When an adult gets pinched for possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, he’s more than likely envisioning prison time as the picture of what his future will look like, for better or for worse.
A juvenile? Not so much.
That’s even when convicted of multiple counts of trafficking an incredibly addictive drug known for its violent spinoffs and contribution to social decay.
That was evident today during a sentencing for a 16-year-old Mad Cowz gang member who pleaded guilty to not one, but two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking crack since last fall, along with a joyriding charge and several breaches — many of which had to do with his persistence in handing around with other Mad Cowz.
If memory serves, five of the 10 were youths. The teen in question was not one of those picked up in Project Recall.
(The project’s work began in earnest — perhaps co-incidentally, perhaps not — after a Mad Cowz-linked fatal shooting of a rival B-Side gang member in a late-night restaurant in February.)
In any event: the teen sentenced today has been out of custody on bail for all but the last few weeks.
In one trafficking charge, he was nabbed Oct. 28 by eagle-eyed cops on Ellice avenue with a garbage bag with 27 rocks of crack inside it after the youth was seen trying to pitch it, and then going back for it when he thought the cops stopped watching.
He also had $260 cash on him. He’s arrested, released from the youth jail but back in, briefly, by Nov. 15, when he breached curfew and was tracked down with the help of a K9 dog and the police chopper.
And then, most recently, he is picked up again May 21 after being spotted on Beverly Street in the company of one of the Project Recall youth suspects, one who was granted bail after his arrest in the project [also a youth].
This time, he’s nabbed holding 16 rocks of crack and $135 cash and a cell phone.
The teen has no record. Therefore, his sentence was pretty much written in stone the minute he started seeking a Crown position: Two years of supervised probation and a relatively stern talking-to by the judge who cautioned him of what he’d be facing if he was just two years older, and how he didn’t believe the offender when he says he was preyed upon by other Mad Cowz members to take part in the gang.
At the end of the day, we have to wrestle with how this sentence in any way stops him from trafficking again, forces him to take the justice system seriously.
It mystifies me, personally.
(And lest we misplace blame, it’s the Youth Criminal Justice Act which really determines how it all shakes out, not the judge nor the lawyers).
And it’s not that I feel he’s getting off light. It’s just that he’s shown he can’t comply on bail, so I question what good a punishment of probation in the community will do for him — and for us.
I also wonder about the message the sentence sends the gang’s higher-ups, who are watching closely how the system reacts to what they’re doing.
That crack doesn’t just come from nowhere.
The revolving door of youths being effectively used by adult offenders to do their dirty work can’t close if the head honchos are perpetually told that the penalties are so light.
The false promise of gang life will continue to be sold.
Everyone — the Manitoba government, youth corrections staff, even the young cold-blooded murderer himself — wants to see him transferred out of the young offenders corrections system and into an adult jail.
Everyone but the killer’s mom, that is.
And possibly provincial court Judge Judith Elliott.
It was a rare proceeding in court Tuesday where the now-18-year-old convicted murderer and confirmed MOB gang member was seeking a transfer from the youth facility he’s currently being housed in and into an adult facility to serve out the remaining years on the custody portion of his seven-year-long youth sentence.
The young man — and he is a man now — is serving the time after stepping forward and pleading guilty to second-degree murder for the “senseless and unprovoked” shooting death of young dad Scott MacGillivray in his own backyard in August 2009. This guy was the one who pulled the trigger.
He and a co-accused (the story link above references him — also MOB) had just committed an armed home invasion down the street from MacGillivray’s North End home when McGillivray encountered the pair trying to ditch the gun.
He’s been locked up at Agassiz Youth Centre, the Manitoba Youth Centre or at various times in lockdown solitary confinement at the Lakewood Correctional Centre for youths since his arrest for the killing.
And now, under section 92 of Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act, he’s requested a transfer into the adult system, ostensibly because he’s sick and tired of being surrounded by kids and their juvenile behaviour.
Judge Elliott must determine whether it’s in his best interest to go adult [she doesn’t believe it is] or in the public interest to remove him. He can’t just do it, despite being an adult in law.
