manitoba is apparently balking at the notion of funding the private reports, a veteran defence lawyer said today.

Most, if not all, of the reports are written for indigent offenders depending on public representation to resolve their cases.

So I ask you — one way or another — is the system set up to truly honour the law of the land?

Today, the Court of Appeal said, ‘no, it’s not.’

And until that starts to happen, expect to see more sentences overturned.

[Another side note: for those interested in learning about virtually all the in’s and outs of Gladue, its genesis and future uses in Manitoba should read The University of Manitoba’s tremendous ‘Gladue Handbook’ recently produced by the Faculty of Law. A fascinating and worthy read.].

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‘Your Honour, I implore you, don’t let this all be for nothing’

Screen Shot 2012-10-29 at 8

Many times in our justice system, the aftershocks of criminal violence go unreported and are therefore can be under-appreciated for their gravity.

Presented below — verbatim to the best of my ability — is the victim impact statement from a 55-year-old dad of three who was brutally attacked by a gang-involved city teenager.

His attacker, by my reading of the case, essentially ‘duped’ the man into coming back to a friend’s place so he could be viciously robbed and beaten within an inch of his life — and then dumped to die in a back lane.

Today, for the first time, the facts of this alarming case were aired in court.

(Article is here).

The teen (now a young man of 18 years old) is facing a seven-year prison sentence today. He was just a couple months shy of his 18th birthday when he set upon the victim.

His total take from his violent venture: $50.

For the unsuspecting victim, however, his misplaced trust led to major and debilitating injuries,nearly complete loss of income and a once productive and seemingly ‘normal’ life thrust into chaos — perhaps forever.

He couldn’t personally write the words presented below, which speak for themselves and are to be taken as his words except where noted.

They were inked with the consultation and help of family members obviously still reeling that someone could be so cruel.

But again, they speak for themselves. Here they are, for the record.

—-

On Oct. 15, 2011, I was robbed and beaten over the head with a weapon consisting of some type of a blunt instrument and left unconscious, bleeding to die in a back lane.

I was discovered by a nearby resident and the authorities were called on my behalf.

Once arrived at Health Sciences Centre I was taken into surgery for a significant brain injury. There was bleeding on both sides of my brain and the surgery was to relieve the pressure on my brain from the swelling.

I had blood streaming from every possible orifice. My eyes, my nose, my mouth and my ears … unrecognizable —

(The niece interjects, briefly):

It was horrific (seeing him).

In addition to the trauma to my brain itself I had three skull bones that were broken: an orbital bone and both cheekbones. I had many teeth knocked out and in addition to those others that are damaged and in need of repair.

I had bruised ribs and a bruised hip as well. I spent close to two months in the Health Sciences Centre, from Oct. 16 to Dec. 2, 2011 whereupon I was transferred to Riverview Health Centre in a specialize brain injury rehab program where I stayed for another three months.

For the the first three weeks of my stay at HSC I was in and out of a coma state.

I had no self-functioning in any capacity. I was fed intravenously, I had medical implements for urination and bowel movements. Once becoming aware of my surroundings I continued to have to wear diapers and use the bag for urination.

I had to continue to have a feeding tube as I could not swallow, and a ventilator for breathing.

During this time I could still not walk or talk. I was tied down to my bed because I was involuntarily thrashing as my brain was attempting to heal in order to ensure I did not do further damage to my body. So I could not even scratch if I was itchy.

This was the most traumatic time to me as a person, as it is from this time on that I have  some very clear recollections of the experiences in the hospital.

But I wasn’t able to tell anybody how I was feeling.

I have lost over 50 pounds.

At this point in time in my recovery I have slurred speech, memory loss, extreme confusion. I seem at times to drift in and out of time, similar to a stroke or alzheimer’s sufferer.

I had thought my deceased uncle and aunt to visit … but really only another uncle and I had only been talking about past shared memories.

I have undergone speech therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy during my stay at Riverview Health Centre. And I continue with this on an outpatient basis.

I have several issues with my sense of balance — my energy is low and I tire very easily. I still have issues with my throat and trouble swallowing due to swelling and scarring and damage from the tracheostomy surgery.

I have trouble reading and writing. I have trouble searching for words to describe myself.

