Day: June 1, 2019

Christian Sarile Sentenced For Sex Crimes Against Children

CALGARY — A former Calgary teacher who pleaded guilty to 17 counts of sex crimes against children has been sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Christian Sarile, who is 29, was originally charged with 49 offences including sexual assault, sexual interference, accessing child pornography, distributing child pornography, luring and extortion.

He showed no emotion as the judge read his decision to a full courtroom.

Justice Earl Wilson described Sarile as evil, manipulative, and a danger to children and the community.

Court heard that Sarile used fake names to pose as a high school student and make contact with girls between the ages of 12 and 16 online.

He then convinced them to perform sexual acts in exchange for money, gifts and alcohol.

In total, 26 victims came forward who all claimed to have had contact with Sarile.

Court also heard that he used nude photos and videos of his victims as leverage to coerce them into more illegal activity.

Two of the victims spoke in court last month about their inability to be happy about anything and how the loss of trust in their teacher affected their ability to get help.

Concerned family contacted police

Police were first notified about Sarile when the family of a 14-year-old girl contacted police in December 2016, concerned about their daughter meeting a man in his 20s.

“This was a concerned grandfather who called in some suspicious activity with his granddaughter, which started this whole investigation,” Sgt. Mark Weir said outside court Friday.

“Thankfully he made that phone call that got this all started or we may not even be here right now.”

The Crown had sought 18 years in jail for Sarile. During a previous sentencing hearing, Sarile’s lawyer asked the judge to consider his guilty plea and his financial hardships.

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‘Cruel’ Legal Aid Cuts Will Further Erode Ontario’s Criminal Justice System

This is the first story in UNAIDED, a HuffPost Canada series that examines the effects of recent funding cuts to Ontario’s legal aid system and the impacts on the vulnerable people who rely on it to navigate our complicated justice system.

Mark Johnston doesn’t shy away from talking about what defined the first half of his life — addiction, crime and prison repeated so many times it is hard to keep track.

The 45-year-old also doesn’t hesitate to give credit to the only person who stuck around long enough to help him change — his criminal defence lawyer Jessyca Greenwood.

“She’s the person I’ve known the longest in my life. She’s never given up on me and is the first person who hasn’t,” Johnston told HuffPost Canada. Greenwood began representing him a decade ago, her services paid for by Legal Aid Ontario.

Johnston grew up in group and foster homes in Kitchener, Ont. He said when he was 14 years old, he was arrested for robbing a classmate, and was sent to a juvenile detention centre. He began using crack cocaine when he was 16 years old, and when he wasn’t on the streets, jail was his home. “It’s where you’d go in the winter to stay warm,” he said.

For the next two decades, Johnston was in and out of prison for break-ins and stealing to fuel his drug addiction. He relied on legal aid, a provincially-funded, independent organization that pays lawyers to represent people with little to no income.

Criminal defence lawyer Jessyca Greenwood has represented Mark Johnston for a decade through legal aid.

Other lawyers had taken on his case before, but Greenwood proved to be different, Johnston said. She was an advocate, dependable and passionate about helping him. For the first time in his life, he felt like someone cared about his future.

“Mark hasn’t had many people stick with him,” Greenwood said. About 60 per cent of her clients rely on legal aid, and Johnston’s story of foster care, homelessness, trauma, and addiction is common. “I’ve found it has been very important for my clients to know that they have a person in their corner who helps them with disputes and stressful situations beyond just their criminal matter.”

In 2011 at a Toronto courthouse, Johnston stood in the prisoner’s box after being charged with robbery. He pleaded guilty to possessing a stolen vehicle, and Greenwood successfully negotiated with the Crown attorney to withdraw a number of serious charges. He was freed from the handcuffs, and allowed to leave, time served.

“That was the turning point of my life,” Johnston said. “I cried, but I was really happy and I hugged her. I listened to the things she told me to do — to try a different path, and put the pipe down and things got better.”

Mark Johnston did not want his photo published, but was proud of this mug he painted for Jessyca Greenwood as a way to thank you. She keeps it in her office.

Today, Johnston sticks to medical marijuana and stays out of jail.

“Without legal aid there would be no Jessyca, the only one who believed in me, who gave a shit about me, who made me see the only person who’s going to (save me) is me,” he said. Of the province’s recently announced cuts to the publicly-funded service, he said, “The people who are helpless, it will kick them down some more.”


