Toronto

Man found guilty of 2nd-degree murder of Toronto rapper Smoke Dawg, brand manager Ernest Modekwe

The man charged in the 2018 death of both Toronto rapper Smoke Dawg and a brand manager who was well known in the city's hip-hop scene has been found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder, as well aggravated assault and discharge of a firearm.

Abdulkadir Handule initially pleaded not guilty to 2 counts of 1st-degree murder

Toronto rapper Jahvante Smart, right, and Ernest Modekwe, left, were victims in a triple shooting on June 30, 2018 in the city's entertainment district. (Jake Kivanc)

The man charged in the 2018 death of both Toronto rapper Smoke Dawg and a brand manager who was well known in the city's hip-hop scene has been found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder, as well as aggravated assault and discharge of a firearm.

Abdulkadir Handule was found guilty by a jury in Ontario Superior Court Thursday.

In a statement to CBC News, Handule's lawyer Dirk Derstine said Handule and his family are "deeply disappointed in the verdict," adding Handule has asked him to begin the appeal process.

Second-degree murder in Canada comes with a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with no chance of parole for at least 10 years. Justice Brian O'Marra told court Thursday that he would consider a recommendation from the jury when determining the length of Handule's sentence before he is eligible for parole.

Before adjourning, O'Marra thanked the jury, saying: "It's been trying times in society the last two years and in my view, at times when society is under different types of stress, it's more important than ever that the justice system still be able to operate as best it can. And you have been exemplary in your dedication to the task."

Handule is set to be sentenced at 10 a.m. on May 27.

Abdulkadir Handule, 22, whose rap name is 21 Neat, was arrested in July 2019 by RCMP officers in British Columbia for unrelated charges and turned over to Toronto police. (Toronto Police Service)

Handule, who was 22 at the time of killings, earlier pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and related charges. His trial began in November but was paused for several weeks over the holidays.

Jahvante Smart, 21, known by his rap name Smoke Dawg, and Ernest Modekwe, 28, a brand manager for the hip-hop collective were gunned down on Queen Street West, which was bustling with people during the Canada Day weekend on June 30, nearly four years ago.

Smart suffered three gunshot wounds, court heard — one to his neck and two in his leg. Modekwe was shot once in the neck. A woman, who was a bystander and who was shot in the leg, survived.

About a year after the shootings, Handule, known by his rap name 21 Neat, was arrested by RCMP officers in British Columbia for unrelated charges and turned over to Toronto police after a nation-wide warrant for his arrest.

A GoFundMe page set up to cover the funeral and memorial costs for Modekwe described him as a loving son and brother. "His infectious smile lit up any room he entered and he was instantly friends with anyone he met," the page read.

"After graduating with honours from the University of Toronto, Kosi Modekwe worked hard to help his single mom and provide for his two siblings."

Smart released his first single in 2015 and was on rapper Drake's Boy Meets World tour.

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