I cannot drive a vehicle any longer. I’m not sure as to if or when this will ever be possible in the future. I have a permanent five-inch scar on the left side of my skull.

My hair will most likely never grow back in that area. I have been left with permanent seizures.

(His niece, reading the statement, interrupts):

Also — I’m not sure if we can interject — but one of the things that has happened as a result is he’s been left with these seizures, and he’s been in hospital since because he almost choked to death because he started seizing and the family didn’t know what to do for him at that point. They’ve since receive medical training — how to … first aid and triage response when and if this occurs again.

He’s been left with permanent seizures, and he’s been advised that this is due to the brainwaves on the right side of his brain are slower in comparison to that of the left side of his brain.

He’s been started on the following medications: [Drool-minimization meds]  — He was drooling all over himself and it couldn’t be controlled. [Seizure control meds]. Aspirin as a blood thinner, vitamins etc.

I might add that my uncle was in perfect health before this. He was a 30-plus year contraction worker — very very strongAnd if he wasn’t in the physical condition that he was, he never, probably, would have survived these injuries. That’s because he was in impeccable health before this happened.

The emotional and financial ramifications are going to be hard to talk about, because obviously it’s very personal in nature, the niece said.

(The statement continues):

I feel useless. I feel humiliation as I’m not the man I once was. There are few things I am able to do on my own, for myself. I feel humiliated that the people I love saw me in such a vulnerable state.

Before I was attacked, I was a very composed person. I could always control my emotions. I didn’t even cry seeing my Gramma waste away from cancer. I didn’t cry when I got married or when my children were born. I did not cry at funerals.

I cannot control my emotions any longer. I cry all the time. I cry when I see people come to visit me. I cry when they leave. I cry when I get to go home on weekends and when I see my children. I am embarrassed by my speech; by the sound of my voice.

My voice does not sound like my voice anymore. I am very frustrated at most times because I cannot concentrate for any length of time. I have slow reaction-response time, physically, mentally and verbally.

I know what I want to say. I hear what I want to say, but it doesn’t come out right. I’m constantly searching for the right words. I’m quick to anger due to extreme frustration because I can’t just think.

I’m extremely paranoid and anxious and I’m constantly worried about people stealing what I have left.

When my family visits me at Riverview and we’re trying to enjoy time in the lounge, I am constantly going back to my room, checking to make sure nothing is gone.

I am scared my life will never be mine again. I had a 30-plus year career in construction. I have assisted to build some of the biggest monuments/buildings in Winnipeg.

One of my last projects was as foreman on the new James Richardson Winnipeg International Airport that I’m very proud of.

Will I ever be able to read and understand blueprints again?

Will I ever be able to exert the physical capacity I once did in life and on the job.

Will I ever be able to go play ball with my sons or skate with them?

Will I ever be able to even go to my sons’ hockey games as a spectator?

I can’t climb stairs right now.

I was the main income in my home — the main provider.

My wife and children have already struggled and suffered trying to make ends meet while I’ve been out of work awaiting sick benefits to begin.

I made around $60,000/year annually. I have lost at least $30,000 in wages as this is being written.

Sick benefits run out. Then what am I supposed to do?

I always had a Freedom 55 plan. Can I enjoy the golden years of retirement the way I have planned on?

I am restricted to my home, basically, when I go home. I cannot enjoy the things I once did with friends and family. Can I even do my duties at home?

I took care of my home and my yard. It’s my pride. And we have been faced with worrying that we may lose the house at some point.

Everything I have worked for. RRSP’s dried out and I did not carry critical injury insurance on my mortgage because I didn’t think anything like this would ever happen.

If I can never go back to work, my family will be living under the poverty line for income.

Will my marriage withstand this kind of pressure?

What if I start to remember the attack itself? Who will help me? What will happen to me?

What if I can never drive again? My freedom is gone. My ability to get back and forth to work is gone.

Again, that same thought: Will I ever work again? Who will cover costs for me for future expenses, for medications, home care, if I need any special equipment to return to my life at home? Even Handi-Transit expenses if that’s how I’m going to have to get around?

My family has their own lives. That can’t be there to drive me everywhere and my wife will have to be at work. Will I ever get to enjoy teaching my boy to drive?

It’s his 18th birthday (next spring) … will I even be home?

My daughter is only 13. She needs her dad. I have only seen my oldest son a couple of times since this attack because he couldn’t bring himself to look at me like this.

