Daniel Brown -Toronto Criminal Lawyer

Having an experienced and aggressive criminal lawyer on your side is the best defence. It is the only way to help you achieve the best possible results when facing a criminal charge.

Daniel Brown is a Toronto criminal defence lawyer representing anyone facing criminal charges and works with you through every stage of the criminal law process.

With extensive knowledge of the law and court procedures, he can offer specialized expertise in a number of criminal law related areas including:

Trials for all Criminal Code Offences
Bail Hearings and Bail Detention Reviews
Domestic Assault
Sexual Assault
Impaired DrivingDrunk Driving, and Driving Over 80
Drug Charges: including drug trafficking and drug possession
Criminal Conviction Appeals  OR  Criminal Sentence Appeals
ShopliftingTheft Under $5,000
Criminal Mischief Charges
Uttering Threats

Remember, your best defence is hiring the right lawyer to protect your rights.

Visit http://www.yourbestdefence.com/ for more information or contact me at 416.297.7200 to arrange a free consultation.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Silent Treatment - the story behind my murder trial

August 14, 2009

The silent treatment

By Joe Friesen
From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Mackel Peterkin was no gangster. He'd benefited from many social programs to help him make something of his life. So why, at 18, did he find himself charged with murder? It's because, where he came from, ‘no snitching' was the highest law of all

Mackel Peterkin had lived so long suspended between condemnation and redemption that the wait had become almost normal.

Sitting outside Toronto's main criminal courthouse under a punishing sun, the brawny, square-jawed 20-year-old complained of the heat but made no attempt to move. It felt as if the afternoon would carry on forever.

For the anxious relatives sitting beside him, eternal uncertainty seemed preferable to the likely alternative – life behind bars.

It had been two years since Mr. Peterkin was arrested for allegedly planning and carrying out the execution of his friend Allen Benn. Before that, he had been seen as one of the rare kids in his rough neighbourhood who would avoid this kind of trap.

He had grown up poor, but he had been the beneficiary of countless interventions – from government programs to private-sector philanthropy – aimed at shepherding him safely to adulthood. He wasn't a gangster; he was a decent kid. And yet he was facing 25 years to life for first-degree murder.

The jury had been deliberating for three days. In 2008, 93 per cent of homicide trials in Ontario ended with guilty verdicts.

But Mr. Peterkin was confident in spite of the odds.

“If they convict me, they have to let 10 men out of jail,” he liked to say, referring to the legal principle that says it's better that 10 guilty men go free than that one innocent man be imprisoned.

In the slow stillness of the afternoon, he wrestled his arms free from his dress shirt and let it drape around his neck like a scarf. With his black pants covering black Nike Air Force Ones, he was willing to bend only so far to the formality of the court.

Then his mother's cellphone rang. It was their lawyer. The jury was coming back with a verdict. His mom grabbed him around the waist, hugging him tightly. He tried to push her aside as he gulped for words.

“Mom, it's okay, I'm coming home,” he said, trying to sound brave. He strode ahead alone.

When the jurors entered the courtroom that final time, they didn't so much as glance at Mr. Peterkin, nor did they acknowledge his best friend and co-accused, Shaun Blake.

In the back row, a lawyer whispered, “They won't look at the accused. They're done. They're going down.”

‘A mysterious kid'

Mackel Peterkin was born on a rainy night in Scarborough in the fall of 1988. His mother's fifth child, he entered the world with six fingers on each hand. His mother asked that the two additional pinkie fingers be cut away so he wouldn't be made fun of at school.

“I said, ‘This is a mysterious kid. He's a different kind,'” said his mother, Mazeline Allen.

She had grown up in Jamaica and at 14 came to Canada, where she was reunited with a mother and father she had never known. The reunion didn't go well. She didn't get along with her mom and her dad died of a stroke at 42.

Her grandmother had told her that in Canada the streets were lined with money – all you had to do was bend down to pick it up. But for Ms. Allen, Canada was a cold and lonely place, and she struggled, finding work here and there in construction. She would eventually have nine children with six different men.

She now lives in public housing in Toronto's suburban northwest at Jane Street and Finch Avenue, an area known as one of Canada's most violent neighbourhoods.

Her living-room walls are decorated with a dozen portraits of Egyptian emperor Haile Selassie, the Rastafarian king.

Ms. Allen looked fondly at a photo of Mackel in kindergarten, dressed in a red-and-black-striped cardigan. “They thought he was the child who couldn't speak. They would ask me, ‘Is he dumb?' I'd say no, that's just Mackel.”

His report card from that year said he was steadily gaining self-confidence. He liked math, puzzles, painting and cut-and-paste, and he wanted to be an astronaut. But his absence on nearly 20 per cent of school days (10 per cent is considered high) foretold a more difficult future.

Growing up in the Palisades apartment towers, Mr. Peterkin befriended a local kid named Shaun Blake with a life story very similar to his own. I met the two boys when I was reporting on the community in the summer of 2006. At the time, the city was gripped by the cascading toll of young, black homicide victims, a pattern that, with ebbs and flows, continues to play out today.

Mr. Peterkin and Mr. Blake belonged to the group of teenagers that hung around the San Romanoway Revitalization Association; they called it the Centre. They were acutely aware that, as young black men, they were perceived as a threat to peace and order. It was hard to ignore: When prime minister Paul Martin promised a major crackdown on gangs and guns in 2005, he didn't just come to their neighbourhood – he came to their building.

One evening at the Centre, a counsellor asked the boys to introduce themselves and describe their ambitions. The typical exchange went something like, “My name's Lefty. I live in Palisades, my favourite subject is science, I'm going to play in the NBA ... and I'm deadly.” Everyone would crack up.

Mr. Peterkin, though, was more mature. While his friends reacted aggressively to any perceived slight, he was a calming presence. His academic struggles placed him two years behind his age cohort, but that was not unusual in the group. When it was his turn to talk about his ambitions, he had scaled back considerably from dreams of space travel: He said he wanted to operate the jackhammer on a construction crew.

Everyone laughed. The counsellor scolded him and asked what he really wanted to do. He replied, somewhat hurt, that he was telling the truth.

For teenage boys in that area, gangs are one of life's central pillars. The group at the Palisades considered themselves Bloods. They wore the red clothing and joked around with their gang signs, but their crimes were of the theft-from-a-locker or schoolyard-fight variety, not those of gun-toting thugs.

At the time, I thought these were the kids you'd never hear about, clearly benefiting from the programs that aim to keep children from at-risk neighbourhoods out of trouble.

Every year, millions of dollars are spent on scholastic, athletic, vocational and crime-prevention programs for the hundreds of kids in the neighbourhood. At the Centre alone, they received more than $500,000 last year from donors ranging from Public Safety Canada, the City of Toronto, the Attorney-General's Ministry, the Royal Bank and the United Way.

