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Doudou Kikewa Mpumudjie says he has suffered discrimination and racism from staff at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary
Judge James Walsh repeated himself in French in the courtroom Friday, to make sure everyone understood him.
"He decided to participate in criminal behaviour in Canada," he said of Doudou Kikewa Mpumudjie. "Il avait decidé de participer aux actes criminels au Canada."
Walsh spoke to Mpumudjie directly, asking him, "C'est vrai?" ("Is that right?")
Mpumudjie, 29, has pleaded guilty to charges of identity theft and fraud, laid by police after he was one of four men arrested in St. John's last February in connection with a scheme that saw the personal information of more than 20 people used to create false identification cards.
The fake IDs were then used to open bank accounts and obtain credit cards, cellphone contracts, at least one airline ticket and more.
None of the accused or the victims are from this province.
Last week, Crown prosecutor Richard Deveau argued for a 24-month jail term for Mpumudjie, saying the identity theft scheme had been a sophisticated one that likely would have continued had the men not been arrested.
Mpumudjie's "hands-on" role in the scheme is an aggravating factor in the case, Deveau said, as is his criminal record: Mpumudjie has convictions for similar type of crimes in other provinces, and there are warrants for his arrest in Alberta and Saskatchewan. He had actually been ordered by another provincial court not to possess a card with a magnetic strip, Deveau told the court.
Deveau said Mpumudjie, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo who is a permanent resident of Canada, will likely be deported, but suggested the judge not take immigration into consideration as a significant factor when determining a sentence, since that is an issue for the Canada Border Services Agency.
Permanent residents can be deported if they are sentenced to more than six months in prison for a crime committed in Canada.
A hearing has already been planned for Mpumudjie based on his previous convictions, the court heard.
Friday afternoon, defence lawyer Ben Curties put forth his sentencing submissions to the judge, arguing for a jail term of time served for Mpumudjie.
That would mean just under six months.
The court can consider the effects a potential sentence can have on immigration in cases like this one, Curties argued, saying six months isn't out of the typical range of sentencing based on previous similar fraud cases in the country.
Walsh interjected, pointing out identity theft crimes have been dealt with more harshly by the courts because their harm is further-reaching.
Curties told the court his client had moved to Canada with his extended family when he was 16 and doesn't have any relatives left in Congo. He has a common-law wife and a five-year-old child in Montreal, Curties said, and although he did have criminal convictions while he was employed, it wasn't until he was out of work that his crimes increased.
"He was trying to get money to raise (his daughter). He did things he shouldn't have and he's sorry for them," the lawyer told the court, noting the possibility Mpumudjie may be forced to leave the country without his family. "He worries about what would happen to his daughter if he is deported."
Curties said Mpumudjie has had a particularly difficult time in Her Majesty's Penitentiary, as a black man whose first language is not English, and as someone who had not previously spent much time in prison. Curties didn't elaborate.
Mpumudjie's defence lawyers in other provinces where he has been charged did not tell him deportation is a possibility, Curties said.
That's when the judge made his bilingual point that it was Mpumudjie alone who decided to commit the crimes, knowing he was not a Canadian citizen.
Mpumudjie, with the help of a translator, spoke directly to Walsh when asked if he had anything he wanted to say.
"First of all, I'm sorry for everything that has happened and for those who were victimized," he said in French. "I have learned many lessons, and one of them was how prisoners at HMP are treated, which is inhumanely. As a black person, I often receive racist comments and experience discrimination."
Those comments and discrimination come from HMP staff, Mpumudjie told the judge.
Walsh is scheduled to deliver his sentencing decision in Mpumudjie's case and the case of one of his co-accused — 46-year-old Joseph Kalombo Ndonki — on Wednesday.
Mpumudjie is also facing charges of breaching court orders and threatening a correctional officer at HMP, which were laid late last week. He has pleaded not guilty and will go to trial on those charges.