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A week's worth of notes

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Another week, and another two-160 page notebooks filled.

It's been a busy time on the youth justice front, what with:

A crime spree involving four teens and an allegedly stolen Dodge Durango involving a dysfunctional and forbidden love affair.

A year-old aggravated assault case awoken after one of the parties turns himself in after a year on the run.

Another aggravated assault outside a Burrows avenue grocery store (more on this below),

An unresolved bail hearing for a 16-year-old accused of the second-degree murder of a 30-year-old man in Point Douglas on May 16. (more below)

Further facts behind Winnipeg's youth auto thieves and their recalcitrant attitudes and bizarre courting rituals.

A teen girl famous for laughing at the death of a cab driver is set free again.

Two youths that escaped from Agassiz Youth Centre last week are hauled back into lawful custody.

The tragic story of a "remorseless" 12-year-old that pleaded guilty to burning down a $200,000 home — and —

A 17-year-old boy who "famously" escaped from the youth centre in September and spent the next six months on the run, only to return to a hero's welcome from some inmates.

Plus:---Another teen is now out $625 in cash and his stash of four joints after he was nabbed by police and nailed on a drug-trafficking charge. He also had a locked cell-phone in his pockets, which will be returned to him, unlike the drugs and money. As a condition of his sentence, the B-Side gang member was hit with an absolute laundry-list of "no contact" orders - he's forbidden to talk, text, phone or pass messages through a third party with any of the 21 other known members of the gang.---Another teenager was due to enter a guilty plea for trafficking after officers found him allegedly in possession of 73 rocks of crack cocaine. He steps into the prisoner's box and indicates "yes" when asked if he had the drugs on him.When Judge Michel Chartier probed further to ask if he had the drugs on him in order to sell them, the kid becomes confused — borderline angry — and denies that they were for sale, thus making incomplete his guilty plea. Defense lawyer Chris Sigurdson — a veteran at defending youth cases — looked a little shocked when the kid didn't admit to the trafficking aspect of the charge (he had probably spent half an hour trying to tell the youth what that meant).The matter was stood down for a short period to allow Sigurdson a chance to pep his client up once again. A short time later, he re-appeared in the court to say, tongue firmly in cheek, that the boy was having "a bad day" and needed more time to think about his options. Looking around the courtroom, I could tell everyone was stifling a half-laugh.If I'm not mistaken, when the kid entered the box he let out such a long, powerful sigh that even Chartier took notice of it. "Are we boring you?" he may have wondered to himself.---Shortly after this, an amazing thing happened. Another 17-year-old boy convicted of three assault charges, when asked by Chartier if he had anything to tell him before sentencing the youth, gave possibly the most eloquent address to that small, dank courtroom I'd imagine it's ever heard. It was so riveting and honest that I'll be posting the full text of it right here after I get to listen back to the court transcript on Monday. Stay posted. It'll rock your socks.I spoke briefly with the teen's mother outside the courtroom. She didn't have much else to add, but clearly looked proud of her son.---Now for a reality check: Tomorrow, there will be a version of a story in both daily Winnipeg newspapers about a 12-year-old girl that torched an East Kildonan home back in early May. I want to make it clear at the outset that despite her young age, this girl is already so damaged by the life she's had that she needs help in probably the worst way possible. She's an absolute mess for some very definite reasons.You know there's a serious problem when CFS social workers say there's no safe place for a child to live. It's difficult sometimes to report the facts of what was said and to keep one's own feelings out of it. I'm going on record here and saying that no matter what horrible things this girl is done and no matter what shocking things she may have said, she's 12 years old. She deserves each and every one of our best efforts to help her in any way we can.---About the bail hearing Thursday for the 16-year-old charged with aggravated assault and second-degree murder in the death of 30-year-old Paul Cherewick in mid-May. All I can really say is that the Judge reserved his decision due to the complexities of the case. A publication ban was asked for and granted to Crown attorney Raegan Rankin before telling the court about what evidence exists to implicate the young man on such grave charges. The ban, combined with the reserved decision means I can't say much, if anything at all, about the case — yet — but I can assure you that when I can, I will. I'll keep you posted.As a side note - the case will be an awesome display of legal skills. Rankin, one of the finest Crowns in the province goes head-to-head with defense lawyer Darren Sawchuk who, even though I've only met him personally once, is a force to watch in the courtroom.For those wondering about the need for publication bans on bail hearings - the logic is simple. A bail hearing is not a trial — but if opposed to release, the Crown must present evidence to the court to satisfy one of three grounds to continue keeping an accused in custody. Typically, bail hearings in complex cases are a preliminary pretrial step in what will be a very long systemic process — happening sometimes so quickly — that the prosecutor's case is not 100 per cent set in stone at this point. For example, more evidence may be coming in the future to paint a clearer picture of the reasons to support a criminal charge.The publication ban doesn't extend to the Judge's decision in the bail hearing, so that's fair game. It's perfectly fine to let the public know if an accused gets bail or not and on what conditions — the recent release of murder suspect Mark Stobbe is an example of what can be reported at this stage.It's the evidence that's precious. Consider if a case is filled with eyewitnesses that the prosecutor is depending on to testify at a trial in the future. It comes out in a newspaper who these people are and what they've allegedly seen. Such disclosure may lead to the well-documented possibility of witness intimidation. I suppose the most simple way of putting it is how a Crown attorney put it to me one day after court:"My job is more important than your story," she said - and she was being explanatory. I wasn't bugging her for anything.The issue I'd have with publication bans with respect to youth bails is that you can't name the alleged offender, his or her family or anything at all that may lead the public to uncover the identity of a youth accused.We all know that mistakes happen, however - the last thing any reporter wants is to trigger a mistrial and blow a case.---My masters have been lovingly holding on to a story about a teen girl implicated in a "dial a dealer" sting operation by police, which breaks down bit by bit how the sting operation is alleged to have unfolded after police got their hands on an alleged dealer's cell number. When it finally hits the page, I'll have more to share with you on it. It's a fascinating tale.---I received a phone message today from a young woman who wanted to set the record straight about what she says really happened to a 16-year-old boy outside a Burrows Sobey's store late last week. We've reported that he was allegedly punched by another 16-year-old in a fight over a girl, and the blow caused the youth to slam his head on the pavement — a blow that nearly killed him according to court records. The alleged attacker was charged with aggravated assault.The young woman - who didn't leave a name or a number so I could speak with her directly, said that the injured boy had been at the store with his girlfriend to get a job application. Another boy who likes the girl came along and allegedly hit him from behind for an undisclosed reason. They are not known to each other, the girl said in the message. Considering that the accused was granted bail this week and released with no-contact conditions that do not apply to the classroom, I'd surmise that while they may not be pals, they've laid eyes on each other.As always, I'm interested to know what you think. Are you sick of hearing about what goes on in youth court? Do you want more "police" focused coverage? Is there a particular case I've covered here you wanted to know more about? Sound off in the comments and let me know.

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