Legal Aid Ontario is both a lifeline for the province’s most vulnerable and marginalized people, and an overburdened, under-resourced system that can’t keep up with “extraordinary” demand, said Dana Fisher speaking on behalf of the Society of United Professionals, the union representing legal aid lawyers. She’s also a legal aid duty counsellor, who helps people navigate court systems. These people often turn to legal aid as a “last hope.”

Legal aid compensates private criminal lawyers to represent more than 56,000 low-income clients at each stage of criminal court — at bail hearings, preliminary hearings, jury trials and sentencing, for example. It funds lawyers to assist refugees fleeing war and persecution to claim asylum. It runs community clinics that serve Indigenous people, and helps those with chronic, life-altering disabilities get social assistance. Last year, legal aid issued 102,873 certificates for people to receive representation.

A person with no dependents is eligible for legal aid if they earn no more than $17,731 a year (a six per cent increase from last year), according to the organization.

Dana Fisher, a legal aid union representative, outside of the Ministry of Attorney General's office in May protesting the cuts to legal aid. She was joined by other Society of United Professionals members, including President Scott Travers (right).

This spring, all of legal aid services were put at risk when the province suddenly slashed its budget by 30 per cent — a cut that Fisher described as “cruel.” Undoubtedly, it will be more difficult for lawyers to help people like Johnston, and the thousands of others navigating complicated criminal, immigration and civil law and appeal systems, she said.

“These catastrophic cuts will make access to justice far worse and impossible for many,” said Fisher.

The Ministry of the Attorney General said it’s not just about saving money, but also about getting the most value for the money it does spend.

“The prior government spent more and more money on legal aid without achieving the results that legal aid’s clients and taxpayers expect,” said press secretary Alexandra Adamo on behalf of Attorney General Caroline Mulroney.  

“While some lawyers may not welcome renewed accountability at legal aid, every dollar saved is a dollar we can invest in the services that matter most to people, such as public health care and education.” 

Attorney General Caroline Mulroney at Queen's Park in Toronto Oct. 30, 2019. She's overseen the cut of Legal Aid Ontario's budget by 30 per cent.

 The province axed legal aid’s annual budget from $456 million to $323 million despite a 2017 senate committee report concluding “insufficient” pre-existing funding contributed to people accused of crimes not having proper legal representation and delays in the criminal justice system. The province plans to reduce annual funding by another $31 million by 2021-2022.

Legal Aid Ontario said this year it will cut $38 million from the $251 million it allocates to compensating private lawyers, including those practicing criminal and immigration law, and is considering reducing what it calls “discretionary payments.”  

The organization caps the number of hours lawyers can bill. For example, lawyers are paid a maxiumum of 15 hours to prepare for and represent a client charged with a serious crime like sexual assault, according to Legal Aid Ontario. In that timeframe, they are expected to go to multiple court dates, prepare to cross-examine witnesses, and review hundreds of pages of documents, including evidence.

You’re protecting the rights of everybody.Alison Craig, lawyer

If lawyers go over the time cap, which they often do, they can apply to Legal Aid Ontario for discretionary payment, but they already almost never get paid fully for representing legal aid clients, four criminal defence lawyers told HuffPost Canada.

They also get paid an hourly rate that’s a third of what they could charge privately, $110 to $136 versus upwards of $300, said criminal defence lawyer Alison Craig, who’s represented legal aid clients almost exclusively for more than a decade. She said experienced lawyers will likely turn away legal aid clients because “it’s simply not economically viable.”

Lawyer Jeff Hershberg, who has 14 years of experience, said he’s considering dropping his legal aid caseload to 10 per cent, down from 75 per cent a couple years ago.

“I didn’t go into criminal law to get rich, but I also have a family and if I spend all my time on legal aid, it’s more stress than I need in my life,” Hershberg said. “I don’t need to spend hours begging legal aid for money they aren’t going to come through with anyway.”

As more junior lawyers are left to take on complicated cases involving sexual assault or homicide charges, for example, clients will ultimately suffer.

Protesters outside the Ministry of Attorney General's office in Toronto took a stand against the cuts to legal aid, saying they're unjust.

“The quality of counsel and actions of counsel are very important to our criminal justice system, and innocent people can be found guilty when inexperienced lawyers do the case,” said Hershberg. “And I don’t mean just legally innocent, but also morally innocent.”  

Fisher said she is concerned the result will be a two-tiered justice system, where people who can afford to pay for their own lawyer will get superior service compared to those who can’t.