His mom, as stated above, opposes the move.
“I don’t agree with him going to an adult facility,” she told Elliott Tuesday. “I don’t want him to … [but] he decided that’s what he wants to do,” she said, adding in adult jail, he won’t be at the receiving end of hugs from relatives who want to see him do better.
Yes, she told him, she understands the kids in juvie get on his nerves, but “there are a lot of adults who can be immature too,” she warned him. “Some of them don’t give a shit either.”
A provincial civil lawyer representing the provincial correctional department wants him out of the youth system too, saying his anger issues present a “real risk” to kids in the system with him, that he poses an “increased likelihood of serious harm” if he stays.
Why, just on Sunday, Elliott was told, there was an incident where an inmate complained of being bruised and battered — an incident described by the killer as “horseplay” apparently gone too far. It’s possible he could face charges from it.
“There’s a propensity for unpredictable violence,” the Crown lawyer said. “We see it being safer … having him transferred to an adult facility.”
As well, the province says, the murderer has exhausted all avenues of rehabilitation programming available to him in the youth system.
But if he is, he’s in for a long wait to get a bed at Milner Ridge, the provincial jail where adult MOB gang members are held, a senior corrections official testified.
MOB members waiting months for transfer
Alan Peacock, a chief correctional officer/manager at the Winnipeg Remand Centre told court that there are currently three MOB members at the downtown facility waiting to get a cell/bed at Milner.
Right now, Peacock says, the MOB range at Milner is double bunked and full. Any prospective additions to the range could wait from a week to six months to get there.
Currently, there are three MOB members in the remand centre on the wait list. One of them has been waiting about 3-4 months to get moved to Milner.
There was little talk of the killer disavowing the gang life. And even if he did, he’d have to prove he’s had two years of non-activity in order to be put in general population.
He can’t dodge his gang label, Peacock said.
“That’s the community he lives in,” said defence lawyer Iain MacNair. “He’s going to continue to be exposed to it … rehabilitation right now does not seem to be progressing at a steady rate at Agassiz (youth jail),” MacNair said.
“We can’t just arbitrarily take a gang label off of somebody,” Peacock told Elliott. Even if Corrections did, inmates in jail “have their own communications grapevine” throughout the adult and youth systems to find out who’s who in the zoo and who’s charged with what, he said.
If the killer is transferred — and Peacock has no stake in the game, really — he’s likely to spend all his time at the remand centre on 23-hour-a-day segregation with limited access to programming or recreation because there’s no room to put him while keeping he and other inmates safe.
As it is, he was headed back to youth segregation after court Tuesday because of Sunday’s violence.
Peacock was queried about what programming the killer would be able to access in the adult system. He said while he couldn’t really speak for jails where sentenced prisoners are held, there is more offered — if offenders choose to avail themselves of it.
“It all depends on the individual, we can’t force anybody,” said Peacock. “We can identify and recommend,” but can’t force inmates out of their units and into classrooms or workshops.
Is putting someone who’s just 18 on an adult gang range in his best interest?, asked Elliott.
“If somebody wants to get out of a gang, that’s not going to help them,” Peacock said. “You fall under the hierarchy and leadership of that gang,” he said.
Judge unconvinced — maybe she should be?
Elliott, by the end of the hour-long hearing — she herself is a former probation officer — was blunt about having to possibly take him out of the youth system and onto the MOB range at Milner — when and if he can get there.
“I’m certainly not of the view it’s in his best interest to be transferred to Milner Ridge,” she said.
She asked for a youth correctional official from Agassiz Youth Centre be called to testify before her about the young killer’s case in coming weeks before coming to a decision.
All I say is — he’s 18, an adult. If he wants to go there, let him go — especially if he’s in any way interfering with the potential rehabilitation of a young offender in the youth system.
Even the killer conceded if he’s charged for Sunday’s violence, he’ll be charged as an adult and sent packing to the remand centre.
“I’m just stating facts,” he told Elliott, without guile.