Can any amount of money really replace what I’ll be losing?

(The niece):

He just wanted to conclude by saying that it was a horrific attack on himself. Physically, emotionally and mentally — his life will never be the same. Why should (the accused’s) be the same?

He would like to say: ‘Please, Your Honour, I implore you, don’t let this all be for nothing.

Thank you for this opportunity to share the personal side of this attack and not just the legal aspects. Thank you for your consideration.

I would like to close by saying — if we can, because this is a victim impact statement and we want (the accused) to know how we feel and what has happened.

(The niece, speaking directly to the accused):

I looked at your family back there and I’m very sad for them. Because you’re going to be taken away from them, from their lives. Ok? This man here? This is my grampa. This is my grampa. And when Ms. Carson (The Crown) was reading … you said you wanted to speak to your grampa (when police arrested him and brought him in for an interview). Your grampa was who you wanted. And you know what? I understand that. Because my grampa is the man I go to when I’m down, when I need help, when I’m hurting. He’s the one I want.

“When I ever accomplish something wonderful, he’s the first person I want to tell. But I want to ask you — when you kept on saying, ‘the old guy,’ that you robbed and you beat, what if that old guy was your grandfather? How would you feel? That would destroy you obviously because you obviously love your grandfather a ton if he was the one that you wanted to be there with you.

And look at your pretty cousins back there. What if some boy did to them what you did to your girlfriend? Wouldn’t that outrage you? I think it would.

And you know what, I just want to say to you personally – I really hope you take this time to take advantage of all the programs they’ll have to offer you to get off of drugs and get out of trouble with gangs and maybe get an education so that when you do come out, you can be productive, and other families won’t have to suffer like we’ve suffered. Because my uncle will never be the same.

(The victim’s brother also addressed him):

We’re not a vindictive family. No matter what happens with this, nothing’s going to change my brother. You have a chance to rehab yourself, make something of your life and I strongly recommend you do that as a young man because my brother doesn’t have that chance.

-30-

As an aside, I can find no official statement from Winnipeg police acknowledging this incident ever happened.

Kines heading back for new murder trial: The Court of Appeal’s reasons

Manitoba’s top court issued reasons Wednesday on why it sent accused killer Jason Allen Kines back to trial on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated sexual assault and sexual interference in connection to the death of Venecia Audy, 3, in August 2006.

Justice Brian Midwinter acquitted Kines after weeks of evidence being put forward at a Dauphin jury trial earlier this year.

The Court of Appeal ruled last week that Midwinter was wrong to take the case out of the hands of the jury after ruling bite-mark evidence put forward by the Crown though a dental expert didn’t go far enough to prove Kines was the biter “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Below are excerpts of the appeals court panel’s reasons. A new trial date for Kines is pending and he remains free on bail in Saskatoon. He is presumed innocent.

[Reasons authored by Justice Richard Chartier, on behalf of Barbara Hamilton, Marc Monnin and himself.]

“The autopsy revealed that the cause of death was multiple blunt-force trauma resulting from non-accidental trauma. The victim had a combination of lacerations, bruises and human bite marks all over her body. Her vagina had been torn and bite marks were found just above her vagina.”

“A forensic odontologist testified that [Kines] had a “very highly unusual” dentition that lined up with most of the bite marks on the body. He definitively excluded the other member of the household as being the biter for all but one bite mark. The expert testified that the accused was “most likely” the biter. He also said that he was “very confident” in his identification of the accused and explained that “probable” identification was as definite a designation as his discipline allowed, except in rare circumstances.”

Midwinter’s principal reason he took the case from jury, Chartier said,  was “his conclusion that the evidence identifying the accused as the biter did “not give rise at law to proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” Because it was only “probable,” that led him to conclude there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction.

“The judge in this case appears to have failed to differentiate the question of whether the Crown met its burden on a directed verdict test (the evidentiary burden) with whether the Crown met its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt (the burden of proof).”

Evidentiary Burden = determines whether an issue should be left with trier of fact. 

Burden of Proof = “determines how the issue should be decided.”

“The first is for the judge; the second is for the jury.” “Moreover, the “proof beyond a reasonable doubt standard” has no direct application on a judge’s consideration of a directed verdict motion.”

