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A young dope-slinger with a chance. Will he take it?

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Unlike others in his unenviable position, Terryl Izzard — a young man with a lot of potential — has a choice to make.

And I'm hoping he makes the right one. But whether he will, there's no guarantees.

But the very fact he has a choice to make puts him in a better position than 95 per cent of the people he's currently surrounded by.

Recruited into the Mad Cowz street gang as a street-level crack slinger, Izzard's learning for the first time what it is to be "used" by his higher-level associates.

He took virtually all the risk by doing dial-a-dealer hand-to-hands behind homes in the West End.

His higher-ups took virtually all the profit. But now it's him paying the price with the loss of his freedom.

And, unsurprisingly, none of his higher-ups showed up to post for his bail [he didn't get bail after being picked up in a police sting on the gang earlier this year] or to support him at his sentencing this week.

Izzard was handed two years — a pen shot — for his first ever adult convictions for drug trafficking this week. He was lucky. Prosecutors wanted more than that.

I admit at first, I assumed Izzard was just another atypical Mad Cowz member, similar to so many I've seen come and go over the years. A younger, yet intelligent, person quite happy to thumb his nose at the law. 

In late April, when city police announced they had arrested nine Mad Cowz members young and old following a classic "buy-bust" undercover sting, it was Izzard who remained outstanding and wanted.

Cops put out his mug shot in an effort to find him.

As an apparent lark, he quickly posted the mug to an online social media profile.

"Mug shot!," one pal of his posted underneath it.

"Did you get scooped (arrested)?"

"Nope," Izzard simply replied.

Too cute by far, I thought, when I saw this.

Not long after, about a day or so, police put out a notice saying he had been located and taken into custody "without incident" in the downtown area. The final of 10 suspects in Project Recall had been captured.

Well, turns out, it was Izzard's mom that outed him. "I personally called the police officer to come and get him," she told Judge Ray Wyant.

See, here's the thing: Izzard may or may not see it, but his family actually gives a damn about him.

And he may or may not see how lucky he is because of that.

"This is not how I wanted him to start his adult life," the mother told Wyant.

She admitted being surprised at the number of charges her son faced — she thought there were fewer, or maybe the reality of the situation had been downplayed to her.

"This is more serious than I thought," she said.

Wyant was told there's a "structured plan" in place for Izzard for when he gets out of the joint — likely on full parole after serving 1/3 of his sentence, so perhaps in about 3-4 months time.

There's a waiting move to a different city and a job with a relative who's established there waiting for him — if he chooses to take it, to divorce himself of his self-admitted gang ties and life as a "disposable" associate of the Mad Cowz.

It would be the equivalent of something akin to a fresh start, an option something few people at Stony Mountain get, and something I'm fairly sure many would take if offered the chance.

But will he take it? I have to admit I was left in doubt after listening to his reluctant exchange with Wyant.

"Don't tell me you got nothing to say," Wyant asked a virtually mute Izzard, who answered to his plea inquiries with terse "Yup"s.

"How do you feel about going to jail?" the judge asked.

"I guess I gotta do it," said Izzard.

"So what's the future? Are you ready to go to [new city] and get out of the gang?"

"Yeah," Izzard said, his voice barely, barely audible.

"Where do you see yourself five years from now?"

"I don't know. Probably working with my [relative]," Izzard said, sounding somewhat unsure.

"Hope so too. Where's he working, do you know?"


"Inside [the new city] or outside?"

Izzard's mom steps in to answer that: "He's outside of [the city] in [another suburb]."

"I suspect you're not going to want to listen to anything I have to say," Wyant tells Izzard.

"You'll live your life, and it will be what it is. I have to tell you it's always tough seeing someone 18 years of age being in jail, going to jail. I don't think that's where you should be," Wyant said, adding he hoped Izzard took advantage of the fact he's got people pulling for him, willing to help him out.

"But if you don't, I fear for your future," Wyant said. "You know the score enough to know what's going on... you know what the score is."

The hearing ended soon after, and Izzard's travails with the court system, at least for now, have come to an end.

But will he take the opportunity to go straight when he eventually walks free?

If he doesn't, I think we know where that road can lead.  

Stay tuned, I guess. I still have hope we'll never see Izzard again. 

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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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