Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fugitive to face delayed justice?

Man may be deported decades after deaths

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Thirty-three years ago, Robert Nick Fotti failed to show up in court to learn he was sentenced to nine months in jail for dangerous driving after the death of a Winnipeg man and his 17-year-old son on a motorcycle.

Fotti, now 64, and who on Tuesday finished a nine-month sentence in a Texas jail for a felony for tampering with a governmental record, could now be weeks away from beginning to serve that long delayed penalty.

U.S. immigration officials took Fotti into custody after his release from jail.

But a family spokesman for the two victims, prominent Winnipeg defence counsel Greg Brodsky, said they don't care whether Fotti ever comes back to Canada to serve the sentence.

Brodsky, whose brother-in-law and 17-year-old nephew were killed when the vehicle Fotti was driving struck the pair's motorcycle on Easter Sunday in April 1977, said the nine-month jail sentence Fotti received in 1980 is not worth bringing him back to Canada.

"We don't need him back here," Brodsky said on Tuesday, noting Texas law officials also found materials during a police raid of an organization Fotti is a member of that lauded as patriots Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

"If he's in Texas, leave him there. But my opinion, and the opinion of the family, doesn't matter.

"We're not talking about a sentence of life imprisonment. It's only a sentence of nine months. It might have been meaningful back then, but after this length of time it is meaningless.

"Let justice take it's course."

According to an April 11, 1977, Free Press story, Gordon Hochman, 42, and his son, Stewart, were driving north on Border Street on their motorcycle. Hochman's wife, Marlene, was following shortly behind with one of their two other sons on another motorcycle.

The pair were struck at Dublin Street by a westbound van driven by Fotti at 11:15 a.m.

The man and teenager were rushed to hospital where they were pronounced dead.

Then 27-year-old Fotti was charged and went before the courts where he was acquitted by a lower court judge, but was later convicted by the Manitoba Court of Appeal of dangerous driving. The conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada and he was sentenced to nine months in jail by the Appeal Court.

During the trial, it was revealed when Fotti was 15, his father wounded his mother and when she was taken to Health Sciences Centre, the father tracked her down and shot her to death before killing himself.

But Fotti was absent at his own sentencing. It was later learned Fotti had fled to the U.S. where he lived illegally for years until getting resident alien status through an amnesty program.

Fotti, who changed his name to Robert James Fox, lived in Jacksonville, Texas, for years until his arrest in 2008 on a felony charge for tampering with a governmental record. At the time of a police search, thousands of illegal drugs were also found. He was later sentenced to nine months in jail.

Local law officials were also concerned about Fox's connections with the local House of Israel, a movement that refuses to recognize American laws or taxation rules.

Jacksonville police Chief Reece Daniel wrote a letter about Fox to Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, which was reported in the local media. The letter said: "Quite frankly, I feel that a resident alien who entered this country illegally to escape justice and then changed his name in order to gain amnesty and then embarked on a lifelong crusade against our Constitutional laws should be deportable."

Jacksonville police detective Greg Compton said he wouldn't miss Fox.

"As long as he doesn't show up here again that would be fine with me," Compton told the Free Press.

A Manitoba Justice spokeswoman said the department continues to be informed about Fotti's immigration proceedings through the RCMP.

"American authorities will hold an immigration hearing to determine when/if he will be returned to Canada," the spokeswoman said.

Brodsky said the tragedy was tough on his family, especially his wife, whose sister lost her husband and a son.

Brodsky said the Hochman family had left his house 11 minutes before.

"They were looking at a house to buy two blocks from where we live," he said. "The laws are different now. We have breathalyzers. (Fotti) had been drinking -- we just don't know how much."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 31, 2013 B1


Updated on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 6:44 AM CDT: replaces photo

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