“The judge’s conflation of the evidentiary burden with the ultimate burden of proof caused him to engage, to an impermissible degree, in a weighing of the evidence, to the point of determining questions which fell within the jury’s purview. We also agree with the Crown that the judge failed to consider the circumstantial evidence in its totality. Given that we are ordering a new trial, we will simply state that there was other contextual evidence which the judge did not seem to consider. In our view, the Crown’s suggested inferences fall within a range of inferences a jury could reasonably draw. As such, there was some evidence that the person accused of the offences was the perpetrator of the offences.”

“… In the end, the judge’s conclusion that the identification evidence in this case does not meet the test on a directed verdict motion cannot be allowed to stand. Whether the evidence adduced but he Crown will ultimately be sufficient to meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable count will be for the jury to decide.”

-30-

Answers needed in Malcolm domestic-violence murder case

(Sandi-Lynn Malcolm/Facebook)

The provincial government, Justice Minister Andrew Swan and those sitting on the provincial domestic violence Death Review Committee must turn their minds to investigating what happened to Sandi-Lynn Malcolm.

Nothing short of a full and frank examination into how a young aboriginal girl can be serially abused by her ex-partner on a small reserve — only to end up brutally killed by his hands, will suffice.

It’s my view the public should be protesting — as Malcolm’s family and friends have done — to bring attention to her case in hopes of rooting out others like it before it’s too late.

What happened to this girl should not have happened and we should be sickened by it. 

After sitting with the facts of Malcolm’s killing for only a short time now, I believe she was failed on a fundamental level, for a number of reasons:

She lived in an isolated environment that had few resources or opportunities for intervention.

Warning signs — including those expressed through her own words to police — that something awful was going to happen weren’t heeded to the degree they should have.

And, (I suppose it goes without saying) Malcolm suffered a fatal consequence in her continued association with a violent human being who urged her to “trust him.”

He repaid her undeserved trust with unspeakable violence.

She was only 17 years old, though. A kid. We can’t lose sight of this.

Answers must be sought.

Here’s why.

“There. I done what had to be done.” — Ronald Racette Jr.

On the night of Jan. 30, 2010 RCMP who police the Ebb and Flow community got a call from Malcolm’s mother, saying her teen daughter was covered with cuts and had black eyes.

Sandi-Lynn gives an official statement, in which she alleges her ex-boyfriend, Ronald Racette Jr., 19, had brutally assaulted her at his father’s home. He punched her, hit her with a lamp, whipped her with the lamp’s cord and then tried to choke her with it.

A check of Racette’s record on CPIC would have alerted police to the fact of his prior domestic-abuse history.

“I should just kill you,” she reported Racette Jr. as telling her. There were no other witnesses, she told police, who photographed her bruises and cuts.

Less than two weeks later, on Feb. 8, Sandi-Lynn picks up the phone wanting to report the violence Racette Jr. put her through a day prior .

She gives another statement: Sandi-Lynn, covered in bruises, tells RCMP that her vow to stay away from Racette Jr. collapsed when he phoned her, pitifully saying he hadn’t eaten in two days.

“She said she had a soft heart and felt sorry for him,” court was told. “He told her to trust him … she did.”

Sandi-Lynn brings Racette Jr. something to eat. They were “getting along fine,” she said.

But when she said she had to go to work on her resume — she hoped to get a job as a cashier in a store — he grew angry.

While out for a walk, Sandi-Lynn was made to run through deep snow, was knocked down and kicked and pummelled while being accused of being unfaithful while he was in jail.

“She told him she didn’t want to die like that.”

Sandi-Lynn’s next words to police were alarmingly prophetic:

“Everybody had told her not to take him back because the next time, he’ll kill you, but she didn’t listen,” court heard of her police statement.

A raging Racette Jr. continually asked her if “she wanted to die.”

“I should just kill you and kill myself,” he said. They were near a creek in the community. He threatened to just throw her in there, “where no-one would find her.”

Sandi-Lynn’s survival skills kicked in. She offset his volatility by “pretending to love him” — putting on a “big front” in hopes of getting away from him alive.

He kept beating her, and made her stay outside, shoeless, in the freezing cold. “She said she felt like she was being kept hostage or something,” RCMP heard.

Racette Jr. wasn’t drinking, Sandi-Lynn said.

