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In the courts: A year of delays as pandemic slows court proceedings

Justice was still served; it’s just taking a lot longer
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Renee Sweeney murder, renee sweeney murder suspect, Robert Steven Wright, Robert Wright, Steven Wright

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the court system is not operating as usual, creating an “unprecedented backlog” of criminal cases, said the Ministry of the Attorney General.

Most court proceedings are happening virtually through the use of various online conferencing programs like Zoom.

It essentially means court proceedings are moving much slower right now than they would have prior to the pandemic. Virtual court proceedings come with their own set of problems, as often, there are issues with audio, or even people online speaking over what is being said in court because someone forgot to mute their microphone.

However, a number of more high-profile court matters came to a conclusion in 2021, while progress was made in others.

In no particular order, here is how some of those cases turned out:

 

No trial yet for Robert Steven Wright despite schedule trial dates

This past year, several trial dates in the second-degree murder case against Robert Steven Wright have come and gone.

Wright is currently waiting to hear if he will be granted bail. It’s his third attempt at bail, and he will find out Jan. 17 if he is successful.

Wright was arrested in December 2019 for the 1998 murder of Renée Sweeney at a video store.

Wright was scheduled to start his second-degree murder trial in May this year, but was delayed due to concerns about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was then scheduled to start in October, but it was postponed when Wright hired a new lawyer, Michael Lacy, who needed time to catch up on the case.

Wright then contracted COVID-19 during the outbreak at Sudbury Jail. He was hospitalized as a result.

A new tentative trial date has been scheduled for September 2022. Pretrial dates have also been set for the week of March 21 and April 25.

 

Alexander Stavropoulos gets life sentences, no parole for 10 years in violent 2019 attack

A Sudbury man who tried to kill a baby girl and her mother in a parking lot on June 3, 2019, received two concurrent life sentences this month.with no chance of parole for 10 years.

Alexander Stavropoulos, 28, pleaded guilty on in January to two counts of attempted murder and breach of probation. 

On June 3, 2019, Stavropoulos attacked a Sudbury woman who was out shopping with her two young children. His goal that day was to kill a little white girl. He told the court he attacked the mother first, to get her out of the way so he could stab and kill her baby daughter.

He viciously attacked the woman with a utility knife he purchased that morning. She suffered serious injuries, with one stab cutting a vertebral vein on the woman’s neck, resulting in massive blood loss. It was the quick actions of others that saved her life that day, the court heard. Her baby daughter received minor injuries, despite Stavropoulos’ attempt to stab the child.

The Crown’s office was unsuccessful in its attempt to have Stavropoulos sentenced as a dangerous offender. The Crown wanted to pursue a dangerous offender application for Stavropoulos, but the provincial Ministry of the Attorney General rejected the bid.

Stavropoulos will receive a pre-trial custody credit of 1.5-1. Since he has been in custody since June 2019, he will be credited with almost four years of jail time.

In addition to the concurrent life sentences, Stavropoulos was also sentenced for four years for breach of probation on a previous charge. 

 

Former Sudbury reporter gets suspended sentence for child pornography charges

Callam Senyk-O’Flanagan (also known as Callam Rodya) was handed a nine-month conditional sentence after he pleaded guilty to one count of committing an indecent act by making child abuse material available to the public.

That conditional sentence will see Senyk-O’Flanagan serve 4.5 months under house arrest, followed by a strict curfew for the remainder of the conditional sentence, then one year of probation.

When Senyk-O’Flnagan was arrested in February 2019, he was charged with two counts of accessing, five counts of possession and three counts of making available child pornography. Police found 464 images and videos of child sexual abuse on his computer.

However, many of those charged were dropped after it was learned Greater Sudbury Police Service erred in its investigation, using what Senyk-O’Flanagan’s counsel called “troubling police conduct” and engaged in “questionable and unconstitutional conduct.”

 

Tyler Sels convicted of second-degree murder in stabbing death of Charles St. Jean

A Superior court jury found Tyler Sels guilty of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Charles St. Jean in 2018.

Sels, 24, was also found guilty of aggravated assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon. He had pleaded not guilty to all three counts, saying instead he was acting in self-defence that night, and that he used a knife to fend off an angry group that was attacking him.

Sels will be serving a life sentence as a result of the conviction. The matter was scheduled to return in December to discuss parole eligibility, however, the matter has been postponed.

St. Jean was stabbed to death in September 2018 while attending a celebration of life gathering. The court heard 

 

Steffin Rees sentenced to 15 years for killing Preston Pellerin

The man who stabbed and killed Preston Pellerin in downtown Sudbury in 2019 was handed a 15-year sentence with no chance of parole for 7.5 years.

The sentence was negotiated between the defence, Crown and Pellerin’s family, to the point Superior Court Justice Dan Cornell said the victim’s family showed “significant” mercy in allowing Rees to plead guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter instead of the murder charge he originally faced.

Rees had been in custody since he was arrested, and was given pre-custody credit of 1.5 days for every day he had been in jail. That means he will only serve 12.25 years in jail and is eligible for parole in 4.75 years.

In addressing Rees after handing down the sentence, Cornell told him he’s hopeful that, when he is released, he won’t make the same mistakes.

“I wish you the best as you go forward and that you never forget what has transpired here today,” said Cornell.

Rees told the court he apologizes and takes full responsibility for his actions, and that he will take all counselling available to him.

