Amherstburg woman sentenced in dumpster baby case

An Amherstburg woman who plead guilty to concealing the body of a child has been given a suspended sentence and two years of probation.

Samantha Richards, 24, was sentenced in a London court on Wednesday.

Richards pleaded guilty on May 18 to concealing the body of a child after an infant was found in a shopping bag in a dumpster in downtown London.

A charge of neglect to obtain assistance during child birth was withdrawn last December.

Her lawyer Patricia Brown said Richards feels shame, guilt and self-hatred and has kept to herself at home since being charged on June 21, 2016.

London police said a newborn was discovered behind 675 Richmond St. in London on June 16, 2016.

Offenders with mental illness pose ‘unique challenges’ to justice system

In a scene that could have been pulled from The Silence of the Lambs, seven police officers usher a handcuffed man into a Windsor courtroom.

The man has been made to wear a mesh hood with clear plastic over his face. He has mental health issues and spits when agitated, Ontario court Justice Micheline Rawlins explains to the courtroom in the moments before the man enters. He also smears his feces on the walls when he’s in jail, she adds.

“This is the reality we deal with every day,” said Patricia Brown, a defence lawyer with a mental health practice.

For some people with mental illness, getting arrested is a godsend, Brown says. Now, there will be a psychological assessment and probation officers arranging for counselling and treatment. “Coming before the courts is the first time they’ve been able to access those resources,” Brown said. “That’s where I find joy — being able to connect someone to the supports, the medication they need.”

Ontario court has special sessions called 672 Court where accused people with mental illness have their cases heard while Canadian Mental Health Association workers and other support people are readily available. The name, 672, refers to the section of the Criminal Code that deals with offenders with mental disorders. Mental health court is held every other Friday, but those cases can come up on any day in any courtroom.

Brown said Windsor has made great strides in bringing together police officers, correctional officers, lawyers and judges with health professionals to find ways to best handle offenders with mental illness.

But people who are resistant to treatment will find themselves back before the courts again and again.

“We should not be warehousing people who suffer from mental issues in jail,” Brown said. “We need to put treatment before punishment, but what do you do when someone doesn’t want help?”

The 45-year-old man in the spit mask is a case in point. Lawyers and judges know him well. Against the man’s wishes, the judge on a prior court appearance ordered a psychiatric assessment. The doctor’s report says the man, despite suffering from anti-social personality disorder, is fit to stand trial.

The latest instance that brings the man to court happened two months ago. He went berserk at a Tim Hortons, hurling rocks at cars in the parking lot and drive-thru lane. The hapless victims — a young boy in a car with his uncle and a Tims worker who had just gotten into her car after her shift — were traumatized.

Today, the man pleads guilty and gets released from the courthouse with time served. The police officers remove the mask and the handcuffs. Outside the courtroom, they follow at a distance as the man makes his way downstairs to sign his probation order.

Defence lawyer Dan Topp knows the man well. He has represented him in court when the man has been willing to accept the help.

Topp is often appointed by the court to help in cases involving mentally ill people. He used to do it for free before the province started a formal program to pay for lawyers known as amicus curiae.

“I did it because people need the help. It’s heartwrenching.”

Topp speaks of the revolving door of justice for mentally ill people who commit crimes.

“They fall through the cracks. They get arrested, they get released and they get arrested again. It’s a problem with the criminal justice system. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just the way it is.”

Ontario court Justice Lloyd Dean is one of the three local judges who rotate through the mental health court. Even when that court is not in session, lawyers with mentally ill clients will stickhandle the cases into the courtroom where Dean is presiding.

“I try to fit them in,” Dean says.

Dean says he tries to build rapport with mentally ill offenders, making small talk before dealing with the case. “Sometimes, it’s a matter of talking to them softy and calmly. … Like any human being, they want to know you care about them and you are listening to them.”

Dean says the law requires him, in sentencing, to consider the special circumstances of the offender at the time of the offence.

“Each offender is unique,” Dean says. “Believe me, I am on the lookout for truly evil people, that person I need to separate from society. Thankfully, we don’t have many truly evil people. Most people who come before me are people with some good qualities overtaken by circumstances in their life, circumstances like mental illness.”

Dean has seen offenders brought before him in spit masks, in shackles, surrounded by specially trained tactical officers. There are two who regularly appear in Windsor. Statistics are hard to come by, but Dean estimates that of the 1,500 to 2,000 cases he hears each year, only a handful involve aggressive offenders with mental illness.

When they come to court, they are often on their best behaviour. “They know they have to co-operate with the judge, so a lot of the time they aren’t as challenging for us as they are for authorities who have to bring them to court.”