After giving her statement, RCMP set out to look for him. At the second community home they came to, Racette Jr. is seen fleeing into some bushes.

Cops chased him on foot but couldn’t catch up. A warrant issues but he’s not caught.

He’d re-emerge just over two weeks later for his last night of freedom.

A recounting of Sandi-Lynn’s last hours were presented to the court through witness testimony from people who were around Sandi-Lynn in her last hours and minutes.

On the evening of Feb. 26, Sandi-Lynn and a group of girlfriends scored a 30-pack of beer, but didn’t set about drinking heavily. She used the phone at one point, and reported the party was happening at Racette Jr.’s dad’s home.

It’s believed she was talking to Racette Jr. in this call. He turned up not long after.

Before he came to get the girls and their remaining 24 cans of beer, Sandi-Lynn asked her friends to “watch over her and not let him be alone with her.”

He picked them up in a nondescript “black car.”

Instead of driving directly to the party, Racette Jr. took a route past a local cemetery and stopped the vehicle.

“This is where we are all going to end up,” he said.

A ‘trail of knives’

Once at the party, it didn’t take long for Racette Jr. to become irate. Sandi-Lynn refused him a request to go alone with him to another room.

Not long after, Sandi-Lynn and another friend were horsing around, just being girls. “She’s my girl now,” the friend joked to Racette Jr.

Racette Jr. responds by punching the friend in the face four times, an assault only stopped after others intervened to pull him off.

He goes outside for a few moments. Returns. Another request of Sandi-Lynn is made for the two to be alone. Another refusal from her.

This. The last straw. He tosses an ashtray in her direction and begins grabbing knives.

“A number of people went and hid in Ronald Sr.’s bedroom because they feared something terrible was going to happen,” Justice Midwinter was told.

They had no idea how awful it was going to get. Sandi-Lynn and another woman who had come to collect her young son from the home fled to a bathroom.

Another witness reported seeing a “trail of knives” leading to the bathroom door.

‘The cops are coming’

I won’t recount what happens next, other than to say a jealous and enraged Racette Jr. committed acts of such brutal and extreme violence on Sandi-Lynn that hearing the extent of her injuries was truly jarring.

47 stab wounds don’t even amount to half of the total number of injuries a pathologist totalled up. Dr. Charles Littman noted 105 “incidents of trauma” on her.

One of Sandi-Lynn’s friends tried to stop the attack by stabbing Racette Jr. in the back as he murdered the teen. It only served to anger him more.

“He looks at her with an evil look and went charging after her.”

He made his way to his father’s bedroom — they unlocked the door to let him in — where people cowered in fear. Children had to be out out the window for fear of their safety.

“Why did you do that? You killed that girl,” his dad told him. “You better get out of here, the cops are coming.”

Racette Jr. didn’t reply. He went back to the bathroom where Sandi-Lynn was and turned on the shower.

A witness says he left the house shortly after, leaving these haunting words in the gloom:

“There. I done what had to be done.”

Efforts to revive Sandi-Lynn didn’t work. It took 45 minutes for the ambulance to arrive.

Police caught up with Racette Jr. at his aunt’s home, where he was wrapped in a blanket, being comforted by a relative.

 ‘Our little reserve is not a war zone’

There was little defence lawyer Todd Bourcier could say in defence of what Racette Jr. did — acts the now 21-year-old pleaded guilty to doing.

But Bourcier raised some credible points about the lack of intervention and other resources in the community for domestic abusers and abuse victims alike.

The nearest women’s shelter from Ebb and Flow (on-reserve population of 1,200 or so) is in Dauphin, a distance of 50 kilometres away.

Options for counselling for men is limited, even to address what he termed the “surface concerns” for offenders with histories of abusing their partners.

And certainly nothing to address Racette Jr.’s specific needs as an angry, jealous, ill-educated, booze-and-drug abusing violent offender of a horrible background, now convicted murderer.

There’s one band constable on reserve, and the nearest RCMP detachment is in St. Rose du Lac, about 35 or 40 kilometres away, according to an online description of the band’s operations.

Despite the small number of people living in the community, between December, January and February, cops responded to 465 service calls, 78 of them regarding violence, Bourcier said.