Manitoba was the only province in the *country* where the average count of youths in provincial custody — read: on remand in jail, serving sentences or in the community on probation or community supervision — went up in 2010, the latest data available from Statistics Canada.
The data was released by the federal agency last week, and appears to show Manitoba being a leader when it comes to the number of criminally-involved kids in the system.
The data is an average monthly “in count” of youths in custody: Here’s what it measures, according to Stats Can
Total actual-in counts represent the sum of sentenced, remand and other status counts and exclude inmates temporarily not in custody at the time of the count. Total actual-in counts include provincial director remand not included in the remand and other temporary detention counts.
I make no assumption of what this data actually means, other than it appears to reflect to some degree the seriousness of youth crime in Manitoba, given that being locked up is always a last resort for judges under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Under the Act, all reasonable alternatives to custody must be looked at before actually locking the cell’s — sorry, unit ‘s— door.
However, without a more comprehensive breakdown of how many youths recorded in the average were on probation or community supervision as part of a sentence, that’s a guess on my part.
But the also shows a massive disparity between the number of kids in provincial custody in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
Again, without wanting to jump to some wrong conclusion, it appears where there’s smoke there’s fire.
Youth crime in our province is a major, under-reported issue. But I’ve always said that.
Here’s the data for your perusal. Comments and thoughts welcome:
(Courtesy Stats Canada)
Here’s a link to the statistics report, which was not subjected to an analysis by the agency. You can read how the data was sourced and the methodology there.
***(excluding Quebec, which did not report 2010 numbers).
I note with some irony that this post marks number 204 for this blog since its inception — 204 being the Manitoba area code.
The second-ever Golden Crown, handed out to some of the best examples of Manitoba prosecutors trying to deter and denounce unlawful conduct goes to…
Manitoba prosecutor Courtney St. Croix — for her handling of a particular youth court case that is, in my experience, exceptional in its thuggery.
Some preface is needed:
It would be very easy for Crowns (I’d surmise) when handling certain youth cases anyways, to simply throw up one’s prosecutorial hands and be done with things. Make a deal for probation and close the book on it.
The YCJA, and its emphasis on rehabilitation of young criminals first can (and some in the public overtly agree) thwart some citizens’ views of actual justice being done.
Those arguments are always met with a version of the same argument: “They’re just kids, and we don’t give up on kids.”
Now while that’s a worthwhile credo, sometimes kids do, to put it mildly, the darndest things.
Such was the case of now-16-year-old ‘S’, who faced the music Wednesday for her participation in two robberies in summer 2010.
My Winnipeg Sun story is here for the gist of things and to give the full flavor from the victim’s perspective of how serious the crime was, here in the robbery capital of Canada.
(Aside: How many other untold horror stories like this are out there?)
What’s interesting about the case is that the co-accused got a short, sharp shock in jail, despite her lesser degree of participation. Held the victim down and gave her one kick.
Not so for S. She walked away Wednesday with two years of supervised probation, admittedly with some stringent conditions for the first few months.
Despite randomly picking a stranger to attack, brutally beat and strangle for no apparent reason — two days after robbing another guy behind a 7-11 — S won’t do any real time.
Quoth the victim:
“The experience was terrifying. I remember pure terror and thinking I may die because people I have never met randomly decided that it might be so,” the victim, her voice often choking with emotion, said. “I vividly recall looking into (her attacker’s) eyes and saying, ‘Please don’t do this,’ right before she threw the first punch.”
Her pleas made no difference, she said. She told court she remembers being kicked in the head countless times and strangled with a scarf and a headphone cord as she lay prone, pinned to the ground by a co-accused — another teen girl. She eventually blacked out, she said.
The judge in the case, Sandra Chapman, cited her lack of criminal record, a somewhat positive PSR and a show of remorse as being among the reasons to keep her out of the MYC.
But I can’t help but feel it was the presence of the teen’s cooing newborn in court that really paved a jail-free road for her.
“I cannot ignore the importance of a mom to a baby at early stages,” Chapman said, who added putting her in juvie jail may simply aid in her re-involvement in crime.