Mr. Peterkin had participated in at least six funded programs before his 18th birthday, including the Boys and Girls Club, Y-Connect, Rising Stars, Straight Talk, Hoop to Hope and Raptor Ball.

One of his mentors was Benjamin Osei, who often led the programs. He said Mr. Peterkin “didn't have any gangster nature about him.”

But there was no getting around the fact that he and his friends came from poor families, did badly in school and had no sense of what to do with their lives. They believed the world was racist and that the odds were stacked against them from birth.

The temptation to make easy money serving the daily procession of crack and dope buyers was ever present, as was the possibility of being recruited by the serious, grown-up gangs.

Mr. Osei said they were like starfish on the beach. You could save a few by throwing them back in the ocean, but every wave brought dozens more.

Joker's last hand

On April 2, 2007, 20-year-old Allen Benn was sitting down to dinner with his family in the Grassways housing complex. His little sister didn't like the food, so Mr. Benn offered to go across the street to get some takeout chicken.

Mr. Benn, whose family came to Jane-Finch from Ghana when he was a child, hung around with the group from Palisades even though he lived on the south side of Finch Avenue. Known as Joker for his sense of humour, he had dropped out of school, but he was trying to turn his life around – he was washing dishes at a restaurant and volunteering at the Centre.

Thirteen minutes after leaving his apartment, Mr. Benn lay dying on the pavement. When paramedics arrived, he was struggling to breathe and rolling slightly from side to side. He had been stabbed five times and his small bowel was spilling out of a gash in his stomach.

The pathologist concluded that the wound that killed him sliced through his heart and liver, causing massive internal bleeding.

‘Stop snitching'

When Detective Sergeant Frank Skubic arrived at the homicide scene, he faced a problem endemic to criminal investigations in certain parts of Toronto.

It's a kind of parallel universe where the rule of law doesn't mean what it does elsewhere, and where citizens don't believe that the police can deliver on the promise to protect them.

As Det. Sgt. Skubic explained in court, every witness he found was the product of diligent door knocking, persuasion and cajoling. No one came forward offering information.

The “stop-snitching” campaign has been so effective in Toronto's poorest neighbourhoods that it is now very difficult to persuade anyone to help a police investigation. Many people fear that they will be killed by gangs. Some also feel that the police are a kind of army of occupation who shouldn't get their co-operation.

The slogan “stop snitching” gained cultural traction via hip-hop songs and a popular line of clothing that the mayor of Boston once tried to ban from stores. It's common to see teenagers in Jane-Finch wearing the T-shirts or having a stop-snitching logo on their MySpace or Facebook profiles.

I once saw two youth workers at the Centre, the very people whose job it was to set an example, explaining to an 11-year-old boy who had tattled on a classmate that if he continued to snitch, he would be hated.

As one gang expert testified in this case, in Jane-Finch “no snitching” means you don't talk to anyone, ever, about anything – because you're only ever a phone call away from being killed.

The Grassways public-housing complex, where the killing took place, is a labyrinth of interconnected low-rise buildings. It's known locally as Connections, partly for its shape and partly because it's a place to connect with a drug dealer.

The Crown's theory was that Mackel Peterkin and Shaun Blake conspired to kill Allen Benn with two 17-year-old youths who are being tried later this year in a separate proceeding.

Their case revolved almost entirely around surveillance video from the scene. With more than 50 video cameras throughout the complex keeping silent watch over comings and goings, the Grassways is a kind of surveillance fishbowl.

The video showed Mr. Blake and two youths, including one we'll call Jerome, hanging around the housing complex together about three hours before Mr. Benn was killed. Mr. Peterkin joined them just 20 minutes before the attack.

Mr. Benn returned from the restaurant at 4:50 p.m. and encountered Jerome. They spoke for a moment and then Mr. Benn followed Jerome toward a stairwell door out of camera view. Mr. Blake and Mr. Peterkin had disappeared in the same spot a few minutes earlier.

At 4:55 p.m., after being off-camera for four minutes, Mr. Benn emerged from the stairwell and fell to the ground. Mr. Blake, Mr. Peterkin and Jerome were not seen on camera again.

The police dragged Mr. Peterkin from his bed and arrested him three weeks later, in May, 2007. Mr. Blake was arrested at the same time by an emergency task force a few blocks south.

‘No comment'

They were interviewed that evening by Det. Sgt. Skubic and his partner, Det. Sgt. Terry Wark. Mr. Blake was shown the surveillance videotape, but he denied that he was on it. Asked if he could identify his friend Jerome, Mr. Blake said he didn't know him.

Det. Sgt. Skubic, a genial, hulking man, patiently skewered the lie. He rhymed off the places they might find evidence – on shoes, on clothing. Mr. Blake rocked slowly back and forth in his chair, eyes cast downward.

Det. Sgt. Skubic's voice softened and he leaned in closer, offering a way out. “It takes a man to stand up and say, ‘We didn't mean for it to happen, but it happened.' … Can you give us an explanation?”

A long silence followed. Mr. Blake, his arms tightly folded, mumbled, “Not true,” and then, “No comment.”

When the police interviewed Mr. Peterkin, he described his movements on the day Mr. Benn was killed. After school, he went to the Centre at Palisades, as he did every day, but couldn't go in because its director, Stephnie Payne, had temporarily banned the older boys to discipline them. Then, he said, he went to his sister's house. But the video showed he actually went to the Grassways.

“Did you stab this man to death?” Det. Sgt. Skubic asked.

“No,” Mr. Peterkin replied.

“But you know who did?”


Mr. Peterkin said Mr. Benn had problems with “some Crip guys.”

“It wasn't the Crips who killed him, because we got the videotape,” the officer said. “Crips don't wear red.”

At the end of the questioning, Mr. Peterkin had tears in his eyes.

Both Mr. Blake and Mr. Peterkin lied consistently to police. Both said they weren't at the scene of the homicide, and the video clearly showed they were. Both said they didn't know anyone on the video, and they clearly did.

In court, the Crown argued that their lies were evidence of guilt, in particular Mr. Peterkin's feeble attempt to point the police at other suspects.

Mr. Peterkin's mother was livid. “Let me explain something to you: We live in Gangster City. If you talk to the cops, you get killed, simple as that,” she said. “The police know that. These boys aren't going to say who did it.”

Twists of fate

In fact, though, the Crown's whole case revolved around the no-snitching rule. Their theory was that Allen Benn was killed for snitching on a fellow Blood. A week earlier, Mr. Benn's friend had been robbed. Word on the street was that Mr. Benn had ratted out the robbers. It wasn't true, but, as one lawyer said, the presumption of innocence doesn't apply in the Grassways.