Mentally ill inmates present “unique challenges” for jails, says Randy Simpraga, president of OPSEU Local 135, representing correctional officers at the South West Detention Centre in Windsor.

Mentally ill offenders often unintentionally provoke other inmates and become victims of assaults. The South West Detention Centre has a mental health unit, but many jails do not, Simpraga said.

“It’s easy for the mentally ill in jails to be forgotten. … We care about these people, we absolutely do, but there’s only so much we can do.”

Simpraga thinks back to Jonathan Algudady, a teenager with a compulsive eating disorder who was jailed for 26 days in 2003 for shoplifting food. “I remember Jonathan’s big brown eyes and thinking he shouldn’t be here. It broke my heart.”

Even today, there are inmates Simpraga knows would not be in jail were it not for their mental illness. He worries about their safety when they are behind bars and community safety when they’re not.

“If you’re sick, you shouldn’t be in jail. You should be getting help.”

Dad who beat child with electrical cord avoids jail sentence

A man who beat his six-year-old son with an electrical cord because he wasn’t eating his toast fast enough avoided a jail sentence Wednesday when a Windsor judge said the father was a changed man, loved by his wife and children.

“This is one of those rarest and exceptional cases,” Ontario court Justice Sharman Bondy said in a lengthy written ruling. A pre-sentence report, she said, was “positive, encouraging, might I say — exemplary” in describing the father of four young children.

Standing in the courtroom in a black suit, the 27-year-old father, who cannot be named under a publication ban issued by the court to protect the identity of his children, was handed a conditional discharge and placed on 36 months probation. He was ordered to continue with the anger management, parenting and other counselling he has been receiving. “Access to his children is still restricted,” said defence lawyer Patricia Brown.

Having escaped a criminal conviction, the man, a foreign national who came to Canada from Jamaica as an infant, improves his chances of not being kicked out of the country.

“He was facing a removal order. Had he been convicted, he would have been detained today for removal,” Brown told reporters after the ruling.

A teacher noticed a horseshoe-shaped welt on the son’s arm in late 2015, and after the Children’s Aid Society was brought in, the boy spoke of other beatings, and another brother, two years older, said the father also beat him. Investigators discovered that a USB charger cord had been used to physically discipline the child, who displayed welts on his chest, back and arms.

As part of a deal with the prosecution that saw the father plead guilty last July to a single count of assault with a weapon, two other charges were withdrawn. The Crown had been seeking a 30-day jail term followed by 24 months probation.

The judge made reference to the “serious consequences if convicted” of a crime, but she said the threat of the man’s removal from Canada wasn’t a consideration in her sentencing. Listing the anger management, parenting and other counselling and treatment the man has been receiving from the Children’s Aid Society, Canadian Mental Health Association and Hiatus House, Bondy said his post-offence rehabilitation efforts were “nothing short of remarkable and commendable.” She cited a court document describing him as “a good and loving father” with a wife who described their relationship as “healthy and mutually supportive.”

Bondy said a conditional discharge was in the best interests of the offender — who expressed remorse for assaulting the child — as well as, “more importantly, the public.” The judge said her sentence still provided the public with the message that corporal punishment is no alternative to “loving parenting.” She said the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the physical disciplining of children is acceptable “in very exceptional circumstances … but never with the use of objects.”

The man had spent five days in pre-sentence custody, but that was related to his immigration issues. The court heard that it wasn’t until after he turned 18 that the man discovered he did not have Canadian citizenship and that he is now seeking to remain in Canada on compassionate grounds. His wife, a Canadian citizen who accompanied the offender to the sentencing, told the court she and her children would be “devastated” if left on their own.

The father has moved on from supervised access to his children to monitored visits. One of his probation conditions is to not associate with the children unless permitted by the Children’s Aid Society or as directed by a court or child protection order. A lawyer appointed to serve in the children’s interests is “supportive” of such interaction, the court heard.

A report on the offender, portions of which were read out by the judge, described the man as having a limited educational and work history and having suffered a “traumatic” childhood with an abusive stepfather. Suffering from depression and anxiety, he is receiving medical treatment and benefitting, according to Bondy, from a “positive support system.”

The offender was ordered to submit a blood sample for a police DNA databank. During his three-year probation, he’s to abstain from drugs and alcohol and is prohibited from possessing weapons. “That can include a USB power cord used for punishment,” said Bondy.

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Chatham man admits to threatening to blow up Parliament

A Chatham man has been sentenced to 180 days in jail after admitting to a threat to blow up Canada’s parliament buildings.

But David Osterbrook, 51, will spend only 20 more days behind bars as he was credited for time served.

Osterbrook pleaded guilty Monday to one count of uttering a threat to burn, destroy or damage real or personal property.