At 9:30 a.m. on a Monday in early May, Craig strode down the vinyl-floored hallway of the Scarborough courthouse, towards a tall, jittery man wearing dark sunglasses and a tan tracksuit. He pulled a crumpled legal aid certificate from his pocket and handed it to her.

“I’ll try to make this all go away. Hang tight, ok?” Craig said. The man nodded, and sat down on one of the hard benches lining the walls. He read from a tattered bible, waiting for his moment in court. HuffPost Canada agreed to protect his identity so as not to jeopardize his chances of rehabilitation, and future employment. 

Criminal defence lawyer Alison Craig stands outside a Toronto courthouse in between cases. She represents almost exclusively legal aid clients.

He’s a “classic vulnerable legal aid client” — Black, male, coping with schizophrenia and homelessness, living out of the back seat of a car, Craig said. “Oftentimes people who find themselves in need of legal aid aren’t bad people. They’ve gotten in trouble with the circumstances of their life and whatever the case may be they deserve help, and a competent defence.”

Her client had no criminal record but was charged with assault for an incident that happened in a Scarborough rooming house a year ago, Craig said. His trial was scheduled to begin, but the complainant never showed up to testify.

Within two hours, Craig reached an agreement with the Crown attorney to instead offer her client a peace bond — if he stays out of trouble for one year, the charges will be dismissed. “Peace, peace, peace all the way,” he told the judge in agreement, before leaving the courtroom.

As she prepared to head back to the office, Craig heaved her oversized purse onto her shoulder, equipped with a dozen felt-tipped pens in colours ranging from yellow to magenta. “My work is already so dark. I have to keep it interesting somehow,” she said.

Later, Craig calculated that of the 17 hours she worked on his case, she will get paid for half. She’ll keep doing the work, though, because, she said, everytime she stands in front of the judge and presents her client’s side, she’s not there for just that one person, but for society as a whole.

“You’re protecting the rights of everybody when it comes to upholding the laws,” said Craig.

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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

12 people killed in Virginia Beach shooting; suspect dead

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — A longtime city employee opened fire in a municipal building in Virginia Beach on Friday, killing 12 people on three floors and sending terrified co-workers scrambling for cover before police shot and killed him following a “long gun-battle,” authorities said.

Four other people were wounded in the shooting, including a police officer whose bulletproof vest saved his life, said Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera. The city’s visibly shaken mayor, Bobby Dyer, called it “the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach.”

The shooting happened shortly after 4 p.m. when the veteran employee of the Public Utilities Department entered a building in the city’s Municipal Center, and “immediately began to indiscriminately fire upon all of the victims,” Cervera said. Authorities did not release the suspect’s name, instead choosing to focus on the victims during a news conference.

Police entered the building and got out as many employees as they could, then exchanged fire with the suspect, who was armed with a .45 calibre handgun, the chief said.

Police initially said the gunman shot and killed 11 people, including one who was found inside a vehicle outside the municipal building. Cervera later said one more died on the way to the hospital.


Trump tariff threats alarm Mexico growers, economists

CULIACAN, Mexico (AP) — Tomato exporter Sergio Esquer Peiro spent much of Friday in hastily called meetings with other stunned growers, trying to evaluate the potential fallout of U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to slap coercive tariffs on all imports from Mexico.

The sudden announcement caught observers on both sides of the border by surprise and prompted President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to dispatch his top diplomat to Washington for talks seeking to head off the proposed tariffs.

Obrador said Mexico won’t panic over the threatened hike, but economists and those whose livelihoods depend on the trade relationship worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year worry that stiff duties could have dramatic, negative consequences and potentially spark a trade war between the neighbouring countries.

Already, Esquer and other exporters were having to contend with a 17.56% tariff on tomatoes imposed after Washington announced in March it was ending a longstanding agreement over alleged Mexican dumping of the fruit. If the new duties do take effect, Esquer is looking at another 5% being slapped on his products — potentially increasing to 25% in subsequent months — unless Mexico does more to stop illegal migration through its territory by a June 10 deadline per Trump’s demand.

“Right now more than anything there is a reaction of disbelief with everything that is going on,” Esquer, who’s been sending tomatoes and other crops to the United States for 60 years, told The Associated Press by phone during a break in the meetings.


Trump’s tariff plan shows the risks he’s willing to take

WASHINGTON (AP) — Exasperated by reports of a flood of illegal border crossings, President Donald Trump summoned his top immigration advisers to demand action. Responding to his mounting concern, including his extreme threats to entirely close the U.S.-Mexico border, they prepared an alternative but still-inflammatory plan to levy escalating tariffs on all Mexican imports to the United States.