Bizarrely enough, the disastrous chain of events began five months earlier with a stroke of good fortune for Mr. Benn's friend Richie Poku: He won $1.1-million in the lottery. Mr. Poku moved to Brampton, bought a Mercedes and started wearing expensive clothes and jewellery. But his girlfriend still had family in Jane-Finch and one night visited her mother in the Grassways.

When Mr. Poku arrived to pick her up, he was stripped of his pants, shoes, necklace and car keys. His girlfriend, Bettina Marfo, concluded that the robbers were Jerome and another gang member named Kanadian. She called Kanadian's mother, who refused to believe that her son committed the robbery. In an attempt to bolster her accusation, Ms. Marfo said, “Even Allen warned Richie to be careful.” According to the Crown, those words sealed his fate.

Mr. Benn heard about that conversation days before he was killed. Panicked, he asked Ms. Marfo to change her story, to say it was a different Allen who warned her. “Those people don't play around with stuff like that. They call it snitching and you can get killed for it.”

Mr. Benn had never mentioned anyone by name. Nor did he have any information about a plan to rob Mr. Poku.

“All Allen Benn did was say, ‘Your boyfriend should be a little smarter about showing up in the Grassways with gold dripping off his body in a fancy car,'” said the judge, Mr. Justice David McCombs. “That's just something that any rational person would say to you. ... This boy died for nothing. He didn't break any code of any kind.”

Behind bars

The two boys spent nearly a year in prison. During their time at the Maplehurst jail, Mr. Blake was angry and constantly fighting. He was kept in solitary confinement for long stretches, and in one altercation a corrections officer smashed his head against a wall repeatedly, leaving him with a two-inch forehead scar.

Mr. Peterkin fared better. He knew someone on the inside who smoothed his transition and introduced him to people. Eventually he became one of the bosses on his range.

After several months, tests on their clothing came back from the forensics lab. There was very little there. One of Mr. Blake's shoes couldn't be ruled out as a match for a footprint at the crime scene, but it was a generic print from a very popular shoe (the judge ruled it inadmissible at trial).

Since the case against them was circumstantial, and neither had a criminal record, they were granted bail halfway through 2008.

Throughout the ordeal, the two boys steadfastly refused to say anything that would put them in the clear, if it meant putting others in jeopardy.

One day over lunch during the trial, Mr. Peterkin said that he had had an alibi all along: He was at his friend's apartment, just down the hall from the stairwell where Mr. Benn was attacked. The problem was that his friend, Brandon Miller, didn't corroborate his story when questioned by police.

“One thing that pisses me off, that one person didn't tell the truth, and that's Brandon Miller, because he could've got me out of all this. But I understand why he didn't. He didn't want to get himself involved,” Mr. Peterkin said. “I'd probably do the same thing.”

There were at least half a dozen other people who could have put him in the clear, he added, but none of them would speak up either.

As the trial wore on, it became increasingly evident that the Crown's view was that Jerome likely committed the murder, assisted by others who may have held Mr. Benn while he was stabbed or blocked him from escaping.

The Crown had a witness who said she saw in a brief glance a group of teenagers moving in a violent swirl in the area of the stairwell, but she couldn't identify any of them.

The pathologist, who was instructed to look for evidence of an assault on Mr. Benn, couldn't find any bruising consistent with someone being held or beaten. In fact, defensive wounds on his hands showed that they were free when he was attacked.

In conversation, Mr. Peterkin denied ever seeing what happened to Mr. Benn, but he said that even if he had been there, he wouldn't have intervened.

“People kill people sometimes. You can't necessarily stop it. I don't think I'd want to try. If I did, you might end up with two people dead,” he said. “It's only white people that think they can be the hero.”

Bye-bye blackbird

It's common now, in the age of Barack Obama, to talk of a post-racial society. But for Mr. Peterkin and Mr. Blake, race was still central to their world view and one of their favourite topics of conversation.

Mr. Blake, out of the blue one day, asked me how he could learn to talk to white girls. “I've never talked to a white girl. Can you believe that? You've got to show me how. … You can talk to any girl. You can be like, ‘How's your hot chocolate? Is that a nice hot chocolate?' If we said that to a white girl, she'd get all scared. It couldn't happen.”

While awaiting the verdict, the men and their families spent a tense half-hour feeding the birds outside the Eaton Centre. Four black birds were gathered around Mr. Peterkin's niece as she tossed French fries in their direction. But each time a white bird would swoop in and steal the fry before any of the black birds could eat it.

No matter how close the fry was to the black bird, the white bird's size, speed and strength stole the fry every time. The group was more and more amazed with each fry thrown in the ring.

“Look at the white guy, he's just eating everything. He won't let the black guys even get a piece,” Mr. Peterkin said.

As he walked back to court, he marvelled, “That's a life lesson right there,” he said. “No matter how much of a chance you give the black guy, the white guy always gets more. He gets to eat no matter what. Just like real life.”

The accused and their families were convinced that the trial would be affected by their race. During one break in testimony, Ms. Allen and Ms. Blake were talking about how dangerous it would be for their sons to return to the neighbourhood if they were acquitted. They weren't afraid of Mr. Benn's family – they were afraid of the police. They were adamant that the police would try to injure or kill them. I said I thought it was impossible.

“You're so naive,” Ms. Allen said.

“You're too much public,” Mr. Blake said.

This was a phrase he often used to describe me. I asked what it meant.

“You're too much a Canadian citizen,” he said. Mr. Blake had spent just one week of his life outside Ontario and 12 years in Toronto public schools, yet did not consider himself part of society.

His mother still hoped that something good could come of the trial for her son: “When you come from where we do – well, they call it the ghetto – you don't know what you can be in life,” she said. “Now that he's been through this, he's been socializing with higher people, people like lawyers, and he's starting to see what he really can do himself.

“When he gets off, and he's innocent, I don't want him to even come visit me where I'm living, not even to say hi. I want him to get out, get away, get into some kind of college program,” she said.

Mr. Blake said he and his girlfriend, Kamesha, who was five months pregnant, were going to move somewhere outside the city. They hoped that he would get a job in construction and complete his high-school diploma. He and Kamesha, who was in school and working at a call centre, had been together nearly five years.

Mr. Peterkin's girlfriend, Rhoda, often skipped school to go to the trial against his wishes. He was trying to convince her that they were no longer a couple.

They had started dating shortly before his arrest. She stood by him while he was in jail, took his phone calls and visited. She even moved into his mother's home. But Mr. Peterkin told her at the end of the trial that what they had was just “jail love.”

“But you told me – you said the words,” she said.

