Category:gun violence

Manitoba woman in hiding feels ‘betrayed’ by plea bargain for gun-stashing ex

Assault charge stayed to secure weapons charges against Trevor Zayac

By Holly Moore, CBC News, January 21, 2015

A Manitoba woman living in witness protection says she feels betrayed by Crown prosecutors after a charge for what she calls a vicious assault by her ex-boyfriend was stayed.

The move came as a result of a plea bargain that she didn’t know about until the day of the man’s  sentencing hearing, when Crown counsel phoned her.

“If the assault wasn’t brought in, they would have nothing,” she said. “I have to build my life from scratch, take therapy, have nightmares.

“Someone was able to plea bargain my assault off the table,” she said. “Isn’t there a moral and ethical line there?”

The woman said she was assaulted after the couple had an argument during a family party in Beausejour, Man.

Zayac punched her, kicked her and knocked her out with a vodka bottle in a trailer they had brought to sleep in, according to court documents.

That charge was stayed by the Crown.

“I thought I was going to die. I really did,” she said. “I thought he was going to kill me.”

The woman, whose identity and location CBC News is protecting, said she helped convict her ex-boyfriend, Trevor Zayac, on weapons charges after telling officers investigating her assault complaint about a large cache of guns he kept in his home in Winnipeg. (CBC)

“Nobody came to help me,” she added.

She went to a neighbour’s house and that man called Beausejour RCMP. An officer took her to hospital where she stayed for six hours.

She told police about the weapons Zayac had stashed because she wanted them to “be prepared.”

“I didn’t want anyone to get hurt,” she said, adding that she told police Zayac had fantasized about a shootout with authorities.

Zayac is being sentenced on Thursday after he pleaded guilty to unsafe storage, possession of a prohibited weapon and failing to report a lost or stolen firearm. He originally faced more than 30 charges in connection with a massive collection of weapons stashed in his home, including semi-automatics, rifles and body armour.

He legally owned all but one of the guns, but many were improperly stored, with one fully-loaded pistol kept under his kitchen sink. He built many contraptions in hollowed-out furniture and collapsible picture frames that kept the weapons hidden.

He was previously convicted in 1998 for possessing a small collection of weapons, including pipe bombs. He was given probation for those charges.

Feels ‘revictimized’ by plea deal

The woman says she feels “revictimized” by the plea deal and can’t understand how serious charges can be wiped away.

“That’s the frustration that victims really feel in this country,” said Heidi Illingworth, executive director of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime.

“In this case, you’re speaking about the woman who was assaulted, someone has uttered threats against her,” she said. “So to have the system add another injury upon her can almost be worse than the first injury that she suffered.”

Illingworth’s group wants to see more Crown prosecutors be required to explain their decision-making processes to victims, especially when it comes to plea bargaining.

“Many have been seriously harmed and traumatized by the actions of another person, and they need to understand why the Crown has made a decision that they have,” she said.

Michael Desautels, the prosecutor in the case, sent the woman a letter on Jan. 7, following the initial phone call.

“The standard for prosecuting any accused is whether or not there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction,” he wrote.

He also wrote, “We take responsibility for the lack of timeliness of our communication of the actual disposition to you,” adding that he decided to tell her in the new year.

In his letter, Desautels said the assault and uttering threats charges “were not strong” and the strongest case was the weapons-related case.

“We’re not going to get into an exhaustive listing of the reasons for the plea bargain beyond what we’ve set out to you in our phone call and our previous letter,” he stated in a follow-up email he sent the woman a few days later.

The Crown is seeking 2½ years for Zayac while defence attorney Martin Glazer has requested time served and a conditional sentence in the community.

The woman, who is now in hiding, says the justice system failed her and she fears that Zayac may hurt her when he gets out.

“It’s like I was used as a pawn,” she said. “I think he is definitely going to be seeking revenge.”

Bourque gets life without parole for 75 years for murder of three Mounties

Justin Bourque has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for 75 years for killing three RCMP officers and wounding two others, a New Brunswick judge has ruled. Bourque, 24, plead guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder of RCMP officers.

Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice David Smith handed down Bourque’s sentence in what he called a “difficult case.”  He said it was, “One of the most horrific crimes in the history of Canada.”

When Smith delivered his sentence, Bourque stood to listen and didn’t react when the decision was handed down. Smith said no sentence could fix the despair that Bourque caused by his shooting spree.  The judge said the five life sentences are mandatory, and the only question was the length of the sentence before he is eligible for parole.

This sentence means that Bourque will not be eligible for parole until he is 99 years old. Smith said Bourque’s decision to plead guilty is to his credit, but given the evidence was so overwhelming in the case, it doesn’t count for a lot.

The judge said Bourque showed little remorse for the crimes until the end of the sentencing hearing when he addressed the families. Smith spent the first part of his decision going over Bourque’s past. He described Bourque as being obsessed with guns, video games, heavy metal music and dependent on marijuana. He said Bourque felt oppressed by the police even though he had no criminal record.

Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc was present for the sentencing. Outside the Moncton courtroom, Roger Brown, the RCMP’s commanding officer in New Brunswick, said he was relieved with the sentence. “Am I happy with the verdict? I am,” Brown told reporters.

He said he was also happy with the quick manner of the sentencing process. Brown said it has been a difficult time for the families of the slain and wounded officers, the RCMP and people in Moncton. “The healing must now start,” Brown said.

The CRCVC offers our deepest condolences to the families of Doug, Fabrice and Dave. Six young children lost their fathers in a horrific act of violence and the road ahead will not be easy for them. We hope that the families will find some comfort in knowing that the sentence sets a precedent in Canada and that the public will be protected from the shooter.

The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime offers support, research and education to survivors and stakeholders.

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