It goes without saying Sandi-Lynn’s family and friends have been wrecked by not just her death, but also how she died. She was just weeks away from her 18th birthday.

I was there at the Manitoba Legislature a few days after Racette Jr. was charged with her murder when Sandi-Lynn’s relatives and friends travelled the 300 k.m. into the city to hold a candlelit vigil and peaceful protest to condemn domestic violence.

(Malcolm’s family and friends hold candlelight vigil at the legislature)

“Our little reserve is not a war zone. Things like this should not happen,” her dad, Kingsley Malcolm, told me at the time.

They did the same thing in 2011, this time, her cousin calling for more attention to be paid to what happened:

“At the time of Sandi’s death the Olympics were closing, so there was not much coverage about her. We needed to bring it to the public’s attention,” she said. “I felt I needed to do this so we could honour her and bring people together to support one another. (from missingmanitobawomen.blogspot.ca published Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011)

Racette Jr.’s sentencing judge, Justice Brian Midwinter, was clearly aggrieved at the underlying circumstances informing Sandi-Lynn’s death, telling the gallery:

 There were no resources in the community for Mr. Racette to access … and I have to deal with a vicious attack unprovoked by anything the victim did.

Would it be too much of a stretch to believe that the simply sad domestic-violence resource situation in Ebb and Flow is markedly different from countless other isolated Manitoba communities out there?

Today, using the only tiny power I have — this forum — I’m calling on the Manitoba government to task its domestic violence Death Review Committee to investigate Sandi-Lynn’s murder, the circumstances that led up to it and issue a public report on its findings. 

Further reading:

Father of slain teen condemns domestic abuse

Missing and Murdered Manitoba Women on the Malcolm case

Sandi-Lynn Malcolm Obituary

Domestic violence on the docket

Domestic violence: Province of Manitoba

Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (Free Press, update article in 2011)

Province announces Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (2010)

Winnipeg: a favorite hub for fraudsters?

Why Winnipeg?

That’s the question that kept coming to my mind during Ben Harvey-Langton’s sentencing hearing today in provincial court.

The largest credit card fraud operation ever uncovered in Manitoba’s history. (Link is to my report on the case, which was never revealed by Winnipeg police that I can see.)

Let that rattle in your brain for a bit and realize the magnitude of what Harvey-Langton and his co-conspirators were trying to accomplish.

Judging from the facts of the case, Harvey-Langton is no dummy. He’s a grad-school educated whip-smart scam artist who seems to know his way around corners of the Internet most people don’t know even exist. He’s skilled in fake ID’s, computers and world travel.

 “Harvey-Langton was born in Nice, France.  He moved to England when he was 17 years old.  He lived with his mother, step-father and sister.  He studied Psychology, receiving an Honour’s degree.  He went to New Zealand and obtained his private pilot’s licence.  He went to Germany and studied international business at the Schiller International University in Heidelberg.  It was there that he was introduced to the criminal business of credit card fraud …”

“… He was not only obtaining, but also sharing, stolen credit card data over the internet.

He was known in the fraudulent credit card business as a “dumps” buyer.

He purchased a card embosser from China on May 30, 2011 over the internet.

He was in communication with people who were finding additional illegal carding sites and new ways of fraudulently obtaining credit card data, such as a new way of IP straining.

He was visiting illicit internet websites with names such as “Little Snitch Program”, “Kurupt” and “carder.pro”.

He was in the process of purchasing a new identity complete with a false passport, perhaps Finnish, “as it opens more doors to a new identity in the EU outside of Finland,” and other personal identification cards.” (Judge Devine decision)

But for some reason, Harvey-Langton and his co-conspirators (one who went by the curious Internet handle of “Darky”) chose our fair city as home base to set up their scheme. 

I keep wondering why. Harvey-Langton met the other co-conspirator in Montreal and for whatever reason chose Winnipeg to set up the hub of operations.

Weird thing is, Harvey-Langton had used fake credit cards to book first-class passed from southern Africa in August [and stayed in high-ticket hotels on the way] to find his way through Johannesburg to London and then on to Montreal. Ostensibly the trip was to visit his sister in Quebec with a [unfulfilled] side-trip planned to Churchill.

It wasn’t to be.

“Communications once within Canada in September 2011 show he was in Montreal, northern Quebec, then in Ontario, using false credit cards again for cars, flights and hotels.  He characterized his criminal activity as “working really hard”, complaining that he hadn’t gone out in over two months and was completely wasted.

