Brandon teen who supported ISIS online apologizes at sentencing hearing
Court heard Tuesday morning that teen planned to fight overseas or carry out attacks in Canada
A Brandon, Man., teen who confessed to using social media to express support for ISIS says he regrets his actions and no longer follows Islam.
The 17-year-old was expected to be sentenced Tuesday in provincial court in the western Manitoba city, but lawyers agreed over the noon hour to adjourn the sentencing until next January in order to deal with outstanding issues surrounding the sentence.
The boy addressed the court after Crown and defence lawyers spent more than an hour laying out the background of the boy and the case and what led to his arrest.
He was charged in November 2015 with counselling the commission of an indictable offence at the direction of, or in association with, a terrorist group. He entered a guilty plea on Sept. 12, 2016, in a Winnipeg youth division provincial court.
"I wanted to say that I regret what I have done," he said, speaking softly. "I'd like to apologize to my family for the stress that I've caused them … also to the Crown for using their resources [and] also for causing a scare in the community, too."
He also told court he was struggling with his identity and didn't think about the consequences of his action.
He said he is no longer going to follow Islam.
Reporter tipped police
Tuesday was the first time many of the details surrounding the boy's arrest were heard in court.
The police investigation into the boy's social media use started in December 2014 when a CBC News reporter told police about a teenager who was converting to Islam and planning to leave Canada to fight with ISIS, the court was told.
Police homed in on a number of Twitter accounts that the Crown said were traced back to the teen. Several had been deactivated, but many tweeted between March 14 and July 23, 2015.
Police asked permission to search the teen's computer. It was granted and investigators found ISIS propaganda and communication with someone who identified as an ISIS fighter, court heard.
Searches for ISIS, ISIS flags, videos, weapons and child pornography were also found, the Crown said. The boy received probation for possession of child pornography.
After his arrest last November he admitted in an interview that he was the owner of the Twitter account and was planning to fight for ISIS overseas, the Crown said.
"He indicated as well that if he was unable to travel that he would then strike from within [Canada]," Crown attorney Ian Mahon told court, adding that government buildings, monuments, infrastructure and employees were targets.
"This is all said in a very matter-of-fact tone," Mahon said. "I would describe it as a chilling interview."
Notebooks with plans and formulas for making bombs were also found, court heard.
The Crown noted the teen was socially isolated growing up and that his peer development was lacking.
Crown asks for GPS tracker use
The boy has been in custody since his arrest 12 months ago. Lawyers for both the Crown and the defence are asking for a 14-month sentence, meaning he would spend just two more months in jail, followed by seven months of house arrest and a probation order. The Crown is also asking that he wear a GPS tracking device.
However, jurisdictional issues were raised. Justice John Combs questioned whether current laws allow him to make the boy's 12 months in prison part of the 14-month sentence.
Defence lawyer Saul Simmonds also took issue with the Crown's request that the teen wear a GPS tracking device through a two-year probation period, beyond the seven-month house arrest order.
Simmonds said Tuesday morning that the teen will live with his grandparents after his release and will continue to receive counselling.
The teen's sentence is now expected to be handed down in early January, 14 months after his arrest. He remains in custody.
The Brandon boy's arrest came only a few months after Aaron Driver's June 2015 arrest in Winnipeg for communicating with what RCMP called well-known ISIS supporters in the U.K. and the U.S.
Driver was later placed under a peace bond that prohibited him from using a computer or cellphone.
He moved to Strathroy, Ont., and in August, RCMP received a tip from the FBI about a martyrdom video. Driver was identified as the suspect. He was killed in a confrontation with police after an explosive device was detonated in the back of a taxi on Aug. 10.