The charge stems from an investigation involving Chatham-Kent police and the RCMP.

Court heard an RCMP corporal received a telephone call on April 10, 2015 from a man threatening to destroy property of Parliament.

The information was relayed to Chatham-Kent police who arrested the accused the same day.

Another charge of making a hoax regarding a terrorist activity was withdrawn.

Osterbrook was sentenced Monday to 180 days in jail. But he was credited with 10 days of pre-sentence custody and five months on bail conditions. Therefore, Osterbrook will spend the next 20 days in jail.

As part of his sentence, Osterbrook will be on probation for two years, he is prohibited from owning a firearm for five years and must pay a $200 fine.

Men charged in Boom Boom Room shooting found not guilty

The two men charged in the shooting of a bouncer at a downtown Windsor bar three years ago have been found not guilty.

Kevin Nyadu was charged with attempted murder the night Devonte Pierce was shot in the back at the Boom Boom Room nightclub. Shadrack Amankwa was charged with accessory to attempted murder.

Windsor bouncer shot at Boom Boom Room ‘happy to be alive’
In his decision, Justice Paul Howard outlined the lack of evidence in the trial, specifically saying there was no eyewitness to the shooting and no direct evidence Nyadu ever had the gun.

Evidence in the trial showed a DNA sample from the gun did not match either of the two men charged, explained Nyadu’s lawyer Patricia Brown. She also questioned the reliability of testimonies from people who were at the club that night.

“This case was extremely circumstantial,” Brown said. “None of the witnesses saw the shooting happen — that’s key.”

Devonte Pierce said he was lucky to be alive after nightclub shooting in 2014. (Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC)

Earlier in the year, Brown had convinced the judge to exclude evidence of gun residue found on Nyadu’s hands. She filed a Charter of Rights application that said police violated her client’s rights by taking the residue evidence before he could speak to a lawyer.

Experts testified that gunshot residue alone is not something that can prove guilt because it is something that could be transferred from one person to another.

In his decision, Howard said he would still have found the two men not guilty, even if he had included the gunshot residue evidence.

“I’m pleased with the result, I’m glad this was the outcome for my client. But you must understand, for almost three years these charges were hanging over my client’s head.”

Nyadu was denied bail and spent 11 months in jail until Brown was finally able to have him released after three appeals of the original decision. After released, he was under strict house arrest and wasn’t able to go to school or work.

“This has been a long and arduous journey,” she said. “The importance of the presumption of innocence is something we have to hold at the forefront.”

ACCUSED MEN IN BOOM BOOM ROOM SHOOTING FOUND NOT GUILTY

Two Brampton men charged in a downtown Windsor shooting have been found not guilty.

Kevin Nyadu, 22, was acquitted on the charge of attempted murder and Shadrack Amankwa, 26, was acquitted on a charge of accessory to commit attempted murder.

In October 2014, Devonte Pierce, a bouncer at the Boom Boom Room in Windsor, was shot in the back, but survived.

In handing down his ruling, Justice JP Howard found it was physically impossible for Nyadu to be the shooter and there was no evidence that Amankwa was even in the nightclub at the time of the shooting.

“Who shot Devonte Pierce?” asked Justice Howard. “I can’t answer that with the evidence presented at trial.”

Outside Superior Court, Nyadu’s lawyer Patricia Brown says it was the right ruling.

“Our clients were innocent and maintained their innocence at the outset of these proceedings,” says Brown. “I think what is so important to take away from these proceeding is the presumption of innocence that Justice Howard spoke about.”

Brown says someone else fired the gun.

“The gun had someone else’s DNA on it. The DNA profile was something that was a huge opening, there is another person’s DNA on the gun,” says Brown.

Shadrack Amankwa walks out of court after being found not guilty of accessory to commit attempted murder. August 24, 2017 (Photo by AM800’s Teresinha Medeiros)

During the trial, court heard there weren’t any fingerprints found on the gun which was found in a bush and no one actually witnessed the shooting.

Both men were also found not guilty on several weapons-related charges.

The Crown submitted the two men were seen running from the scene of the shooting and a witness inside the club described a man dressed in red with a gun inside the club which matched what Nyadu was wearing.

Parliament Threat Case Pushed

A resolution to the case of the 50-year-old Chatham man charged for allegedly threatening to blow up Canada’s parliament buildings could be reached next month.

David Osterbrook’s case has been adjourned to June 15.

He’s charged with making a hoax related to a terrorist activity and uttering a threat to destroy personal property.

Osterbrook appeared in a Chatham courtroom on Wednesday where his lawyer asked for the case to be pushed on account of new information needing to be discussed. The Crown agreed.