“I will prove I can be a functional member of society,” Rees said.

 

Karen Cady sentenced for fraud worth more than $1M

Karen Cady, a 48-year-old Sudbury woman, was sentenced to four years in a penitentiary for stealing more than $1 million from a local business.

Cady pleaded guilty in April to two offences relating to her employment at Henninger's Diesel Limited, an engine manufacturing and service business in Sudbury. It was her third conviction for committing fraudulent activity.

Court was told that Cady was hired at Henninger's in 2014 and because of her skillset, was transferred to the payroll office. By mid-2015, she had become the company's sole bookkeeper. 

In sentencing Cady, Ontario Court of Justice Michael Carnegie said he was taking into account the serious damage that was done to Henninger\s Diesel. Employee bonuses were cancelled. Wages were frozen. Employee work hours were cut. The business lost many clients, the judge said.

“The duration of this conduct, the relative sophistication of the scheme, the repetition of its mechanism, and the ill-gotten profits it yielded and were represented to family as earned bonuses, all speak to an individual in control and motivated by greed,” said Carnegie.

Cady's husband, Michael, has also been charged in relation to the scheme. Instead of pleading guilty, though, he's fighting the charges against him. His case is set to begin in mid-2022.

 

Mother of three children killed in New Year’s Day triple-fatal crash given suspended sentence

A mother whose three children died in a New Year’s Day car crash in 2020 received a suspended sentence on Aug. 12 after she pleaded guilty in Provincial Offences Court to careless driving causing bodily harm.

Uche Osagie was driving a car on Highway 17 early on New Year’s day , when the vehicle left the roadway. 

Her three children, Britney Osagie, six, and brothers Flourish, 10, and Destiny, 11, students at Chelmsford Public School, were killed in the single-vehicle crash near the Highway 144 interchange.

The children were laid to rest on Jan. 18, 2020 with hundreds of community members in attendance. 

There was an outpouring from the Greater Sudbury community after the tragic crash, including a candlelight vigil and online fundraiser.

Osagie was charged in April 2020 with careless driving causing death and careless driving causing bodily harm. The three counts of careless driving causing death were withdrawn by the Crown. After serving her suspended sentence, Osagie will be on probation for 12 months.

 

Life sentence for man who shot and killed Michael Young in fit of jealousy

The man who shot and killed Michael Young on July 12, 2020 in a fit of jealous rage has been sentenced to life in prison at a federal penitentiary with no chance of parole for 15 years. 

Michael Marois, 51, was sentenced on May 25 by Superior Court Justice Alex Kurke after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in March.

Marois had been charged with first-degree murder, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree with the Crown’s consent.

In addition to his prison sentence, Marois was handed a lifetime weapons ban, he must submit a sample of his DNA, and his is to have no contact with a list of 19 people and their immediate family.

Superior Court Justice Alex Kurke told the court most of us, in our lives, will know the sorrow of rejection. It is a common part of the human experience that everyone has to learn to deal with, to get past, to grow from, he said. 

“This court must send out the message that we all have the right to be free from other people and free to choose our own path,” said Kurke. “This is a tragic and unnecessary killing, and we should have long moved past the days when a man can treat a woman like his property and feel justified in vindicating his property rights over her through violence and slaughter.”

Kurke called Marois’ actions cowardice, and a sure effort to exercise, artificially, authority and control over what he was unable to influence by force of his character.

 

David Popescu found guilty again for wilfully spreading hatred towards LGBTQ+ community

Perennial fringe candidate David Popescu was sentenced to serve 30 days in jail for spreading “messages of shock and horror” after being convicted in September 2020 of wilfully promoting hatred towards an identifiable group, namely members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Ontario Court Justice Heather Ann Mendes handed down the sentence in April this year. In addition to jail time, Popescu, 73, will be on probation for two years. As part of the probation conditions, Popescu is not to distribute or publish any literature or materials that makes reference to Kathleen Wynne, the 2SLGBTQIA+ community or sexual orientation in any way.

However, in his own evidence, Popescu confirmed he will reoffend, as he is entitled to his view and to spread the word of God through his hateful and violent messages, said Mendes.

“His actions are clearly motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression,” she said. “The 2SLGBTQIA+ community is a vulnerable group and has historically been repressed, which is why they are an identified, protected group, and this group is entitled to respect and human dignity.

“The fact Mr. Popescu lacks any remorse or insight into the seriousness of his crime, and he confirms that he intends to reoffend, disentitles him to any leniency that otherwise might be appropriate.”

 

David Case, Celine Loyer sentenced to jail for their roles in 2011 sexual assault

Both David Case and Celine Loyer are on bail after they were convicted for their roles on sexually assault another woman in 2011.

Loyer, a former student athlete who was being coached by Case, was convicted of sexual assault, while Case was convicted of sexual assault by aiding and abetting.

They were sentenced to 16 months in prison and two years probation.

The victim told the court aid she was sexually assaulted by the pair at Case’s home after she became unconscious when she went there to have dinner and some drinks.

The trial took place in January 2020.

Although they have been sentenced to jail, both Case and Loyer are appealing. And although they have been directed to surrender themselves to police by Tuesday at 3 p.m., they won’t spend any time in jail pending the outcome of their appeals. 

Case is also in the process of appealing the conviction and sentencing for the second sexual assault of which he was found guilty.