Winnipeg gang members' acquittals quashed

'The only possible verdicts are ones of guilty,' judge says

Two members of Winnipeg's Mad Cowz street gang acquitted of attempting to obstruct justice for refusing to testify in a high-profile murder trial have had their not guilty verdicts overturned for a direct verdict of guilty.

The Manitoba Court of Appeal ruled Thursday that Gharib Abdullah and Corey Amyotte will be brought back to court for sentencing.

"The trial judge erred in law when she acquitted Abdullah and Amyotte of the offences of willfully attempting to obstruct justice," Justice Freda Steel wrote on behalf of the appeals court.

The 2007 gang-related trial of Jeff Cansanay, 24, collapsed after Abdullah and Amyotte refused to testify and the judge refused to allow videotaped statements the two made to police to be used as evidence.

The two were convicted of contempt of court, but took charges of attempting to obstruct justice to a full trial where they were acquitted. The Crown immediately appealed that decision.

Cansanay was convicted after a second trial earlier this year for the shooting murder of Phil Haiart, 17, on Thanksgiving Day 2005.

The teen was crossing the street near Sargent Avenue and Maryland Street when a bullet fired by Cansanay hit him in the stomach.

The Crown said that Cansanay was actually aiming at Abdullah and Amyotte who are members of a rival gang and were involved in a turf war over the sale of drugs in the city's West End.

Abdullah and Amyotte testified at the 2010 trial, but only Abdullah offered any evidence implicating Cansanay in the killing.

Steel said "in light of the undisputed facts" in the obstruct justice case, the two gang members will not have a new trial but instead be pronounced guilty as charged.

"The only possible verdicts are ones of guilty," Steel wrote.

Abdullah and Amyotte each have 30 days to ask the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of their case.


James Turner is a former courts and crime reporter for various Manitoba media outlets, including CBC Manitoba. He now teaches journalism and photography at Red River College.