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

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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.

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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.

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

The other ‘Level 4’s’

(Manitoba Public Insurance)

Manitoba youth corrections uses a four-point scale of risk when assessing inmates — one that may confuse and confound teen car thieves who are ranked on a similar numerical scale.

At the Manitoba Youth Centre, being a ‘Level 1’ is bad — you’re a badass, causing all manner of safety concerns for staff and other inmates. ‘Level 4’ is good — almost perfect in terms of compliance with rules, regulations and other requirements in a jail.

According to the WATSS program [the auto-theft strategy that’s all but vanished from public discourse these days] — Level 4’s are the worst of the worst chronic car thieves who even steal cars to get to probation meetings or court appearances.

It’s an irony that struck me during a short court hearing today — for a 14-year-old boy who is the youngest criminal member of Winnipeg’s most chronic auto theft family to now appear on the Winnipeg crime scene.

His brothers and cousins have caused all manner of destruction over the years, using stolen cars as weapons — it’s a minor miracle that nobody died in their hayday.

The eldest sibling racked up more than 80 convictions between the ages of 12-18.

As one Crown attorney once put it:

“There isn’t a courtroom big enough to fit all their victims in”

But for the teen in question: Car theft ain’t his thing, despite seeing virtually every relative he’s ever had develop a penchant for stealing Honda Civics and minivans constantly.

Instead, this kid helped others knock over a 7-11. He held guard at the door while a helpless clerk was threatened with a machete for a meat Taquito and some cash. I made up the Taquito part.

At the time of the robbery, he lived with the matriarch of this crime family (who noisily cracked a piece of gum throughout the hearing), but her “circumstances” have now changed to the point that the only option he has is either living with his dad or staying in jail.

Today, he got a sentence of three months time served (at 1.5 times credit) and some probation for the store knock-over. Now, he returns to the public to serve that probation and live with dad.

“I’m not going to tell you not to hang out with your brothers,” Judge Roller told him today. “I am going to tell you to not become like your brothers,” she said. 

Well, barring some probation-department miracle, what real chance of that is there? I wondered to myself.

This is his life. His main influences are a screwed up family of seemingly remorseless criminals to guide him.

“I don’t want you to grow up like your brothers,” the judge said. “I don’t want you growing up in the youth centre … (or) Stony Mountain.”

The judge isn’t to blame here, and I’m certainly not attacking her reasonings. Under the YCJA, she couldn’t hold him in custody even if she felt it was warranted.

But the kid, however, ironically, is a ‘Level 4’ in terms of the youth jail’s scale. The exact opposite of the influences he has on him while not in the clink.

That, as described above, is the best there is. He’s co-operative, attended school and does extremely well with structure and guidance.

The judge readily admitted that his ‘outside’ circumstances and family life likely mean he’s going to have to govern himself if he’s going to stay out of trouble.

“It sounds like you’re going to have to be more responsible for yourself than other kids might be,” she said. “You’re going to have to take care of yourself better than you have so far.”

Her hands are tied, as I’ve already said. It is forbidden to use the YCJA or the justice system to deal with child-welfare concerns (but CFS does it all the time).

How fair is that to him, I ask.

Regardless of what he’s done or what family he comes from, he is still just a kid, a product of his environment.

And while it would be equally criminal to suggest that keeping him in a structured, stable environment where he can succeed, I can’t help but wonder if we as a society are doing him a disservice by not.

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