All that aside — Crown attorney St. Croix walked into court that morning and asked — no, pushed — for the girl to go to real jail for what what was labeled a serious violent offence — a Crown request Chapman called “not unreasonable” in light of S’s brutal act.
And for that, Ms. St. Croix garners the second-ever Golden Crown award. Thanks for trying.
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.
In this blog’s last post, it talked about the recent homicide of Abdul Jemai and one of his alleged youthful attackers — who is a known quantity to police and the justice system.
It also led to this comment from the writer of local blog One Man Committee (a must read).
“That is downright chilling. It’s like a little bit of Afghanistan here in the ‘Peg – human IEDs, ready to explode at any given moment.”
It led me to think: that’s some strong imagery. Human IEDs.
And while some may feel it’s a little too strong — Mr. Krawec actually nails it squarely on the head.
Random guy in street attacked, killed — by young suspects. Because of the YCJA, the focus turns to ‘correcting’ the offender and eschews, by and large, deterring similar acts in the future.
In just a few short years of covering crime in Winnipeg, I’ve seen this scenario play out over and over again. Sometimes with fatal results, sometimes not.
It played out on May 23, 2009, in the death of Joseph Victor MacLeod near Isabel and Ross, for example.
Two cousins – each just 14 – surround MacLeod over some gang beef and start pushing him. He’s knocked to the ground, stabbed twice and dies.
The facts are, essentially — and no disrespect meant to the tragedy that occurred — boring.
On May 23, 2009 at 1 p.m. the accused N. M. and his cousin, R. G. noticed a male, Joseph Victor MacLeod, walking down the nearby lane adjacent to Ross Street where the boys were standing.
Both boys went towards the victim and the accused N.M. confronted the lone male for wearing a white bandanna.
The accused N.M. asked the victim what he “reps”. This can be inferred as a gang challenge by the accused who had known gang affiliation.
The victim denied any involvement with a rival gang, took his bandanna off and started to walk away, but the accused standing in front of the victim held him back with both hands blocking his exit, while his cousin, standing behind the victim, held on to the back of his shirt with one hand. The victim was struck a total of five times in the body by the accused and his cousin.
The co-accused cousin then stabbed the victim twice with a large 25 to 28 ccm. blade knife doing extensive internal damage resulting in death.
Immediately thereafter both boys fled. It is an agreed fact that there is not any evidence that the accused was aware that his cousin was carrying a knife, brandished it and used it during the assault.
The victim died of these stab wounds.
—- from Judge Brent Stewart’s Feb. 25 decision
In late February, one of the boys — the one who didn’t stab MacLeod — was convicted of manslaughter. He’s awaiting sentencing.
The judge convicted him of the crime based largely on the “common purpose” principle — that he ought to have foreseen the possibility of McLeod’s death by participation in the assault:
Turning to the facts of this particular case. The court is bound by the agreed statement of facts with some inferences.
The confrontation, which occurred related to what the court can infer as a gang turf challenge where the accused confronted the victim, challenging his wearing of a white bandanna, swearing at him and wanting to know who he “reps”.
The victim was trapped between the accused in the front and the accused cousin in the back. As the victim started to walk away the accused held on by both hands blocking his exit and between the two boys the victim was hit five times in the body.
From these facts, and the action of the co-accused in concert it was apparent to the court that in fact this was a gang turf challenge, where the two co-accused intended through their actions to rough up (assault or lay a licking on the victim) and teach him a lesson of not coming into their turf.
The question then is whether or not there was objectively reasonable foreseeability of the risk of bodily harm being done by the accused on the victim. To answer that one must look at the acts and words used by the accused as it related to the victim in concert with his cousin.
If the accused simply blocked the movement of the victim by a push or shove, such would be excluded from the definition of bodily harm as being merely trifle. However, his holding on to the victim and then striking the victim in the body with two punches at the same time that his cousin was striking the back of the victim’s body with three punches, would in my opinion be foreseeable to injure the victim sufficient to amount to bodily harm. It would be foreseeable that such an attack to the victim’s body in this manner would interfere with the health and comfort of the victim both physically and emotionally for some time and would not be trifling.
