Teen faces 14 years for 'extreme' assault
A Winnipeg teen who took part in a horrific race-related beating that left a young man severely disabled will be sentenced as an adult and could face 14 years in prison, a Manitoba judge has ruled.
Provincial court Judge Catherine Carlson ordered the rare penalty after a now-19-year-old man was convicted of aggravated assault and other offences last summer.
On Feb. 9, 2009, 19-year-old Kawara Ojwato was attacked by four suspects as he got out of his car on Sara Avenue in the West Broadway area of the city.
The victim suffered multiple wounds — including a severe brain injury — and spent more than a year in hospital.
He will never walk, talk or feed himself again and will require round-the-clock care for the rest of his life, according to the Crown.
Ojwato, a Sudanese immigrant, was attacked because members of a street gang in the area mistook him for a member of the African Mafia street gang, Carlson wrote in a 30-page decision released to the public Friday.
'Short of being killed, the harm done was of the worst type. He has forever been robbed of his quality of life, of control over his own thoughts and of his ability to make choices.'—Judge Catherine Carlson
The convicted teen was charged as a youth and cannot be identified until the adult sentence is handed down. He was 17 at the time of the attack.
Sentencing will held on Feb. 18 and 23, according to Crown attorney Debbie Buors.
"[He] and his co-accused were members of the B-Side street gang. They were looking to find any member of the African Mafia ... who might happen to be in 'territory' claimed by the B-Side gang, to beat up," Carlson wrote.
"They saw the victim, and based solely on the colour of his skin, which was dark, assumed, entirely mistakenly as it turned out, that he was a member of the African Mafia," she stated.
"They attacked him without any provocation whatsoever."
Swarm attack described as 'fun'
A witness who spoke with the teen attacker a day after the beating said he described the event as "fun," Carlson said.
Ojwato's family has been "horrifically changed" because of the beating, according to the judge. Both of his parents have depleted their savings and now live on social assistance, she said. "The victim's family is a hardworking family that came to Canada ... looking for a peaceful life," Carlson wrote.
"The harm done to the victim was extreme and irreparable. Short of being killed, the harm done was of the worst type. He has forever been robbed of his quality of life, of control over his own thoughts and of his ability to make choices.
"His family members have been robbed of the son, brother, nephew and cousin that they knew, and have had imposed on them a lifetime responsibility of providing full-time care," Carlson said.
Twelve days after the beating, the teen and a co-accused in the attack took a loaded shotgun to a home and fired it through a window, an act for which he was convicted of weapons offences.
Court heard during a sentencing hearing that the teen was also convicted of a sexual assault that took place while he was in custody at the Manitoba Youth Centre.
The facts of that offence are not detailed in Carlson's decision.
He is now being held at the adult jail in Headingley just west of Winnipeg.
A conviction for aggravated assault carries with it a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.