Justice Richard LeBlanc said he faced a dilemma on sentencing in difficult case
Justice Richard LeBlanc will render his decision on sentencing for Leo Crockwell today at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s.
— Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram
Leo Crockwell was sentenced to four years in prison today for offences related to his December 2010 standoff with the RCMP.
The time Crockwell has already served in custody comes off the sentence to leave 21 months and 25 days left to serve on the sentence.
In more than two decades on the bench, Justice Richard LeBlanc has sentenced many offenders, but none quite like Leo Crockwell.
Today, LeBlanc will decide how much time the 57-year-old Bay Bulls man — who made headlines for his December 2010 standoff with the RCMP — will spend in jail.
The tough part for the judge will be figuring out the appropriate sentence for a man who put many lives at risk by firing a gun, but was reportedly mentally unstable at the time, yet refuses to acknowledge it.
“I’ve been a judge for more than 20 years and I always found sentencing to be ethically challenging,” LeBlanc said Thursday during Crockwell’s sentencing hearing at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s.
“You have to take into consideration public protection and the accused’s rights.
“This presents some interesting and difficult challenges for me — how to deal with someone who clearly has mental issues but an inability to recognize it, and has a lack of remorse, which has to be a concern for the public in the future.”
One thing’s for sure: Crockwell will get at least a four-year prison sentence. That’s the mandatory minimum sentence for one of the charges for which he was found guilty — discharging a firearm in the commission of a crime.
A jury, on June 1, 2012, also found him guilty of assaulting his sister with a weapon (a gun), carelessly using a firearm and mischief by interfering with property, all stemming from the eight-day standoff that began Dec. 4, 2010, at his family’s Bay Bulls home.
Lawyers originally thought Crockwell would get at least a five-year prison sentence, since the careless use of a firearm charge has a mandatory minimum one-year term.
However, LeBlanc said Thursday he could decide to have that time be served during the four-year term, since those charges originated from separate incidents — the more serious one of firing a firearm involved the police, while the careless use of a firearm charge was laid as a result of an incident that happened with his mother and sister prior to the police arriving that day.
Making their arguments
Crown prosecutor Elizabeth Ivany and lawyer Randy Piercey, who is acting as amicus curiae or meditator in the case, both agree the minimum sentence should be imposed.
The issue is how much credit Crockwell should get for the time he’s already spent behind bars.
Ivany said Crockwell should get straight-time credit, since there were no special circumstances to warrant more credit. In fact, she said, Crockwell was responsible for most of the delays in the case — having gone through six lawyers before finally representing himself at the seven-week trial.
“There’s nothing to suggest there should be a higher rate (than one-for-one time),” Ivany said.
She added that offences dealing with firearms pose the ultimate threat of killing someone, and said Crockwell knew the police were outside his house but still put them at risk.
She also pointed to Crockwell’s attitude in his interactions with police.
“No authority was going to deter him, which ultimately placed these officers at risk,” she said.
While there’s always a hope of rehabilitation, she said based on Crockwell’s attitude, it’s not a sure thing.
She said giving Crockwell the minimum sentence with a lengthy period of probation is only setting him up to breach his conditions.
When Crockwell spoke, he took issue with the suggestion he has a mental health issue.
“With stun grenades and gas grenades, I don’t think anyone would be operating 100 per cent (mental capacity) at the time,” he said.
He also objected to the mandatory minimum sentence of four years, saying, “the crime does not fit the time,” since he didn’t harm anybody.
Piercey said while the judge ruled the police did not act improperly, he does have to take into consideration the fact that their actions did have an effect on Crockwell’s behaviour.
“Not so much to punish (police), but to recognize Mr. Crockwell has suffered consequences,” said Piercey, noting the destruction of the Crockwell home.
Piercey also said Crockwell’s mental health issues should be factored into sentencing. He said giving Crockwell the shortest possible sentence, with a longer period of probation that would include counselling, would better serve justice.
“When it comes to concern for the public, this may be the best way to control it,” he said.
Crockwell has been in custody since Dec. 11, 2010.
With straight-time credit, if Crockwell is sentenced to five years, he would have 34 months left on his term. At four years, it would leave 22 months.
With 1.5 times credit, a five-year sentence would leave 21 months on his term. With a four-year sentence, he would have nine months left. If he gets the latter sentence, he could be out of jail in six months, once he had served two-thirds of the remaining nine months.