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Focus should be on rehabilitation, says Levi Cayen's lawyer during sentencing hearing

Defence lawyer Alan Regel argued Levi Cayen should be sentenced to time served and 18 months of probation. He said a federal sentence would be "counterproductive," expose Cayen to “bad influences” and further isolate him from his family.

Defence lawyer Alan Regel argued a federal sentence would be 'counterproductive'

The courthouse in Yellowknife. (Natalie Pressman/CBC)

Defence lawyer Alan Regel said Levi Cayen's sentence should focus on rehabilitation. 

Cayen is convicted of manslaughter and robbery for his part in beating, robbing and leaving Alex Norwegian to die on a remote road near Hay River, N.W.T., on Dec. 27, 2017. 

In the N.W.T. Supreme Court in Yellowknife Wednesday, Regel said the four and a half years Cayen has already spent in custody is enough. He suggested Cayen be released from the North Slave Correctional Centre (NSCC) on a sentence of time served with18 months of probation.

Crown Prosecutor Duane Praught said Tuesday that Cayen should face 15 years. 

Regel argued that Praught's submissions are "unduly harsh" and don't take into account mitigating factors. 

After hearing victim impact statements Tuesday, Regel also asked the judge to "not be swayed" by "inflammatory language," "pleas for higher sentences" or the "perception that there is no remorse." 

Regel said Cayen is remorseful. 

He pointed to NSCC chaplain Jim Lynn's testimony and Cayen's statements to illustrate his point. 

Lynn told the court Tuesday that he meets with Cayen regularly at the correctional centre and that Cayen "wishes [the crime] hadn't happened" and that he "would like to make amends in his life." 

In a statement to police, Cayen said he wished it were him who died rather than Norwegian. 

Regel called that "a very strong statement of remorse."

Alex Norwegian, pictured above, was killed in 2017. Levi Cayen is convicted of manslaughter and robbery for his part in beating, robbing and leaving Norwegian to die on a remote road near Hay River, N.W.T., on Dec. 27, 2017.  (Randi Beers/CBC)

Should consider guilty plea: defence

In March, a jury found Cayen guilty of manslaughter and not of the original charge of murder

Regel said that Cayen pleaded guilty to manslaughter, as well as to robbery from the start and that he should be given credit for his guilty plea as a result. 

"There was a trial only because the Crown insisted on a trial on charges it was unable to prove," he said.

Regel added that he offered a guilty plea "immediately" after the preliminary inquiry in November 2018 and that "those offers were never withdrawn and it was always open to the Crown." 

In response, Praught argued the suggestion that a guilty plea would have saved the court resources is speculative.

If there had been any arguments on the facts of the case, that would have taken up resources to prove what happened the night of Norwegian's death, Praught said. 

He told the court that an offer to plead guilty on lesser charges can be mitigating but "certainly should not be given the same consideration as a guilty plea." 

Regel said that the murder charges also contributed to Cayen being held at NSCC, a higher security facility, in Yellowknife rather than at the facility in Hay River where he could have been closer to his family. Being held in the Hay River facility might have been a possibility under the lesser charge of manslaughter, Regel said. 

Penitentiary 'could be counterproductive'

Regel told the court that Cayen's involvement in Norwegian's killing stemmed from an argument he was having with his girlfriend and a desire to drink as a coping mechanism. 

He accepted an invitation that night to drink with James Thomas, Sasha and Tyler Cayen — his cousins — not knowing they were planning to attack Norwegian for crack. 

Regal said that Cayen has sought programming to learn to manage his alcohol addiction, and pointed to Cayen's parents and grandparents who have all overcome their addictions. 

Regel also pointed to a letter of support from Cayen's band and on the land skills he learned from his grandfather to illustrate his "bright future" and employment prospects. 

He said that Cayen was "in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people and made a decision that he's regretted ever since."

He said that the time he has already served would deter him from future crimes and that he "has the potential to overcome this ordeal and be a contributing member to his band and society."

If Cayen is sent to a federal penitentiary as Praught is suggesting, Regel argued it "could be counterproductive."

He said it would expose Cayen to "bad influences" and further isolate him from his family and support network.

Justice Shannon Smallwood said she would make her sentencing decision Thursday afternoon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Natalie Pressman is a reporter with CBC North in Yellowknife. Reach her at: natalie.pressman@cbc.ca.

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