Thursday night’s surprise announcement of the plan by Trump, threatening to upend ratification chances for his own revised North American free trade pact, demonstrated the lengths to which the risk-taking president is willing to go to crack down on illegal immigration, even in the face of bipartisan criticism, legal challenges and polarized public feelings.

He’s setting the tricky politics of immigration and trade — the two issues that defined his candidacy and bedevil his presidency — on a collision course and injecting new tensions into his relations with political allies as he struggles to show results in his campaign for a second term.

“Mexico has taken advantage of the United States for decades,” Trump declared anew in a tweet on Friday. That was the morning after he announced the 5% tariff would kick in on June 10 — and increase monthly to 25% “until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied.”

“Because of the Dems, our Immigration Laws are BAD. Mexico makes a FORTUNE from the U.S., have for decades, they can easily fix this problem. Time for them to finally do what must be done!” he said.


Judge says Missouri clinic can keep providing abortions

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A judge issued an order Friday to keep Missouri’s only abortion clinic operating over the objections of state health officials, delivering abortion-rights advocates a courtroom victory after a string of setbacks in legislatures around the U.S.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer said Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis clinic can continue providing abortions despite the Missouri health department’s refusal to renew its license over a variety of patient safety concerns. He said the temporary restraining order was necessary to “prevent irreparable injury” to Planned Parenthood.

With the abortion license set to expire at midnight Friday, Planned Parenthood pre-emptively sued this week and argued that the state was “weaponizing” the licensing process. Planned Parenthood said that absent court intervention, Missouri would become the first state without an abortion clinic since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized the procedure nationwide.

The clinic’s license will remain in effect until a ruling is issued on Planned Parenthood’s request for a permanent injunction, Stelzer’s ruling says. A hearing is set for Tuesday morning.

“Today is a victory for women across Missouri, but this fight is far from over,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America CEO Dr. Leana Wen said in a statement. “We have seen just how vulnerable access to abortion care is here — and in the rest of the country.”


Some of the most recent deadly US mass shootings

A longtime city worker opened fire Friday in a building that houses Virginia Beach government offices, killing 12 people and wounding six others.

A list of some of the deadliest mass shootings in the United States in the last two years:

— Feb. 15, 2019: Gary Martin killed five co-workers at a manufacturing plant in Aurora, Illinois, during a disciplinary meeting where he was fired. He wounded one other employee and five of the first police officers to arrive at the suburban Chicago plant before he was killed during a shootout police.

— Nov. 7, 2018: Ian David Long killed 12 people at a country music bar in Thousand Oaks, California, before taking his own life. Long was a Marine combat veteran of the war in Afghanistan.

— Oct. 27, 2018: Robert Bowers is accused of opening fire at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during Shabbat morning services, killing 11 and injuring others. It’s the deadliest attack on Jews in the U.S. in history.


Advocates decry delays in release of migrant kids

MIAMI (AP) — Immigrant advocates say the U.S. government is allowing migrant children at a Florida facility to languish in “prison-like conditions” after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border instead of releasing them promptly to family as required by federal rules.

A court filing Friday revealed conditions inside the Homestead, Florida, facility that has become the nation’s biggest location for detaining immigrant children. A decades-old settlement governing the care of detained immigrant children calls for them to be released to family members, sponsors or other locations within 20 days, but the court filing accuses the government of keeping kids there for months in some cases.

The children detained at the facility said they longed to be released to their parents and other relatives in the United States and were allowed limited phone calls to loved ones. Some were also told to heed strict rules or it could prolong their detention or get them deported.

“At Homestead, children are housed in prison-like conditions and unnecessarily incarcerated for up to several months without being determined to be flight risks or a danger to themselves or others,” said the motion filed by the National Center for Youth Law and other organizations in federal court in Los Angeles.

Dozens of volunteer lawyers, interpreters and other legal workers interviewed more than 70 child migrants at Homestead during several visits over the past year. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services does not allow news media to speak to children at guided tours of the facility.


US companies are in line of fire of tariffs aimed at Mexico

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s surprise threat to impose escalating tariffs on Mexican imports jolted industry leaders throughout the U.S. economy Friday, sparked opposition even from usual Trump allies and set the stage for American consumers to face higher prices.

It also sent stock markets tumbling, with the Dow Jones industrial average closing down roughly 355 points, or 1.4%. Investors poured money instead into the safety of bonds, sending yields lower and signalling that they fear the economy will slow in the coming months.

