Thursday, May 27, 2010
Family fight quickly ended man's freedom from prison
Devon Ducharme spent more than six years waiting to get out of prison -- then took just a few hours to throw his freedom away.
Ducharme, 25, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a vicious October 2009 attack on his aunt that included burning her eyelid with a cigarette and punching out one of her teeth. The incident happened on the same day Ducharme was paroled from Stony Mountain penitentiary after being locked up since July 2003 for crimes including robbery and aggravated assault.
Defence lawyer Saheel Zaman said his client clearly didn't handle his release well. Ducharme arrived home to find his mother, father and aunt partying and drinking and quickly joined in the festivities, despite being ordered by the parole board to abstain from alcohol.
"It's not a good situation. You're cooped up in Stony Mountain, you get released... and come home to find everyone celebrating," Zaman said.
The friendly atmosphere quickly turned sour when Ducharme's aunt began making sexual advances to his father in front of his mother. Ducharme, who had consumed up to 10 beers, began yelling at his aunt for disrespecting her own sister and then hit her. He butted out his cigarette on her eye, then struck her in the face.
"He feels horrible about doing what he did to his aunt," Zaman said Wednesday in court.
He said the victim and Ducharme's mother haven't spoken since that night, creating a rift within the family.
The victim submitted an impact statement to the court in which she spoke of ongoing physical and psychological suffering.
Ducharme is a longtime member of the Indian Posse street gang and has a lengthy criminal record, the judge was told. Ducharme was arrested in July 2003 after a violent armed robbery in which an employee at a North End grocery store was wounded by a shotgun blast.
While those charges were pending, Ducharme and nine fellow gang members brutally attacked their former leader inside the downtown Remand Centre.
Ducharme pleaded guilty to both sets of charges in 2005. He was given a total of six years, less time already spent in custody, for the robbery, and 18 months for the jail assault.
His parole was revoked after his most recent arrest, but his full sentence expired last November.
He has now spent the past seven months in custody without bail and has been held in segregation, prompting Queen's Bench Justice Rick Saull to give him double-time credit of 14 months.
Saull then sentenced Ducharme to another six months in jail. Ducharme had asked to be released immediately.
Saull cited Ducharme's high risk to reoffend and extensive criminal background, which includes "a truckload of breaches."
"He's a seasoned criminal. You're still only 25, so I'm not giving up on you, although I suspect you may have already given up on yourself," Saull said.
Zaman said his client has left the gang life behind and is anxious for yet another opportunity for a fresh start.
I disagree with more prison for this man. He expresses remorse for what happened and has left the gang life. Gangs and drugs and pro criminal attitudes and behaviours are abundant in prisons and he will likely only become more involved in that criminal lifestyle while in prison. It is a negative environment with negative influences which does not encourage or facilitate rehabilitation or reform. Even though this man has an extensive record, I believe he should have been sentenced to a 1 year conditional sentence with substance abuse programming, employment assistance or education, and violence prevention programming. He needs to learn to identify risk factors which lead to violence and then manage them effectively.