Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Big demand for Xmas bail

But judge cautious in releasing prisoners

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One prisoner on remand was recently arrested for helping in an alleged bid to smuggle pot into Stony Mountain Institution.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

One prisoner on remand was recently arrested for helping in an alleged bid to smuggle pot into Stony Mountain Institution. Photo Store

The looming holiday is resulting in more than packed stores and crammed parking lots.

Prisoners on remand in Manitoba's jails are crowding provincial court bail dockets hoping to be home for Christmas.

A jam-packed docket featuring more than 45 cases was what Judge Dale Harvey contended with Monday in Winnipeg's adult criminal bail court alone.

That total doesn't include matters in the domestic violence bail courtroom down the hall at the downtown Law Courts complex, nor in other provincial court centres.

At least 12 of the bails Harvey decided were time-consuming contested applications where Crown prosecutors oppose a person's pretrial release and must demonstrate why they should be held behind bars.

'People feel that the best thing for them to reintegrate into society is to be with their family at Christmastime'

By mid-afternoon, several other contested hearings pending before Harvey were transferred out to another courtroom to try and get them dealt with.

"Is it lunchtime yet?" Harvey quipped just after 3:30 p.m., drawing a laugh from waiting lawyers.

Harvey wasn't in an overly giving mood either: Of the 12 full bail applications the Free Press witnessed Monday, Harvey granted release in half.

And yes, Virginia, a looming Christmas Day as a motivation for suspects to seek their freedom was referenced a few times in hearings throughout the day.

It's unsurprising people want out prior to the holidays, defence lawyer Brett Gladstone said outside court.

"Everybody wants to get their bail heard," Gladstone said. "People feel that the best thing for them to reintegrate into society is to be with their family at Christmastime."

Yuletide bail desperation seemed most magnified for Jordyn Marcotte.

Harvey heard the 28-year-old's young daughter had travelled from out of province to Winnipeg in order to see her dad over the holidays.

Marcotte, however, was arrested Dec. 17 by RCMP, who accuse him of participating in an alleged Oct. 21 drug-trafficking conspiracy to smuggle marijuana worth $3,400 into Stony Mountain Institution, court heard.

At the time of his arrest, Marcotte was on parole and living at a halfway house in Winnipeg.

Monday was supposed to be his first shift volunteering at the Christmas Cheer Board, he tearfully told Harvey.

Marcotte read a heart-wrenching letter admitting he's made some "dumb choices" in his life. But he vowed he's been working to change his attitude and deal with his anger problems.

Harvey refused to free him, despite acknowledging Marcotte's "obvious heartfelt plea." Given his criminal history -- Harvey described it as "horrific" -- there were no bail conditions available for Marcotte that could satisfy the court he'd live up to its terms, Harvey said.

It was the same result for Most Organized Brothers street gang associate Nathan Settee, 24, who's accused of recently breaching the conditions of his Gang Response and Suppression Plan probation order after being found behind the wheel of a car.

Settee is a lifetime disqualified driver and was out on bail at the time of his Dec. 4 arrest. He was just released early from jail this summer after being handed two years for cocaine trafficking in July 2012, Crown attorney Libby Standil said.

Since getting out of custody, Settee has been arrested twice and accused of breaching probation. He was applying for bail because he couldn't get a sentencing date before Christmas Day, defence lawyer Manny Bhangu said.

Harvey said no. Settee will remain in custody until he deals with his current charges.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 24, 2013 A4

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