“You don't know about jail love? Of course the guy is going to say, ‘I love you.' He's surrounded by [dozens] of guys. When you're in jail, you just want to get as much love as you can.”

Bad bargains

Shortly after the trial began, the Crown offered Mr. Peterkin a deal: He could plead guilty to manslaughter in exchange for a sentence of nine years, 81/2 to be served in the penitentiary.

That was considerably better than life in prison, but it didn't appeal to him or his lawyer. They decided to take their chances with the jury.

No such deal was offered to Mr. Blake. His lawyers believed that he was in a much more precarious situation. Unlike Mr. Peterkin, Mr. Blake had hung around with Jerome, the person with the most powerful motive to kill Mr. Benn, for three hours before the attack. He was also on video pointing in the direction of Mr. Benn, evidence the Crown argued was part of a “quasi-military operation” to kill a suspected snitch.

Once the Crown closed its case, Mr. Blake's lawyers discussed strategy with their client.

“Shaun has a big decision to make,” said one of them, Daniel Brown. “He has to decide whether to take the stand and point the finger at some pretty dangerous people. I don't know. He's facing 25 years, but we may not need to put him up there.”

Mr. Blake came away from their meeting looking depressed, and slammed his headphones over his ears as he walked away.

He said there was no way he was going to testify, even if it meant jeopardizing his shot at freedom. He walked away alone, leaving his grandmother wondering what he was thinking.

“Shaun didn't sleep all night,” she said. “Yesterday, he just sat with his chin in his hands looking so worried, but he didn't want to talk about it.”

Neither Mr. Blake nor Mr. Peterkin called any evidence in their defence. It was a risk. Their lawyers would have to convince the jury that the Crown hadn't proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Day of judgment

Regina v. Peterkin and Blake was to be Judge McCombs's last case. A mountainous figure with a craggy face and wings of snowy hair encircling a bald peak, he often expressed his irritation by letting out a long, pained exhale of breath. As the trial wore on, he seemed to grow more concerned about its direction.

“I've been a judge for 17 years. This is a disturbing case for me,” he said in the trial's last week, once the jury had been excused for the day. “The reaction [of the jury] in these gangs cases is a worry. People are fed up to their teeth with gang violence. And we therefore have to guard against verdicts that are unsupported by the evidence. Nobody wants to have as his or her legacy a wrongful conviction.”

The judge's most important task was to instruct the jury on how they should reach a verdict. He cautioned them to pay little heed to the defendants' lies to police, and warned them about the unreliability of the eyewitness evidence offered by the Crown.

Almost as soon as he had finished and the jury had been sequestered, the prosecutor leaped to his feet with a list of objections. The judge had eviscerated his evidence, he said, leaving him with nothing.

“Surely you don't want this jury to convict them purely on speculation?” the judge replied.

Outside court, the wait for a verdict began. The families sat together, praying for the best.

“Jail sucks,” said Mr. Peterkin, contemplating a future in the penitentiary at Joyceville, Ont. – a boring routine of watching daytime talk shows, sports highlights and music videos. “You get frustrated. What's the word they use for people in jail – rehabilitation? That doesn't work. People who go to jail get mad and frustrated with the world, so when they come out, they're worse. How can you rehabilitate someone over 25 years? That's ridiculous.

“Sometimes I think about my situation and I get mad. But I just think I'm not going. Not think – I know. I know I'm not going. I'll be shocked. Really shocked.”

As he waited, he played Who Wants to Be a Millionaire on a cellphone, faltering as he read the questions aloud.

Mr. Peterkin recalled all the programs he had taken part in as teenager, all the summer jobs designed to set him on a path to anywhere but here: youth programs, basketball leagues, summer camps. The free meals, the adult counsel, the city's concern for the disadvantaged children of Jane-Finch.

In an attempt to use what little power they had, Mr. Peterkin and his friends used to say that if the Centre didn't get a new basketball hoop, well, they might just turn to crime. They got the new hoop, and a new paved court as well.

Generous corporations had given them tickets to movies and sports events, tickets Mr. Peterkin often scalped outside the stadium for a measly few dollars. He had been given a summer job cleaning the garbage rooms and stairwells of the towers. He had run the recording studio donated to the Centre.

All these steps were designed to give Mr. Peterkin a shot. All these steps hadn't kept him from being sucked into a mess that put him on trial for his friend's murder.

The wait for a verdict dragged on through the first day and then the second.

By Friday afternoon, the lawyers were starting to worry about a hung jury, which would mean having to do it all over again. The call finally came as they sat in the late-afternoon sun.

The jury would deliver its verdict in 10 minutes.

Mr. Peterkin said he could barely hear over the pounding of his own heart when he re-entered the courtroom that final time. His lawyer placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder and whispered, “If it doesn't go your way, we'll appeal.”

A phalanx of sheriff's deputies stood ready to take the accused into custody. The boys' mothers and sisters held tightly to one another, some of them reciting prayers.

Finally, Juror No. 6 rose to utter the words that would shape the course of their lives.

It was a unanimous verdict of not guilty on all counts for both Mr. Peterkin and Mr. Blake.

Mr. Peterkin's mother lifted her arms to the ceiling in a prayer of gratitude. She hugged Mr. Blake's mother, who was crying.

“Thank you Jesus Christ,” she said.

“I'm so happy,” a tearful Mr. Blake said. “Mackel, we're free, we're free.”

Mr. Peterkin shook his lawyer's hand. There were tears welling in his eyes, but, in the sea of joyful noise, he was quiet.

“The justice system worked,” he said.

Accident and destiny

During the trial, I asked Mr. Blake and Mr. Peterkin if they wished they had never gone to the Grassways that day. I wondered how they could reconcile wasting two years of their lives for the sake of the no-snitching code.

Mr. Peterkin said that so many things that day put him in the wrong place at the wrong time. If the Centre hadn't been locked, he never would have gone to the Grassways. If his friend Jesse hadn't been getting a haircut, he would have been at Jesse's apartment.

“Instead I went to Connections and when I got there they had locked Shaun inside this little old laundry room – it's tiny and locks from the outside – so he was banging to get out. If I had just left him in there for a while longer, maybe none of this would've happened. But we went outside.”

“And then?” I asked.

“And then,” he replied.

For his part, Mr. Blake shrugged his shoulders. “Some people say your life is written before you're born,” he said. “I believe that.”

Mr. Osei, the community worker who has known them since they were children, said Mr. Peterkin was always withdrawn – a follower, not a leader.

Jerome, however, was a different case. A refugee from Sierra Leone, he came to Canada having seen horrors that few could imagine.

His cousin, Alpha, who also belongs to the Palisades crew, recalled seeing guns held to the head of his relatives during the civil war, people having their hands chopped off, and the bellies of pregnant women carved open. He was still haunted by those images and said he knew Jerome was too.

