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Judge sentences robber of Mount Pearl convenience store to seven years in jail... then offers him words of encouragement

Justin Wiseman awaits the start of his sentencing for armed robbery and arson in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's Wednesday afternoon.
Justin Wiseman awaits the start of his sentencing for armed robbery and arson in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's Wednesday afternoon. - Tara Bradbury/The Telegram

Supreme Court Justice Robert Stack said he has sympathy for Justin Wiseman’s circumstances but tells him it’s time to take responsibility for his actions

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

As Justin Wiseman prepared to leave the courtroom Wednesday, the judge who had just sentenced him to more than seven years in jail for armed robbery and arson gave him some parting words of encouragement.

“I wish you well on your journey to rehabilitation and becoming that man you told me you wish to become,” Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice Robert Stack said.

“Thank you, Your Honour,” Wiseman replied, stepping out of the dock and turning his back toward a sheriff to allow her to handcuff his wrists behind him.

Stressing the seriousness of Wiseman’s crimes but expressing sympathy for the circumstances that led him down that path — which included an abusive and abandoned childhood that left him troubled, along with mental-health issues — Stack handed Wiseman a total sentence of 7 1/2 years for a robbing a convenience store and setting a home on fire in March 2018. With credit given for the time he has already spent behind bars on remand, Wiseman has just over five years left to serve.


"His is a high level of moral blameworthiness. If he wishes to turn his life around, (Justin Wiseman) will have to use his time in prison to work on the fundamentals of his mental and physical well-being.” — Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice Robert Stack


Wiseman, 28, was convicted last November of robbing a Mount Pearl Marie’s Mini Mart while disguised and armed with a knife, making his getaway in a stolen pickup truck. The store clerk testified she had been working alone around 8:30 a.m. when a man dressed in black and wearing a bandanna over his face entered with a knife, saying, "This is a stickup.” She was frightened, she said, but didn’t think he would hurt her. At one point, Wiseman told her to relax, apologizing to the woman, calling her “sweetie” and telling her the robbery was something he had to do.

Wiseman made off with cash and cigarettes, but not before the woman recorded the licence plate number of the pickup in which he left the scene. Police discovered the truck had been stolen and when officers spotted it on the road three hours later, they followed it to a home on Jersey Avenue.

After learning Wiseman was inside the home and refusing to come out, police surrounded it. Wiseman remained in the residence for the next six hours, as smoke and a strong smell of burning plastic emanated from the chimney. Police stormed the home and arrested Wiseman when they saw smoke coming from a window.

Wiseman was located in the basement while three fires burned on the main floor: one in the bathroom, one on the mattress in the main bedroom and one in the kitchen, where a stove burner had been turned on and a paint can and plastics placed on top of it.

Firefighters extinguished the fires, but were called back to the home a few hours later when the home started burning again.

Stack pointed out the traumatic impact the robbery had on the store clerk, as per her testimony.

“It is noteworthy that even though she was traumatized, she went to work the next day because she had a family to feed,” the judge said.

He also noted Wiseman’s “long, violent and serious” criminal record, the fact that he had been on parole at the time, the brandishing of the knife and the potential exposure to harm for neighbours and first responders caused by the fire. A pre-sentence report had deemed Wiseman a high risk to reoffend, Stack said.

Stack said he had also considered several mitigating factors: Wiseman’s guilty plea to the arson charge, his expression of remorse for his actions and the apology he had offered to the store clerk at his sentencing hearing.

Wiseman told the court earlier this summer his crimes had always seemed rather victimless to him until he heard the clerk’s testimony.

“I can see that she has been truly affected and forever changed by this invasion in her place of work and for that my heart is filled with an overwhelming shame and remorse that I’ve never felt in my whole life,” he said.

He told the judge he was committed to turning his life around.

“My Lord, I could have been anyone or anything in this life, but I stand in shackles before the hand of justice, awaiting my fate,” he said. “I’m ashamed of my criminal lifestyle, I’m ashamed of hurting and victimizing people in my community while on drunken escapades and dangerous crime sprees."

Ultimately, said the judge, Wiseman must be held accountable. His rehabilitation is still a work in progress, Stack said.

“It is unfortunate that Mr. Wiseman’s life has been adversely affected by his childhood trauma and his challenging life circumstances. Ultimately, however, he must take responsibility for his actions. He acknowledged this in his letter to the court. His is a high level of moral blameworthiness. If he wishes to turn his life around, he will have to use his time in prison to work on the fundamentals of his mental and physical well-being.”

Twitter: @tara_bradbury


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