Osterbrook is free from police custody after being arrested in April of last year.

Police allege Osterbrook called the Library of Parliament on April 10, 2015 threatening a “revolution” and was “ready for police to come.” He was arrested by Chatham-Kent police that day.

After being released on bail, Osterbrook was taken to Brentwood Recovery Home in Windsor.

End trial now, say defence lawyers in Boom Boom Room shooting case

Defence lawyers representing two Brampton men charged with the 2014 shooting of a bouncer at a downtown Windsor nightclub argued Wednesday there is not enough evidence for the trial to proceed.

The judge in the case has already thrown out evidence of a trace amount of gunshot residue detected on one of the men’s hands, ruling police violated his right to call a lawyer. Police recovered a 9mm handgun, but the male DNA on it did not match either man. The bouncer testified earlier in the trial he has no idea who shot him.

Kevin Mantley Nyadu, 22, is charged with attempted murder and five firearm offences in Pierce’s shooting at the Boom Boom Room on Oct. 5, 2014. Shadrack Kwame Amankwa, 26, is charged with being an accessory to attempted murder, as well as five firearm offences.

At the time of the incident, Amankwa was bound by a court order prohibiting him from possessing any firearm or ammunition. He is additionally charged with two breaches of a court order.

Defence lawyers Patricia Brown and Julie Santarossa argued the Crown has not presented sufficient evidence to convict either man. They made applications to the judge to end the trial without having to call defence evidence.

But assistant Crown attorney Tim Kavanagh argued both men were seen running from the Ouellette Avenue nightclub after shots rang out. They were arrested near the corner of Victoria Avenue and Park Street. In the bushes nearby, police found a 9mm handgun believed to have been used to shoot bouncer Devonte Pierce in the back.

The bullet narrowly missed Pierce’s spine, but damaged a kidney.

Pierce testified he was shot as he was bouncing a group from the bar. He was in the process of pushing a man in a red shirt out the door when he was shot.

Another witness said the shooter was wearing a red shirt.

While no one could positively identify Nyadu as the shooter, he was wearing a red shirt when he was arrested minutes after the shooting.

Kavanagh called that evidence “compelling.”

Superior Court Justice J. Paul Howard said, between being sent out of town to hear other cases, and the complexity of the arguments before him, he will need time to write a ruling on the defence application.

The case will return to court late next month.

Lenience sought for gun-toting man unconstitutionally stopped by Windsor police

The lawyer for a man who was found to be carrying a handgun and drugs in Windsor says his sentence should be mitigated because his Charter rights were violated.

Omar Muhammad Omar, 22, is facing potentially five years in prison on the offences of carrying a concealed weapon, possession of a firearm while prohibited (two counts), careless storage of a firearm, and possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.

During the early morning hours of Nov. 19, 2015, Omar and another man were stopped by Windsor police near Richmond Street and Walker Road.

A search of Omar uncovered a loaded antique-style .32-calibre revolver, extra ammunition, and eight grams of cocaine.

Shortly after the arrest, Windsor police held it up as an example of why they disagreed with Ontario’s prohibition on street checks, arguing that the arrest couldn’t have happened under the new regulations for police-public interactions.

At the Superior Court of Justice on Friday, Omar’s lawyer Patricia Brown pointed out that one of the arresting officers admitted in open court he had no reason for stopping Omar.

As well, Justice Pamela Hebner determined that Omar’s rights were breached under the sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms concerning freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and right to legal counsel.

However, Hebner ruled that the guns, ammunition, and drugs found on Omar should still be entered into evidence.

Omar admitted on the stand that he was a cocaine user, and he came to Windsor via train while armed with the gun.

But Omar said he only obtained the weapon because he was the victim of a stabbing earlier that year and he felt “afraid for my life.”

Omar has remained in custody since his arrest. The court heard that during his time at the South West Detention Centre, he was segregated for misconduct that included having contraband, refusing to return to his cell, and trying to start a fight between two other inmates.

The court also heard that Omar has corresponded with inmates who have known gang affiliations.

But Brown argued that the Charter breaches should be a factor in Omar’s sentencing. She is requesting a jail term of two years less a day.

According to the Crown, Omar has already spent 525 days in custody. With two-for-one credit for time served, that means Omar would be free under Brown’s sentencing recommendation.

Brown said her client plans on living with his mother in Mississauga, where he will enrol at Sheridan College and seek counselling.

“He needs help,” Brown told the court. “He’s ready to move forward to a new life.”

Brown also asked for an extension of the time allowance for Omar to pay the mandatory victim fine surcharge — a total of $1,000 — due to Omar being on social assistance and having “very limited means.”

Hebner is expected to sentence Omar at a future court date.