He is currently subject to criminal investigations and/or charges in Ontario and Quebec.  The Winnipeg investigation led to information relevant to those investigations, such as lists of malls and photography stores in Ontario and a search for the “best lawyer Montreal fraud credit card”.

His calendar entry for October 5, 2011, showed he was “doing Darky’s shit”.

A conversation between he and co‑accused Guo characterized the Winnipeg hit as part of a larger plan to invest for ATM fraud.” (Devine decision)

Again, the question begs — and I won’t pretend to know the answer — why Winnipeg?

Why not Toronto, Vancouver — or given how internet based the data-scamming scheme is — Jasper or Kelowna? It it our cheap long-distance rates?

Yes, the actual damage in this case was minimal, thanks to a sharp-eyed and suspicious Henry’s sales clerk who questioned why all of Harvey-Langton’s fake cards were being declined when he tried to buy a Canon D60 DSLR as part of the overall scheme to finance further fraud.

The plan was to counterfeit credit cards, buy high-end cameras and give them to a fourth individual named “Dope Carder” who would sell the cameras for $800 each.  The offender’s take would be $300 on each camera. (Devine decision)

So what’s the big deal, you might wonder as well.

Amex thought it was a big deal. In a rare move, the Crown sought a victim impact statement from the credit-card company to tell the court about the effects credit-card scams have on Canadians.

One of the agreed documents was a Victim Impact Statement from the Amex Bank of Canada, completed by its Director of Security, Rick Neals.  In the statement, Mr. Neals outlined the increasing seriousness of credit card fraud internationally and in Canada.  There are 68.2 million credit cards in circulation across Canada.  In 2011, the Canadian issuers of Visa, Mastercard and American Express reported losses of $436,588,757 due to credit card fraud, a form of “electronic bank robbery” according to Mr. Neal’s statement.  Counterfeit activity is the largest type of credit card fraud in Canada.  One of the methods is through computer hacking:

Data thieves hack into networks to steal account data or infect the network with malware which is capable of collecting account data as it is being processed by a merchant or processor.  The compromised data is then sold by organized crime groups on the Internet “carder forums” and is later used to manufacture a counterfeit credit card. (at 4)

Credit card fraud is not typically committed by sole operators.  Mr. Neal’s statement goes on to say,

Counterfeit credit card fraud is not usually perpetrated by one individual acting alone.  It is generally committed by highly mobile, organized-crime gangs, who use the funds obtained to finance various other criminal activities, including drug trafficking, firearm purchases, etc. (at 5) (Devine decision)

Anyone with any answers to the question that started out this post, please chime in in the comments.

Harvey-Langton has six years now to reflect and ask himself the same question.

Minus earned remission and early parole eligibility, of course.

-30-

Downtown Winnipeg: Personality sketches iii

This is the third in a series of sporadic reports about criminally-involved people who habitually inhabit and wander downtown Winnipeg.

There’s a lot more to them and their lives than I’d bet most care to realize.

These are true stories. 

“He stated that he is “a city boy” and will remain in the City of Winnipeg.” 

It wasn’t until only recently that C found out how old he was.

He made the discovery after a prison guard read the 41-year-old his date of birth off a corrections report.

But then, C’s ignorance about what are (to many people) simply routine facts of life maybe shouldn’t be all that surprising from a man who says his mother consumed so much liquor, solvents and hand-sanitizer that he was “drunk at birth.”

He hasn’t heard from her in three years.

Dad — his namesake — was only introduced to him for the first time at age 16 during a chance encounter at the Manwin Hotel.

Dad is blind in one eye because of the amount he drank. He and C don’t keep in touch.

Accounts of how C’s made-in-Winnipeg journey led him to a federal prison cell for the next six years vary even when recounted by him.

“Confirming the account of his life is difficult as he has disjointed thinking which he accounts to his FASD,” a report states.

But it’s safe to say that since he was 9, C’s been largely ‘living off the land,’ as it were.

That is, wandering Winnipeg neighbourhoods on foot, with the Main Street strip — and its characters and dangers and urban angels — being the constant backdrop of C’s public life, mostly lived on the streets.

He had to grow up fast, he says.