Trump vowed Thursday to slap a 5% tariff on all Mexican imports on June 10, just over a week away, and raise those tariffs to 25% by October, unless Mexico stops the flow of Central American migrants into the U.S.

If the tariffs were to take effect, they could eventually raise prices for a new Chevrolet Blazer SUV, a burrito at Chipotle, a new shirt or a Corona beer. A 5% duty on the $346.5 billion of goods imported from Mexico translates into $17 billion in tariffs. Some of that higher cost might be paid, at least initially, by U.S. companies. But a significant portion would likely be passed on to U.S. shoppers.

The impact of Trump’s latest tariffs, should they be imposed, will fall first on U.S. companies. Businesses in many industries have set up tightly linked supply chains with Mexico. Billions of dollars of auto parts, for example, are sent back and forth across the U.S.-Mexico border, in some cases several times, as components are added and integrated into finished cars. Similar networks exist in other industries, from clothing to electronics. The import taxes could quickly translate into much higher costs.


Police searching for missing girl say body of child found

HOUSTON (AP) — The remains of a child were found Friday near a freeway in Arkansas where a community activist says a man told him he had dumped the body of a missing 4-year-old Houston girl, police said Friday.

Houston police went to Arkansas on Friday after community activist Quanell X told authorities the man arrested in connection with the disappearance of Maleah Davis confessed he disposed of her body there just before he reported her missing in early May.

Houston Police Commander Michael Skillern, one of the officers who travelled to Arkansas, told reporters that authorities had found a child’s remains in a garbage bag near Interstate 30 close to Hope.

Quanell X said he spoke on Friday in jail with Derion Vence, the ex-fiance of Maleah’s mother, who had claimed Maleah was abducted. Quanell X said that Vence told him he dumped her body in Arkansas.

Sheriff James Singleton in Arkansas’ Hempstead County said workers found the bag, which had a foul odor coming from it, near Hope, about 30 miles (48 kilometres) northeast of the Texas-Arkansas border.


US Catholic Church reports big rise in sex-abuse allegations

NEW YORK (AP) — Quantifying its vast sex-abuse crisis, the U.S. Roman Catholic Church said Friday that allegations of child sex abuse by clerics more than doubled in its latest 12-month reporting period, and that its spending on victim compensation and child protection surged above $300 million.

During the period from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, 1,385 adults came forward with 1,455 allegations of abuse, according to the annual report of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection. That was up from 693 allegations in the previous year. The report attributed much of the increase to a victim compensation program implemented in five dioceses in New York state.

According to the report, Catholic dioceses and religious orders spent $301.6 million during the reporting period on payments to victims, legal fees and child-protection efforts. That was up 14% from the previous year and double the amount spent in the 2014 fiscal year.

The number of allegations is likely to rise further during the current fiscal year, given that Catholic dioceses in New Jersey and Pennsylvania have started large compensation programs in the wake of a scathing Pennsylvania grand jury report released in August. The grand jury identified more than 300 priests in six of the state’s dioceses who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse committed over many decades.

Since then, attorneys general in numerous states have set up abuse hotlines and launched investigations, and a growing number of dioceses and Catholic religious orders have released names of priests accused of abuse.


Huawei retaliation? China draws up list of ‘unreliables’

In an ominous but vague warning, China said Friday that it was drawing up a list of “unreliable” foreign companies, organizations and individuals for targeting in what could signal retaliation for U.S. sanctions on the Chinese tech powerhouse Huawei.

“We think it may be the beginning of Beijing’s attempt to roll out a retaliatory framework,” said Paul Triolo of the global risk assessment firm Eurasia Group. “That could include a number of other elements, such as restrictions on rare earth shipments” — minerals that are crucial in many mobile devices and electric cars made by U.S. companies.

The move follows additional measures this week that deepen the bite of U.S. sanctions imposed on Huawei in mid-May amid an escalating trade war, whose backdrop is the two powers’ struggle for long-term technological and economic dominance.

Several leading U.S.-based global technology standards-setting groups announced restrictions on Huawei’s participation in their activities under the U.S. Commerce Department restrictions, which bar the sale and transfer of U.S. technology to Huawei without government approval.

Such groups are vital battlegrounds for industry players, who use them to try to influence the development of next-generation technologies in their favour. Excluding Huawei would put the company at serious disadvantage against rivals outside China.

The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law June 1, 2019 Off