The trial ended on a Friday afternoon in late June. This summer, Mr. Peterkin has been trying to keep a low profile, but he has returned to Jane and Finch and made contact with some of his old friends. It will never be the same, he said – the group will forever be divided by Mr. Benn's death. He has not yet followed through on his plans to find a job in construction.

What frustrated Mr. Osei most was that all of the people involved had at some point sat down at his table to ask for his help. They had all been part of the same group; they'd grown up together.

“It isn't outsiders doing this. They're doing it to themselves,” he said. “It's one friend against another.”

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Two men acquitted in 2007 Jane-Finch murder

A jury has acquitted two Toronto men in the 2007 murder of Allan Benn in a northwest Toronto housing complex, leaving a courtroom awash in emotion.

Shaun Blake and Mackel Peterkin, both 20, had faced charges of first-degree murder.

"Thank you Jesus!" shouted Peterkin's mother on Friday after the jury filed out. "This is what happens when you pray!"

Family members of both mean wept and danced for joy.

"I'm speechless ... I have no words," Blake said as he walked out of the courthouse into the warm sunshine.

"The justice system worked," Peterkin said.

"This is an extremely weak case that should never have been prosecuted in the first place," said defence lawyer Daniel Brown.

Two young offenders were also charged in connection with the killing of Benn. They will be tried separately in youth court this fall. Provisions in the Youth Criminal Justice Act prevent them from being named.

The Crown had argued during the trial that the accused killed Benn for "snitching" because he had warned a man who had won $1 million in a lottery that he might be a target for robbery if he returned to the neighbourhood.

Eventually, the robbery did happen.

Benn lived with his family in the Jane and Finch area.

Security footage from April 2, 2007 -- the day Benn died -- showed the victim walking towards a youth, then following that person out of camera range.

Blake and Peterkin were evident in some of the video footage.

Less than five minutes later, Benn comes back into view and falls down.

The Crown had argued that one youth actually did the stabbing, with the other three helping him carry out the attack.

The defence argued that the Crown had failed to provide enough evidence against Blake and Peterkin.

Det.-Sgt. Frank Skubic, the lead homicide investigator on the case, acknowledged that the evidence at trial was largely circumstantial but maintained there was adequate grounds to lay the charges in the first place.

"I respect the decison of the jury. They gave careful consideration and rendered the appropriate verdict," Skubic said.

The veteran officer added that Allen Benn's father was made aware of the verdict and was "very disappointed." The family reportedly couldn't bear the emotional strain of attending court.

With files from CTV Toronto's Chris Eby

Monday, April 13, 2009

Obstruct Police

Obstructing Police Charges in Toronto, Ontario.

This article reviews legal information about obstructing police charges in Toronto, Ontario. Those looking for advice on this, or any criminal charge, should consult a criminal lawyer.

Obstructing Police

It is a crime in Canada to resist or intentionally obstruct a police officer in the lawful execution of his duty.

What is the definition of “obstruction”?
The definition of "obstruction" that has generally been applied by the court occurs when a person makes it more difficult for the police to carry out their duties. It is generally not an offence to argue that the police were eventually able to carry out their duties despite the attempt to obstruct them from doing so.

What does the Crown Attorney need to prove to show a person obstructed the police?
Generally, the Crown must first prove that there was an obstructing of a police officer. They must also prove that the police officer was acting pursuant to a lawful purpose. Next the Crown must prove that the obstructing affected the officer in the execution of a duty that he was then executing, and lastly they must prove that the person who obstructed the officer did so intentionally.

Someone who unintentionally obstructs a police officer by accidentally (as opposed to intentionally) providing the officer with false information would not be guilty of this offence.

Would giving a false name or identification to the police amount to an obstruction?
It depends on the circumstances of the case. Where the police are entitled to request a person’s name, it is incumbent on that person to provide a truthful answer to the question. A false answer may constitute an obstruction. However, in some cases, the police officer had no right to request a person’s identification. In those circumstances, it can be argued that they were not “in the lawful execution of their duty” as required by section 129 of the Criminal Code. Whether the officer was in the lawful execution of their duty is ultimately a question for the judge to decide at an accused person’s trial.

Would refusing to give my identification to the police amount to an obstruction?
Once again, context is important. If a person is under a legal obligation to provide identification (such as to allow the officer to issue a valid ticket for speeding etc.) the failure to provide identification may amount to an obstruction of the police officer. However, if an officer simply demanded identification without lawful authority to do so, it would not meet the definition of an obstruction.

What is the punishment for obstructing a police officer?
It is difficult to guess at the type of punishment a person could receive for obstructing a police officer. In some cases, a person may be given a criminal record, placed on probation or given a fine. In more serious cases, or where the person has related criminal history, the punishment could amount to jail time.

If you or someone you know has been charged with obstructing a police officer, you should immediately contact a criminal lawyer to determine your best defence to this type of criminal charge. I can be reached for a free consultation at 416.297.7200.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Retooling the war on gangs and guns

Retooling the war on gangs and guns
125 suspects arrested in latest operation, but police vow to focus on worst offenders

April 02, 2009

It is almost a springtime ritual.

Hundreds of police officers from various forces fan out in pre-drawn raids across Greater Toronto and beyond to execute search warrants, arrest scores of people and lay dozens of drugs, weapons and gangsterism charges after a massive investigation that has a catchy name – in this case, Project Fusion.

A news conference follows with pronouncements made about the fruits of the law enforcement project, including the 40 guns seized yesterday, which police said will deal a "significant blow" to the firearm supply in east Toronto and make the streets safer.

As well, millions of dollars' worth of illicit narcotics, including cocaine and marijuana and ecstasy, were seized during several months of investigation, not just yesterday.

The Toronto Police Service says this time it is trying to do some things differently in its latest salvo in the war on guns and gangs.

Police Chief Bill Blair said that as the accused move through the courts a more streamlined process is planned aimed at avoiding some of the problems of previous projects that have targeted street gangs.

"The people who we arrested ... some of them are charged with less serious criminal offences so some of those people have been released or will be released over the next few days. Our intent is to ensure the detention of those people who pose a risk," Blair told a news conference at police headquarters.

In June 2007, Superior Court Judge Ian Nordheimer blasted the Crown for delays in bail hearings for nine accused street gang members caught in the Project Kryptic sweep. To show his disapproval of the delays, Nordheimer ordered the Crown to pay each of the defendants' court costs of $2,000.

Blair would not specify how many of those busted yesterday "pose a risk," but said 46 of the 125 people arrested are alleged to be members and associates of two gangs in southeast Toronto – the MNE, named for the geographic area of Markham Rd. and Eglinton Ave. E., and 400 Crew, named for the Toronto Community Housing buildings at 400 McCowan Rd.

