Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Teen sentenced for killing cab driver in crash

WINNIPEG - A high-risk car thief who was just 14 years old when he killed a Winnipeg cab driver with a speeding, stolen SUV will not be given an adult sentence.
Queen’s Bench Justice Lea Duval ruled late Friday morning the boy, who is now 16, will remain under the authority of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. She gave him the maximum sentence of two years closed custody, followed by one year of community supervision. Duval also exercised her discretion under the YCJA and gave the teen no credit for more than two years of time already served.
He was also given a 10-year driving prohibition. The youth pleaded guilty earlier this year to criminal negligence causing death and bodily harm for his role in the March 2008 crash that killed Antonio Lanzellotti.
The Crown was seeking an adult sentence against the teen, who comes from a prominent family of criminals with strong ties to the Mad Cowz street gangs. Several of those members were in court Friday morning.
Prosecutor Brent Davidson had requested another 23 months of jail, in addition to just over two years of time already spent in custody they concede should be given double-time credit. On paper, it would be noted as a six-year sentence.
Duval essentially imposed the exact sentence the Crown was seeking, but just under the guise of a youth disposition.
The teen – who could have been named if an adult sentence was imposed — was seeking just eight more months behind bars.
At his sentencing hearing earlier this spring, probation officials revealed how the teen breached an existing probation order 24 times in the weeks preceding the deadly crash. However, they used their own discretion and decided not to report any of the breaches to police.
Cheryl Dyck, who served as the boy’s probation officer, told court how the teen was originally sentenced on Feb. 8, 2008 on charges including car theft, drug offences and numerous breaches of court orders. The boy was given probation and placed on the most stringent youth criminal supervision program in Manitoba. His conditions included abstaining from alcohol and a nightly 10 p.m. curfew.
Dyck admits her department caught the teen violating his curfew on several occasions but never reported the incidents to police, who could have arrested him and detained him in custody on new charges. Instead, they upgraded his status to "high-risk" but allowed him to remain free in the community. Dyck said it’s not uncommon to ignore initial violations of young offenders.
"Once a pattern of non-compliance is established then we breach the client," she testified. The revelation prompted an outcry in the provincial legislature and a review of current policies and procedures.
On the night of March 29, 2008, the boy had been drinking and consuming drugs with a large group of youths loitering around a downtown apartment building armed with two stolen vehicles. The group scattered when they saw police headed their way. The boy was driving a Chevy Avalanche containing six other young offenders. He began racing a stolen Silverado that had the other seven youths, court was told. The boy reached speeds of 139 km/h — the legal limit is 60 km/h — and blew through two red lights on Portage Avenue before slamming into the taxi being driven by Lanzellotti at the corner of Portage and Maryland Street.
Lanzellotti, 55, died instantly. He suffered a massive skull fracture, broken ribs and legs and trauma to his brain and chest. A passenger in the cab was seriously injured.
The boy was ejected from the SUV and seriously injured. He initially denied any responsibility, telling police he was innocently walking down the street when he was struck by flying debris. He later admitted to being in the car but claimed another youth was driving. Police got him to admit the truth when DNA off the driver’s side airbag was a perfect match to him. The Crown agreed to drop a manslaughter charge in exchange for his guilty plea.
Dyck told court the boy has made great progress during his two years in youth custody but remains a medium risk to reoffend. She said his biggest obstacle is his own criminally entrenched family, although several relatives have since been deported to Africa.
"He has the ability, we believe, to learn from what happened and benefit from what we’re teaching him," said Dyck. "I think he’s way better equipped now to deal with the issue he’s going to face when he gets out."
The Crown supported having the boy serve the rest of an adult sentence in a youth facility because of the various treatment and programming options available to him. But Davidson said the limits of a youth sentence don’t express strong enough condemnation for the crime he committed.
City police Det.-Sgt. Kevin Kavitch also testified at the hearing about the high rate of car theft in Winnipeg at the time of Lanzellotti’s death. He provided statistics showing the vast majority of offenders are youths who deliberately try to engage police in high-speed chase, putting all on the road in danger. Kavitch said between Jan. 1, 2006 and the day Lanzellotti died, police in the stolen auto unit arrested 519 people, of whom 417 were young offenders.
Several other family members were in court Friday, including an older half brother who made gang signs and shouted obscenities upon leaving court.

Cabbie`s killer to ber jailed two more years

This headline is inflammatory and biased. It is just asking for a public outrage because the teen did not receive an adult sentence. It also implies the author`s opinion that this teen should have received an adult sentence.  It is also biased by not elaborating on the nature of the breaches this boy had while on probation. To my knowledge, they were relatively minor, and he should not have been charged for them. They definitely did not include him committing any new crimes. It should have been mandatory for him to participate in substance abuse treatment as opposed to simply ordering him to abstain from alcohol.

I completely agree with the Judge imposing a youth sentence. Youths should always be subject to the YCJA and should always be sentenced as youths. Rehabilitation and reintegration are the most important goals of youth sentences and it must remain that way. I disagree though, with the length of the sentence. This teen has already spent 2 years in custody and should have been given only 8 more months, as his lawyer suggested. The longer he spends in jail, the more likely he will become a more hardened criminal, and more involved in the criminal lifestyle. Longer sentences increase recidivism and decrease the likelihood of successful reintegration. I completely understand why this teen has been involved in crime. He comes from a family of prominent criminals. Those are not exactly positive role models who are going to teach this teen morals and values. The fact that he has gang ties, shows that he is either lacking attention or interaction from family members or is neglected or abused and therefore, feels a need for belonging and a sense of family, which he found in the gang. If you are surrounded by family members involved in crime, gangs, impoverished neighbourhoods filled with crime and negative influences and little opportunities, it makes complete sense that this teen became involved in crime. He was set up to fail.