In any outcome I am certain that a random attack such as this would leave any victim with some psychological harm of a non trifling nature such that there would be fear of simply walking down the wrong street and being subject to an assault.
Similar fact scenarios have played out countless times in the city in recent years. I cite just off the top of my head:
Interesting news statement from the provincial Justice minister a few moments ago.
STRENGTHENING YOUTH CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACT TO HEAD MANITOBA’S AGENDA AT JUSTICE MINISTERS’ MEETINGS: SWAN
– – –
Province Also Supports Tougher Penalties for Johns to Reduce Sexual Exploitation
Making public safety a priority by strengthening the Youth
Criminal Justice Act and providing tougher consequences for johns
top the agenda Manitoba will put forward at a federal, provincial
and territorial (FPT) justice ministers’ meeting next week in
Vancouver, Attorney General Andrew Swan said today.
“Manitobans have a right to feel safe in their homes and in their
communities. We work very hard every day to help protect them by
strengthening our laws as well as investing in police, in
prosecutors and in crime prevention,” said Swan. “We have moved
ahead with new provincial legislative tools and now we are
calling on Ottawa to improve key federal legislation.”
Manitoba has repeatedly called for the reform of the Youth
Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) at past FPT meetings. At this
meeting, Swan said he will raise concerns about Bill C-4 which
proposes YCJA amendments. The minister said the bill, currently before Parliament, does not adequately address deficiencies in YCJA bail and sentencing provisions and needs to be changed to deal more effectively with serious and repeat young offenders.
Swan said he will call upon FPT ministers to commit to a special
meeting on the YCJA if the parliamentary standing committee
currently reviewing the bill does not address Manitoba’s
He said Manitoba will also suggest the Criminal Code should be
amended to provide Crown attorneys with the ability to seek
increased penalties for johns, in order to reduce sexual
exploitation, diminish negative impacts on communities where
prostitution is taking place and disrupt a key source of revenue
for organized crime.
In order to allow more time for police officers to be on the
streets, Swan said he will support recommendations to amend the Criminal Code to permit routine police evidence to be presented by written document rather than requiring police to spend time in court giving oral testimony on such matters.
The meeting will take place Oct. 13 to 15 in Vancouver.
OTTAWA – The Canadian Bar Association’s (CBA) National Criminal Justice Section says that while Bill C-4, Youth Criminal Justice Act amendments, contains some necessary changes, it should not be passed as it would undermine the long term protection of society.
“The CBA supports an approach to youth justice that leads to greater public safety over the long haul,” says Scott Bergman of Toronto, Member of the National Criminal Justice Section. “The Bill moves away from a restorative and rehabilitative model of youth justice to a more punitive model, which is both unnecessary and contrary to sound public policy based on well-accepted social science.”
In its submission, the CBA says the Bill would mean more young people would go to jail for longer periods of time, although youth crime has not been increasing, and the diversion and rehabilitation goals of the current Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) have been working well.
The submission notes that according to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, overall crime has been falling since the early 1990s and violent youth crime has remained stable for several years. “Every province and territory has experienced reductions in youth court caseloads since the introduction of the YCJA, and fewer youth cases are resulting in jail sentences being imposed.”
“In other words,” says Scott Bergman, “there are fewer court cases and fewer youth in custody without any related increase in violent youth crime.”
The CBA is also concerned that the proposed amendments seem to send a message that three key participants in the criminal justice system – the police, Crown counsel and the judiciary – should not be trusted with discretionary powers. “The CBA opposes amendments which would directly or indirectly discourage these groups from exercising their professional discretion under the YCJA. Discretion is the cornerstone of a just system,” notes the brief.
Manitoba’s in a tough spot. Many other places in the country don’t have the same youth crime severity problem as we do.
I wish Mr. Swan good luck. I also hope for his presence (and that of Winnipeg’s next mayor and police chief) at the standing committee in Parliament to put Manitoba and Winnipeg’s concerns about youth crime on the record and in full.
If they need some help developing case studies to present, I know a few people who would be glad to help out.