In addition, police arrested others belonging to an "overarching criminal enterprise that supplies weapons and drugs to the street gangs." Blair said that group does not have a name but "they have been extremely well organized and sophisticated in their operation."

Police did not release any names of the people arrested yesterday.

One of the sharpest criticisms of previous projects has been that police arrest too many people and lay too many charges, many of them not serious, putting additional strain on an already overburdened court system.

Critics have also condemned such projects for being essentially public relations exercises that generate a lot of media attention because of the sheer numbers of charges laid.

"Usually these types of cases start with the police boasting about countless arrests only to see the numbers scale down drastically in the days and months leading up to trial," defence lawyer Daniel Brown said yesterday.

Yesterday's sweep did not zero in on a particular place or neighbourhood, unlike previous projects such as Kryptic, which was aimed at dismantling the Driftwood Crips in the Jane and Finch community, or Project Flicker, which targeted the Ardwick Bloods in the Islington and Finch area.

Project Fusion dovetailed two separate investigations by Toronto and Durham Region police that had, as a common "focal point," a place called Supreme Auto Group, which was identified as a "significant distribution point for firearms and for controlled substances," said Durham Regional Police Supt. Jim Douglas, who also attended the news conference.

Other police leaders in attendance acknowledged this project will not end the existence of street gangs and the associated violence.

'Unprecedented' raids jolt city

'Unprecedented' raids jolt city
125 Arrested

Melissa Leong, National Post; With files from Shannon Kari, National Post and Global News

Police have arrested 125 people, including the alleged leaders of a "sophisticated" criminal enterprise that supplied drugs and guns to street gangs, after pre-dawn raids throughout the Greater Toronto Area yesterday.

"This is an operation of unprecedented scale," Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair told reporters.

"Nearly 1,000 officers from right across Ontario were involved in the execution of those warrants today."

The suspects and their neighbours were jolted awake yesterday beginning at about 5 a. m. when tactical units busted into homes, allegedly seizing guns and drugs. The investigation, dubbed Project Fusion, was led by the Anti-Guns and Gangs Task Force, which brings together a team of Crown attorneys and police.

Chief Blair said police focused on two street gangs: MNE (named after the Markham Road and Eglinton Avenue East area) and the "400 Crew" (which takes its name from 400 McCowan Rd.) They also arrested individuals involved in an "over-arching criminal enterprise," Chief Blair said.

"[The enterprise] exercised a great deal of influence and control over street gangs and supplied drugs and guns to them," he said. "They don't have a name but they have been extremely well organized and they are sophisticated in their operation."

Officers seized 40 firearms and drugs including 43 pounds of cocaine and more than 30,000 tablets of Ecstasy.

Four of the guns seized were stolen from a legal handgun owner a few months ago, Chief Blair said. Most of the firearms had been smuggled from U. S. states including Georgia, Michigan and Texas.

The investigation began last year. In May, Durham Regional Police were probing a shooting near Brock Road and Bayly Street in Ajax. Officers say that they were drawn to activities at the Supreme Auto Group shop at that corner and discovered that Toronto's Guns and Gangs Task Force was also investigating the premises.

It was identified as a "significant distribution point for firearms and controlled substances," Chief Blair said.

Project Fusion is the latest in a series of major police operations targeting alleged gang activity in the city. Defence lawyer Daniel Brown suggested that police often arrest more people than necessary during these types of operations.

"They cast this huge net on the entire community. Slowly but surely they cut [certain people] loose but not before they have been tarnished with a reputation that they are a gang member," said Mr. Brown, who has represented several individuals arrested during high-profile raids.

"The reality is this overwhelms an already overwhelmed system. It creates a huge amount of delay in the Toronto courts."

Chief Blair told a press conference yesterday: "We're not trying to clog up the courts. We're not trying to clog up the detention facilities. What we are trying to do is hold people accountable for their conduct ... but also to protect our communities."

He acknowledged that those charged yesterday with lesser offences would soon be released on bail. "It is our intention to seek only the detention of persons who we believe represent a significant threat to the security of our communities or a flight risk."

Toronto defence lawyer John Struthers has also represented defendants in the street gang probes in Toronto and is skeptical that they successfully result in the prosecution of high-level criminals.

"There will be young people standing in line to replace those arrested today. Kicking in 100 doors isn't going to mean more people will come forward on the next homicide," he said.

Yesterday, individuals were cleaning up the aftermath of the raids. One woman who did not want to be named led reporters around her sixth floor apartment unit at 3171 Eglinton Ave. E., where clothing was strewn everywhere.

"Look at this," she lamented. "This is how they treat the poor people."

Tina Jaunvin said a loud bang woke her husband just before 5 a. m. "That turned out to be the battering ram on the house next door," she said.

The family watched as many as 10 armed officers search the neighbour's bungalow for hours. They removed bags and boxes and arrested a teenaged resident.

"It was scary but it [felt] safe because you know there's a lot of police around," said Mrs. Jaunvin who has lived on Sedgemount Road, in the Markham Road and Lawrence Avenue area, for 22 years.

"This is a quiet neighbourhood. I've never had any bad experiences with [the people] next door."



125 people arrested

100 homes raided

61 vehicles searched

1,000 officers involved

38 police tactical units involved

34 handguns seized

2 loaded AK-47s seized

1 MAC-11 machine pistol seized

1 sawed-off shotgun seized

2 rifles seized

43 pounds of cocaine seized

65 pounds of pot seized

30,000 tablets of Ecstasy seized

$431,000 in criminal proceeds seized

12 motor vehicles seized

Monday, March 2, 2009

Fail to Appear for Court

This article is a brief and general overview reviewing legal information about failure to appear charges in Toronto, Ontario (aka. What happens when I miss my court date?). Those looking for advice on this or any criminal charge should consult a criminal lawyer.

Generally, it is a criminal offence to fail to appear in court as directed by a judge or to fail to appear for fingerprints and photographs as directed by a police officer pursuant to a valid court order.

What if I forgot my court date? Am I still guilty of failing to appear?

No. The act of failing to appear for court or at the police station for prints and photographs must be intentional. Therefore the crown must prove that you KNEW you had to attend and you chose not to. Forgetting your court date (even if you were negligent by not writing the date down etc.) will not meet the standard necessary for a conviction.

What If I intended to miss my court date but I had a really good reason for doing so?
In some circumstances, the court will accept a lawful (read: very good) excuse from an accused person as to why they missed their court date. Attending a job interview or being “hung over” are not likely considered lawful excuses. A lawful excuse usually requires that it would have been impossible for the accused person to attend the appearance. An example of a lawful excuse might be that the accused person was in the hospital with a significant medical condition that prevented them from being able to attend the court appearance. Another example of a lawful excuse may be that the accused person was in jail on another charge and couldn’t physically attend the appearance as required.

