James Forcillo's time behind bars could be years away: lawyer

Despite a jury declaring Toronto police Const. James Forcillo guilty of attempted murder of Sammy Yatim, lawyers say he may not begin serving time for years, if ever.

Toronto police constable free on bail, suspended with pay after attempted murder verdict in Sammy Yatim case

Toronto police Const. James Forcillo remains free on bail and is suspended with pay after a jury found him guilty of attempted murder verdict in the Sammy Yatim case. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Despite a verdict declaring Toronto police Const. James Forcillo guilty of attempted murder, lawyers say he may not begin serving time for years, if ever. 

Forcillo fired nine shots at Sammy Yatim, killing the 18-year-old as he brandished a knife on an empty TTC streetcar in July 2013.

On Monday, a jury found Forcillo guilty of attempted murder, and not guilty of second-degree murder. The officer is free on bail and remains on the police payroll while the legal wranglings in the case continue.  

Forcillo's defence lawyer Peter Brauti has asked the court to set aside the charges, arguing the state shouldn't punish the officer for doing what he was trained to do.

The judge will hear that motion in May along with a constitutional challenge to the mandatory minimum sentence of four years for attempted murder.

"This is phase one of a long process," Brauti told reporters yesterday.

Criminal lawyer Daniel Brown, who was not directly involved in the case, said even if a judge sentences Forcillo to time behind bars, he's likely to remain free for a long time. 

"Even after he's sentenced, he can still apply again for bail as his case makes its way through the appeal process," Brown told CBC News in an interview. "So it could be years before James Forcillo starts to serve his sentence, if that sentence is upheld." 

Criminal lawyer Daniel Brown says even if James Forcillo is ultimately sentenced to time behind bars, he's likely to remain free for a long time. (CBC)

If Forcillo loses at the Ontario Court of Appeal, he could apply for the case to go to the Supreme Court of Canada. That could mean he's on bail for many more years.

Rather than being remanded in custody, as usually happens after an attempted murder verdict, Forcillo was escorted from the courthouse by police on Monday afternoon.  

"I can't think of any other case where my clients have been carted off by the police to their homes," said Brown. "Normally they're taken to jail."