Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
One of three adults accused in a $1-million gang-related arson which left a Sherbrook Street apartment block in smouldering ruin and 19 people in hospital has pleaded guilty.
Cody Rain Roulette, 22, pleaded guilty Monday to an arson-related count and will be sentenced on Friday.
Sources say he's looking at a serious prison shot for his role in the senseless crime, but neither prosecutors nor his defence lawyer has put on the record what their positions are on sentencing.
Occupants of 577 Sherbrook St. building largely lost everything after a group of Bloodz gang members elected to torch a basement suite in retaliation against the Mad Cowz gang for an incident involving a Bloodz member which occurred hours earlier.
It was basically just a hunch the apartment that was torched was in any way linked to the Mad Cowz. The theory was someone from the rival Bloodz had once seen a Mad Cowz member hanging out in there.
In all, 40 people were left homeless, and court previously heard one woman miscarried.
Roulette's preliminary hearing came to an abrupt end today, on its first day, when he elected to plead guilty.
In other Roulette news...
Convicted murderer Kenneth Roulette is appealing his convictions which netted him a life sentence for the Jan. 31, 2009 murders of Jessie Henderson and Dennis Ray Baptiste.
Roulette was convicted just weeks ago after a fairly lengthy trial which largely hinged on testimony from two unsavoury Crown witnesses, Philip Asham and crack user Russell Glow.
Both men made efforts to quote-endquote sell their evidence to police more than a year after the homicides happened.
But part of what Roulette's jury didn't hear was how months before the trial got underway, his lawyers attempted, but failed, to have the case thrown out over perceived delays of disclosure by the Crown.
In appeal court documents, Roulette claims Justice Robert Dewar made 10 specific errors in the conduct of the trial, including by failing to grant the stay of proceedings for the claimed breach of his Charter rights.
Many of Roulette's appeal grounds assert Dewar made improper jury instructions.
But one of the more interesting claims Roulette makes is regarding how he believes the Crown was allowed by Dewar to introduce "impermissible" character evidence. This came largely through the evidence of Asham and Glow.
Asham told jurors he met Roulette for the first time in custody [the status of the jailing wasn't revealed; whether it was remand time or as a sentenced prisoner], and that Roulette sported a tattoo on his arm of the number '187' - gang slang for the California penal code statute for murder.
[Glow also indicated that Roulette said the name of the "hit for hire" group he was in was either "the 187" or, even more chilling, "MS-13." One of the more confounding facets of the trial, for me anyways, was how the existence of this criminal contract killing group wasn't detailed beyond its very mention. If there was evidence to believe the Mara Salvatrucha had branched out into Winnipeg, that would be noteworthy indeed.]
Nevertheless, it was through Glow's evidence that jurors learned about how Roulette would attend his apartment on Sherbrook Street to supervise young Mad Cowz dealers to "chop" their drugs up into sellable amounts.
It created, naturally, the inference that Roulette was involved in dealing drugs. Such evidence is usually forbidden in criminal trials, but it was clear the Crown required this information to relay to the jury more pieces of context and circumstance implicating Roulette in the brutal murders.
The importance of Asham and Glow's evidence in implicating Roulette can't be understated.
Court documents suggest prior to their coming forward, police had very little to go on in the case, and had been given every indication early on that the deaths of Baptiste and Henderson may have been linked to a long-standing and violent "beef" between the Mad Cowz/African Mafia and the B-Side street gangs.
Will be interesting to see how Roulette's appeal turns out.
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About James Turner
James Turner rejoined the Free Press as a justice-beat reporter in August 2013 after a number of years away working at other media outlets, including the Winnipeg Sun and CBC Manitoba.
A reporter in Winnipeg since 2005, he got his first taste of the justice beat as a former Free Press intern, then as the newspaper's police reporter from 2008-09.
Among the topics he's eager to cover are youth crime, street gangs, child-welfare and how the mental health and justice systems intersect.
An avid blogger and early adopter of Twitter, James (@heyjturner) loves to write long, much to the frustration of his editors.
He despises animal cruelty. He loves 80s music and his tubby labrador retriever.
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