What happens if I just realized that I missed my court date? What do I do now?

What usually occurs when a person misses court is that the judge issues a warrant for their arrest. In the circumstance when the person misses their appearance for photographs and fingerprints, the police will issue the warrant.

Is it possible to have the warrant for my arrest for failing to appear cancelled?

It is possible (depending on when the warrant was issued) to have the warrant cancelled. Usually after two or three days, it will no longer be possible to have the warrant cancelled by the judge. In this instance, the defence lawyer will make arrangements to have the accused person surrender themselves to police to have the warrant processed.

If I surrender myself, will I still be charged with failing to appear in court?
Not necessarily- in some instances, a defence lawyer may be able to convince the police officer that the accused person simply forgot the date of their appearance and that the charge of failing to appear in court should not be laid.

What will happen to me after I surrender myself to the police for failing to appear?
In almost every instance, a person charged with failing to appear will be required to attend the police station for processing and will then be brought to the courthouse for a bail hearing. If a charge of fail to appear has not been added by the police officer, the accused person will likely be released back on the terms of their previous release associated to their underlying offence (for which they failed to appear). In other cases an accused person may have to go through the process of obtaining bail on the new charge and also risk the possibility of losing their bail on the underlying charge for which they failed to appear.

What are the penalties for failing to appear in court?

In some cases, it is possible to be found guilty of failing to appear and not receive a criminal conviction. However, many judges will impose jail sentences up to a maximum of six months for the offence. Regardless of what the penalty is, a finding of guilt for failing to appear in court will be a significant factor at any future bail hearing when deciding whether or not the accused person should be released on bail.

If you or someone you know has been charged with failing to appear for court, you should immediately contact a criminal lawyer to determine your best defence to this type of criminal charge. I can be reached for a free consultation at 416.297.7200.

Fail to Comply with Bail

Generally, it is a criminal offence to violate any valid condition on a recognizance of bail, undertaking to a police officer, probation order, or peace bond.

What does the crown need to prove in order to establish the offence of failing to comply?
To establish guilt, the crown must prove that the accused was bound by the order setting out the condition (meaning that the court order hadn’t yet expired), the accused breached the condition set out in the order, and that the accused person intended to violate the condition in the order. Therefore, if the accused accidentally violated a condition of his bail he would not be guilty of the offence.

For example, if the accused was required to remain 500 metres from a specific address and was found 480 metres from the address, it may be open to him to argue that he wasn’t aware he had breached the distance condition of his bail. If believed, the accused would be found not guilty of the offence.

What if I had a good reason for violating my bail condition?
In some circumstances, it may be impossible for an accused person to comply with a condition of his/her bail. For example what if the accused was not permitted to leave their residence after 11:00pm and at 12:00am, the accused got very ill and had to go to the hospital? In this instance, the court may accept that notwithstanding the fact that the accused was in violation of their bail condition to remain inside, they had a reasonable excuse for leaving and would therefore be found not guilty. In such circumstances, it is for the accused to convince the judge on a balance of probabilities of the validity of the excuse in order to be found not guilty.

What if I was violating my bail condition and I don’t have a good reason for doing so? Should I just plead guilty?
Quite often, the Crown Attorney is unable to prove that an accused person was actually violating their bail condition as alleged by the police. Sometimes the Crown is missing the proper witnesses to prove the case while there are other times where the Crown does not have the required documents necessary to establish that the accused person was on a bail in the first place. Pleading guilty to this type of offence can not only lead to a jail sentence (even for a first time offender) but it can also be a significant factor in denying bail for a future offence (since it will be proven that on a prior occasion, the accused person did not comply with a condition of their bail and are therefore likely to disregard future court orders in the same manner). A decision to plead guilty should not be made until the accused person has reviewed all of the evidence in the case with his defence lawyer to determine what, if any defences to the charge, are available to him.

What if my constitutional rights were violated? Will I still be found guilty of the offence?
In some circumstances, the fact that the accused person was illegally stopped and searched by police which lead to the discovery of the bail violation may in fact be a possible defence to the charge. I have represented a number of accused persons who have been found not guilty of violating their bail conditions, notwithstanding the fact that technically they were doing something their bail prohibited them from doing. Ultimately, if the police had no legal basis for detaining and questioning the accused, the Court will generally rule that the evidence derived from the illegal encounter should not be used as evidence in the trial. Quite often, without this evidence, the Crown Attorney is unable to prove the case.

If you or someone you know has been charged with failing to comply with bail or other court order, you should immediately contact a criminal lawyer to determine your best defence to this type of criminal charge. I can be reached for a free consultation at 416.297.7200.

Possession of a Weapon for a Dangerous Purpose

It is an offence in Canada to possess a weapon for a purpose dangerous to the public’s peace or for the purpose of committing a criminal offence.

What is a weapon?
There are some items such as “firearms” and a list of other illegal objects including brass knuckles or cross bows that will always meet the definition of a weapon in law. Other items, such as a pocket knife or hunting knife require that the item be, “used, designed to be used or intended for use in causing death or injury to any person or for the purpose of threatening or intimidating any person” to meet the definition of a weapon. The Crown Attorney must prove that the item meets this definition or fall within a list of prohibited weapons in order to establish that the item is a weapon.

What is considered a purpose dangerous to the public’s peace?
A purpose dangerous to the public’s peace includes a disruption of the “normal state of society” and a disturbance of “the general peace and order of the realm as provided for by law”. It is an, "unquiet and harmful behaviour towards the Queen and her people" according to various legal definitions.

What if I am not found with the weapon in a public place?
The possession by the accused of weapons in their own home or a private place does not preclude a finding of a purpose dangerous to the public peace. This is so even if there is a use of the weapon giving rise to the charge, which use takes place entirely in private.

What if I was extremely intoxicated at the time I possessed the weapon? Is intoxication a defence to this offence?
The Crown must show that the accused person not only possessed the weapon, but also possessed it with the added purpose of disturbing the peace or committing a crime. If the accused was too intoxicated to form the specific intent required to commit the full offence, he will be found not guilty.

What if I originally possessed the weapon for a lawful purpose but later used it as a weapon? Will I be found guilty of the offence?
A person who uses an item they otherwise lawfully possessed as a weapon may not be found guilty of possession for a dangerous purpose (however they may be found guilty of another offence such as assault with a weapon). Unpremeditated use of a weapon otherwise possessed for a lawful purpose does not necessarily reflect possession for a purpose dangerous to the public peace.

