Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Mark it down, folks.June 2007 will go down as the time when the balance of power shifted out of the hands of lawless, "don't give a damn" gang members and back into the arms of the law-abiding public.Two remarkable events, separated by a few short days, have made this crystal clear.
The first occurred in a Winnipeg courtroom last week, when Queen's Bench Justice Albert Clearwater sent a message to street thugs that couldn't have been any louder.Faced with the potential collapse of yet another high-profile gang-related murder trial, Clearwater went where NO OTHER JUDGE IN CANADA has gone before in attempting to restore some law-and-order.A witness, called by the Crown to testify about what he saw and/or heard, treated the entire process as a big joke and refused to be sworn in.After repeated warnings about possible consequences. Jammal Jacob still couldn't be bothered.Clearwater quickly wiped the smug look off his face when he found him in contempt of court and sentenced him to three years in prison.Consider this - the biggest sentence anyone in Canada has ever received for such an offence is believed to be two years!Just like that, Clearwater had carved out a new precedent. And made it clear that the justice system would no longer be toyed with.I happened to be sitting beside a couple of fellow Mad Kowz gang members in the public gallery that day.Here's a basic summary of what I immediately overheard them saying to each other."Holy shit man. That's sick. Three years."
It was exactly the kind of response Clearwater was aiming for.Unfortunately, two other gang members apparently weren't as fazed.
Gharib Abdullah and Cory Amyotte were paraded into court later that day and pulled a similar stunt.They were both slapped with contempt convictions. And now they face the prospect of lengthy prison terms when they are sentenced June 25.Clearwater is likely going to absolutely hammer them, especially since both are considered far more important witnesses to the Crown than Jacob.Clearwater alluded to that when he delayed sentencing them immediately, wanting to first see what, if any, affect their silence has on the fate of the trial.Despite what Abdullah and Amyotte did, I'm convinced Clearwater's verdict will pay dividends in a major way.And I applaud the veteran judge for sticking his neck out and making a decision that will likely be appealed.Let's hope Manitoba's high court has his back, the way gang members seem to take great pride in watching out for each other.***The other major development came the following day, when we learned a member of the same Mad Kowz gang had been given a one-way ticket out of Canada.Hussein Jilaow contributed absolutely nothing to this great country since his arrival a decade earlier, racking up 13 different criminal convictions.Many of them were for violence, including a particularly nasty incident last year where he threatened to kill and rape the wife of a jail guard.Jilaow voided his chance to stay in Canada - and immigration officials reacted by punting him out of the country.
Jilaow and his lawyer tried to derail the deportation, claiming he faced certain death upon return to his native Somalia.It almost worked. But Canada Border Services persisted and Jilaow is now gone, forever.An immigration source told me last week this move is being applauded by many within the justice system. They all hope it's the first of many deportations.And just like Jammal Jacob's lengthy prison sentence - and the ones coming soon to Abdullah and Amyotte - kicking Jilaow out of the country is sure to get the attention of those who feel they're immune from punishment.***I'm not exactly sure what the tipping point was.But I have no doubt a frightening home invasion earlier this spring by several alleged gang members against a Crown prosecutor was a sign to all in the justice system that things have gotten way out of hand.
But now it's the justice system hitting back, in a strong and refreshing way that deserves both our praise and support.Agree or disagree? Post your comments below.