This teen should have received 8 months custody and 2 years probation. He should have been required to take life skills programming, participate in a youth mentorship program, gang desistance, communication skills, problem solving skills, counseling and family counseling.     

A 17-year-old boy will spend the next two years behind bars and third one under house arrest after being convicted Friday in connection with the death of Winnipeg taxicab driver Antonio Lanzellotti.
The youth, now 17, was 14 when he was behind the wheel of a stolen Chevy Avalanche SUV that raced through a red light at Portage Avenue and Maryland Street and slammed into Lanzellotti's taxi on March 29, 2008.
Lanzellotti, 55, died instantly.
The teen, who can't be named under provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was initially charged with manslaughter.
He pleaded guilty in December 2009 to a lesser charge of criminal negligence causing death and bodily harm.
In return, the Crown stayed charges of manslaughter and possession of property obtained by crime.

Crown sought adult sentence

Crown prosecutor Brent Davidson lost his bid to seek an adult sentence for the teen, which would have meant a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Queen's Bench Justice Lea Duvall ordered the sentence to be closed custody, meaning the teen must serve the entire two years locked up.
'I'm sorry for, like, what happened. I wasn't thinking back then - wasn't thinking of my future.'—Teen sentenced in connection with taxi driver death
The teen, whose brother is a high-ranking member of the violent Mad Cowz street gang, was also not given any credit for the two years he has already served behind bars.
He has been in custody since he was arrested days after the deadly crash.
Given the opportunity to speak prior to the sentence being handed down, the teen told court, "I'm sorry for, like, what happened. I wasn't thinking back then — wasn't thinking of my future.
"I just hope the best for what happens today and move on from there."
The teen's father also spoke, apologizing to the court and Lanzelotti's family.
"I just want to say sorry to the other family for causing pain to them. I'm praying every day for them," he said.
Some people in court supporting the teen left the courthouse flashing gang signs as they walked away.
"I think he got a good deal," one of the teen's supporters said.
The teen's lawyer, Evan Roitenberg, told reporters he is satisfied with the result.
"I'm happy that [Duvall] came to the conclusion that a youth sentence was warranted," he said.

Two years custody for fatal cab crash
A 16-year-old boy behind the wheel of a stolen sport utility vehicle that killed city cab driver Antonio Lanzellotti has been sentenced to two years custody and one year community supervision.
The boy previously pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death. The sentence is the maximum allowed under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Justice Lea Duval rejected a Crown application for the youth be sentenced as an adult.
An adult sentence could have meant the youth would spend six years in prison.
The boy was 14 at the time of the March 2008 crash.
The sentence is in addition to the two years the youth has already spent in custody.
The boy and six other youths were in a stolen Chevrolet Avalanche, racing a stolen Chevrolet Silverado pickup when the Avalanche blew through two red lights and hit Lanzellotti's cab.
The boy was one of 13 youths and one adult arrested in connection with the March 2008 crash.
According to an agreed statement of facts, the Avalanche was travelling 139 kilometres per hour at the time of impact.

Adult sentence denied
A teenage boy behind the wheel of a stolen sport utility vehicle that killed city cab driver Antonio Lanzellotti has been sentenced to two years custody and one year community supervision.
The boy, who was 14 at the time of the crash, previously pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm. His sentence is the maximum allowed under the Youth Criminal Justice Act and is on top of two years he has already spent in custody.
Justice Lea Duval rejected a Crown request the youth be sentenced as an adult.
The boy was one of 13 youths and one adult arrested in connection with the March 2008 crash. The boy and six other youths were in a stolen Chevrolet Avalanche, racing a stolen Chevrolet Silverado pickup, when the SUV blew through two red lights and hit Lanzellotti’s cab at the intersection of Maryland Street and Portage Avenue. Lanzellotti died instantly.
The youth suffered a dislocated hip in the crash. When police found him walking down Portage Avenue he claimed he had been injured by flying debris from the crash. Later, while in custody, he admitted being a passenger in the Avalanche and identified a different suspect as the driver.
DNA evidence
The youth didn’t admit he was the driver until police confronted him with evidence his DNA was found on the steering wheel airbag.
The youth offered a short apology in court.
“I wasn’t thinking back then,” he said. “I was young, I was still 14 years old.”
Several of the youth’s family members were present in court for sentencing, including known gang members. Outside court one of the gang members said: “Four years, not a bad deal for a life.”
A sentencing hearing in April generated a firestorm of controversy after the youth’s probation officer testified he repeatedly violated a court-ordered curfew and skipped school before the fatal crash. The breaches were never reported to police.
“If he simply would have been able to comply with his probation order he would not have been involved in this incident ... (and) Antonio Lanzellotti would still be alive,” Crown attorney Brent Davidson told court.
The youth is the last of the 14 accused to be sentenced in the crash.

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