Is it okay for me to possess a weapon for self-defence?
There is no clear answer to this question. Some courts have held that the possession of a weapon solely for self-defence reasons does not trigger the offence of possession for a purpose dangerous to the public. However, this view is not unanimous and many trial judges have come to the exact opposite conclusion. Ultimately, this becomes a very fact specific analysis.

Can I argue that I was illegally searched by the police?
Many cases of possession of weapons are won on the basis that the evidence obtained by the police are excluded from evidence at trial as a result of an illegal search, stop or interrogation by police officers which lead to the discovery of the weapon. I have won a number of cases for clients using this type of argument. 

What are the types of punishments I can face for this type of offence?
The sentences for possession of a weapon dangerous to the public can range to a maximum 10 years in prison if the Crown proceeds by indictment or a maximum six months in jail if the crown proceeds by summary conviction. Notwithstanding these penalties, the reality is that a first time offender or someone with a minor record may be able to avoid jail or a criminal record altogether with the right representation.

If you or someone you know is charged with possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, you should immediately contact a criminal lawyer to determine your best defence for this type of criminal charge. I can be reached for a free consultation at 416.297.7200.

Communicating For the Purpose of Prostitution

Is it a crime in Canada to engage in prostitution or to obtain the sexual services of a prostitute?

Yes. Either stopping or attempting to stop a person in order to communicate for the purpose of prostitution or alternatively, communicating or attempting to communicate for the purpose of prostitution will be sufficient to ground a conviction for the offence. This means that both the prostitute and the person seeking the prostitute’s services can be found guilty of this offence.

What if I wasn’t successful in my attempt to obtain a prostitute’s services?
It is not necessary to be successful in one’s attempt to communicate for the purpose of prostitution. Merely attempting to communicate with a prostitute is sufficient to be convicted of the offence.

What if I was asking the prostitute how much s/he charged out of curiosity and NOT with the intention to solicit their services as a prostitute?
The Crown must prove as a fact that it was the intention of the accused person to solicit services for the purpose of prostitution. The accused must be “serious”. S/he must mean what s/he says and be willing and ready to carry out the transaction. Simply being curious or joking is permitted under the legislation and is not evidence of the required intention to communicate for the purpose of prostitution.

Can I be found guilty if I tried soliciting an undercover officer who wasn’t actually a prostitute?
The act of solicitation does not only apply to prostitutes, but to all people. Therefore, one can be found guilty of the offence of prostitution even if the person they were attempting to solicit to have sexual activity was an undercover officer.

Must there be a monetary transaction for the offence of communicating for the purpose of prostitution to be completed?
No. Money does not have to be tendered for the offence of communicating for the purpose of prostitution to be complete. All that is required is an intention to engage in the sexual act. Discussion of money and the ability to pay are only some of the factors the court will consider when determining whether a person actually had the intention to communicate for the purpose of prostitution.

What will happen to me at court if I am charged with this offence?
In some cases, a first time offender may be eligible to participate in a counseling program, which, if successfully completed will result in a withdrawal of the charge by the Crown attorney. These types of programs are often referred to as “diversion” programs as they are created to divert accused persons out of the justice system without criminal records.

What type of program must I attend (assuming I am eligible) and how is eligibility for the diversion program determined?
The diversion program an accused person is required to attend before their charge of communication for the purpose of prostitution is withdrawn is usually a one-day session, which discusses the risks associated with this type of criminal behavior. The program itself costs several hundred dollars (approximately $500 depending on the courthouse). Typically, those who do not have prior criminal records or related arrests will be eligible for this diversion program. Eligibility is determined by the Crown Attorney’s office- usually with the assistance of a criminal defence lawyer acting on the accused person’s behalf.

If I am eligible for and complete the diversion program, will I have a criminal record?
No. This type of counseling program was created to ensure that if an accused person successfully completes the program they would not have a criminal record of any kind.

What if I am not eligible for the diversion program?

At this stage, an accused person will have to decide based on the evidence whether or not they wish to take the case to trial or plead guilty.

What are the possible penalties for communicating for the purpose of prostitution?
An accused person may be given a range of sentence starting with a discharge (not considered a criminal record) all the way up to six months in jail depending on the seriousness of the offence, the criminal record of the accused person and a number of different factors the judge will consider at the time of sentencing.

If you or someone you know is charged with communication for the purpose of prostitution, you should immediately contact a criminal lawyer to determine your best defence to this type of criminal charge. I can be reached for a free consultation at 416.297.7200.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mother cleared in gang probe

Crown withdraws more accusations against those arrested in raid on alleged MS-13 members

Jan 27, 2009 04:30 AM

The Crown has withdrawn more than 30 drug-related charges against a young mother arrested as part of last year's high-profile takedown of suspected MS-13 gang members.

Rosa Martinez-Cabrera, 24, spent more than five months in pre-trial custody, leaving her baby in the care of her in-laws, before she was released last fall.

Yesterday, the woman shook her head and declined to comment as she pushed a baby stroller outside the Old City Hall courtroom.

"I should sue," she said to her lawyer, Daniel Brown.

Brown said the circumstances are unfortunate, since Martinez-Cabrera spent "close to six months in pre-trial custody, a young child was taken out of her arms, and they fought her at all stages for her release."

Then, in the end, the Crown "realized they didn't have a case."

Her boyfriend, Douglas Moreira, 28, yesterday pleaded guilty to one count of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.

Judge Robert Bigelow sentenced Moreira to 24 months in prison, but gave him two-for-one credit for the eight months he had spent in custody, so Moreira must serve an additional eight months.

Both Martinez-Cabrera and Moreira forfeited claim to $30,000 seized during the raids; Brown told court there is no admission the money belonged to either of them.

Federal prosecutor Antoinette Issa also withdrew charges against another co-accused yesterday.

Now only one accused remains in what defence lawyers say is the embarrassing collapse of the case that made headlines in 2008, when Toronto police said they had taken steps to dismantle a local faction of the MS-13, one of the world's most vicious gangs.

"Gang investigators have stamped out the first wisps of smoke signalling the arrival of a notoriously violent street gang with U.S. and Central American roots," said a Toronto police news release.

"It was a lot more talk than actual show on the part of the police," said Brown.

"Where is it? Where is the gang they brought down? ... This was police officers rushing an investigation here, far below the standards that could possibly meet a conviction for participating in a criminal organization."

In a series of pre-dawn raids last June, Toronto police arrested 17 people they suspected of belonging to the Central American criminal organization.

Five were charged with plotting to kill a jail guard at Toronto West Detention Centre, but last fall the Crown stayed the murder conspiracy charges against four of the accused.

The Crown has also stayed the charges against the four of uttering death threats and belonging to a criminal organization.

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