 “I know know from the age of 7 to 40 on Main Street there was only pain and suffering,” he said in a recent letter to a probation officer. “When I was 8-9 year of age I felt like I was 15-16 year already. I know it sounds nuts but that part of my life.” (sic)

Then there’s also the good chunk of time C has spent occupying space in provincial and federal jail cells, youth and adult, over the years.

In his fourth decade, the FASD-diagnosed Salteaux/Cree man finds himself HIV-positive, recovering from a recent gall bladder infection that nearly killed him and a blood clot in his lung.

He’s also been labeled a convicted sex offender who took damaging advantage of a young relative introduced to him at a medical clinic in 2008.

He’s assessed at a very high risk to reoffend.

C was recently convicted of aggravated sexual assault after impregnating his 14-year-old, drug-addicted and CFS-involved niece during a 2.5 month-long criminal “arrangement.”

The two would share needles and he’d ply the girl with pills, booze and cash in exchange for sex.

C says he thought of the girl as “a stranger” and was so intoxicated for the entire year that he didn’t remember abusing her. He told a report writer he didn’t have a full understanding of the court proceedings, and had hoped to get a sentence of “time served.”

C’s criminal record is somewhat storied at this point, having amassed more than 40 convictions over his lifetime.

The vast majority of them, however, relate to his street-assimilated “trade” (his word) of “boosting” (stealing) other people’s stuff and reselling it for cash.

But when you’re 9 years old and already living on the streets — likely still bruised and broken from being frequently beaten by a stepdad’s belt and mom’s broomstick, you do what you gotta do.

Simply surviving could be said to be a daily miracle.

Reporting the domestic abuse did him no good, he says. He was “slapped in the face and discredited.” When the violence was directed at his sisters, he tried to step in and was beaten for that, too.

“He was consistently told that he was ugly, wasn’t wanted and that he should’t have been born, which led to suicidal thoughts,” he told his PO.

His six step-sisters each turned to the sex trade. His nine step brothers haven’t fared much better, with many also being locked up — at least one for murder.

By age 8, C’s already thinking of killing himself.

But C? He’s a survivor.

And he says he found at least some safe harbour from the very people who had once likely been mired in similar circumstances as he then found himself.

“He was helped out by various prostitutes and drug dealers who showed him how to live and survive in the elements of Winnipeg. He had people who showed him how to deal drugs and make money ‘boosting’ goods to sell to others.”

He also made some cash by working as a casual at a scrap yard — an arrangement that continued into his 30s.

So that’s what he did. Life on the streets, year after year. The grind.

Somehow, C managed to complete Grade 8.

At 16, CFS punted him to an independent living program and he just stopped going.

He was often kicked out of school for fighting and once — in elementary — expelled for stabbing a classmate with a pencil.

C’s first sexual experience also came at age 9, the same year he started doing drugs, eventually developing a problem with Talwin and Ritalin.

His partner was a 21-year-old prostitute with whom he somehow wound up staying with.

He says they had sex after she gave him a bath one day.

“He reported feeling weird, but believed he was “the man” as he heard people talking about sex but wasn’t sure what it was,” according to a provincial report. “He questions why people make a big deal about it.”

Other sex partners over the years included sex-trade workers, one of whom C married.

A report states they had “up to” four children, all now wards of CFS.

The five-year marriage, as one might imagine, was destructive.

“Their time together was barely a relationship as she was a prostitute that used intravenous drugs, ingested solvents and drank.” As for his part, C admits he often “hid in beer.”

It was his wife who gave him HIV.

She ultimately left him after he was jailed on a prior conviction.

His lineage hails from a reserve north of Regina, but he’s only been there once in his life — for a funeral.

He says he has found some solace with a North End mission, who’s executive director he describes as being “like a mother to him.”

He has expressed hope to change with the help of community groups he’s come in contact with in recent years.

C says he has no connection to his aboriginal heritage. He has no plans to return to his home community when he gets out of prison. That’s his choice.

That leaves us pretty much back exactly where we started.

“The subject enjoys traveling around the city, exploring different neighbourhoods. He presented how this allows him an understanding of how he thinks and other people’s journeys. He commented how he is trying to leave his criminal life of boosting things to sell others behind him.”

 “He stated that he is “a city boy” and will remain in the City of Winnipeg.”

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