City: Kingston, Ontario
Our Client: Mr. L.
Complainant: Mr. M., Mr. S., & Kingston Police Service
Charge(s): Robbery; Wearing a Disguise with Intent to Commit an Indictable Offence; & Possession of a Weapon for a Dangerous Purpose
Lawyer: Edmund Chan
Background: Mr. L. was 18 years old. His buddies were still 17. A little before Christmas 2015, two youths, M. and S., attempting to buy some marijuana, were threatened and robbed. Mr. L. was implicated. He had just got off the bus when he saw some of the guys on a climber in the school playground, talking about what they were going to do; then he heard “run run run.” One boy said: “Holy F____, I just robbed that kid for $80!” Then they all ran away. Mr. L. ran home and told his mom what happened. However, according to the police, the events unfolded as follows: Mr. L. and his friends were over at a friend’s house, when one of the boys, “T.,” got a Facebook message from another youth, “M.” asking if he had marijuana for sale as M. had previously purchased from T. T. agreed to sell M. a half ounce of marijuana for $85.00 then set up a meeting. That evening, M. and another youth “S.” went to the arranged location. They had between them, the $85. Already at the school was T., Mr. L. and several other boys. T. provided another boy G. with M.’s cell number to ask M. where he was. M. replied (assuming that he was talking to T.) that they were at the location but were apprehensive about approaching due to the number of people with T. It was at this time that all the boys but one began to approach M. and S. (One boy did not approach the victims as he apparently was not involved in the planning and did not know what the boys’ exact intentions were.) Some of the boys had their faces covered. G. who was not wearing a disguise circled behind the victims in order to conceal his identity. One of the boys, “W.,” wearing a red bandanna over his face and Mr. L. allegedly wearing a t-shirt over his face and wielding a broomstick, directly approached M. and S. Two of the other boys also had their faces concealed with clothing and one who didn’t, remained behind W. and Mr. L. Mr. L. and W. demanded money from M. and S. who immediately handed over $85.00. M. asked the group not to kill him. Then everybody dispersed and fled the area in different directions. M. contacted the police. Later, M. entered into the search bar on Facebook, the number on his cell from which he had earlier been texted. The search revealed that the number belonged to G. Consequently, police arrested G. and the other boys. G. made a full confession, which while full of inconsistencies, was basically the version of the events on which the police were relying. In addition, Mr. L.’s ex-girlfriend, with whom he’d had a stormy relationship, attended at the police station where she claimed that she had been dating Mr. L. at the time of the robbery and that Mr. L. had confessed to her that he, G. and W. had committed the robbery. However, this girl later recanted. When Mr. L. was arrested, he told the police that the lawyer he wished to speak to was Richard Aitken.
Goal: While the other boys were under 18 and would therefore get youth sentences, Mr. L. would be prosecuted as an adult and therefore his jeopardy was much greater. The charges were for indictable offences. (Indictable offences are the more serious offences, what Americans call “felony” offences.) The matter would be heard in the Superior Court. Potential sentences for his charges included imprisonment up to life for the robbery charge, and up to 10 years imprisonment on each of the other two charges. The goal was to keep him out of jail.
Strategy: Given G.’s confession and the other evidence against Mr. L., a trial would have been risky, especially because losing would have meant a lengthy period of incarceration. On Mr. L.’s instructions, we would seek a plea bargain but if the Crown would not offer a deal which we could accept, then we would argue for a non-jail sentence in front of the judge. To aid in that regard, we would seek a pre-sentence report (a report made usually by a probation officer in which the accused and possibly family members and the victim, are interviewed, and recommendations for sentencing are offered).
Result: Based on the positive pre-sentence report and some other factors, we persuaded the Crown to join us in asking the judge for a period of probation instead of jail time. The Crown would seek 18 months probation; we would argue for 12 months. The judge sentenced Mr. L. to 12 month probation and allowed three months for him to pay the victim fine surcharge. The remaining two charges were withdrawn by the Crown. Her Honor in passing the sentence said, “This is the lightest sentence I have ever imposed for robbery in my 26 years as a judge.”