Serial harasser deserves credit for pleading guilty: defence
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/04/2022 (294 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A lawyer for a Winnipeg woman — whose years-long campaigns of harassment left her two victims living in fear she would destroy their lives — has urged a judge to sentence her to just under four years in custody.
The sentence would give credit to Agnieszka Ciochon-Newton for accepting responsibility for her crimes; and it would spare the court the expense of a lengthy and complex trial, defence lawyer Barry Walker told provincial court Judge Keith Eyrikson at a sentencing hearing Wednesday.
“Substantial weight can be put on her guilty plea and the resources she saved,” Walker said. “The facts of this case are very aggravating — the defence will concede that — … (but) she is not disentitled to leniency.”
The Crown has recommended she serve eight years in prison.
Ciochon-Newton, a 53-year-old former nurse, has pleaded guilty to criminal harassment, public mischief, obstruction of justice and other offences involving four victims. She pleaded guilty to the offences last May, but since then has refused to co-operate with the preparation of a pre-sentence report or court-ordered psychiatric assessment, delaying her sentencing. A sentencing hearing in January had to be rescheduled due to a pandemic-related court closure.
Ciochon-Newton remained almost mute in court, declined to speak for herself and provided only yes or no answers to a couple of questions from the judge.
“She is communicating verbally with me, but has decided not to communicate with (pre-sentence report) writers and others,” Walker said.
In the absence of any reports, Walker could provide only skeletal biographical details to court. Ciochon-Newton immigrated to Canada from Poland in 1990 and trained as a nurse in Victoria before moving to Winnipeg in 2010. She told Walker she has been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and experienced periods of homelessness after losing her job.
Court has heard Ciochon-Newton’s first victim, a former manager at St. Boniface Hospital, endured years of harassment and stalking both at work and at home, leading to her early retirement.
“The depths to which (she) pursued me I thought only existed in bad movies,” the woman said in a victim impact statement provided to court last fall. “The pain (she) has inflicted on my family can never be (repaired). I just want this to stop once and for all.”
Ciochon-Newton was a registered nurse at the hospital in 2013 when supervisors, concerned about her performance, placed her in a practice management program, with a manager overseeing her work.
Unhappy with the manager’s instructions, Ciochon-Newton began bombarding senior hospital administrators, the Manitoba Nurses Union and College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba with letters and emails full of “derogatory remarks… and untrue allegations,” Crown attorney Sheila Doe previously told court.
Ciochon-Newton was placed on administrative leave and ultimately fired.
In September 2013, Ciochon-Newton contacted the Canadian Border Services Agency and claimed the victim was going to be “the next Connecticut shooter,” prompting a call to the FBI, which opened an investigation into the victim’s activities.
In December 2016, Ciochon-Newton called the woman at work, and claimed she was sleeping with her husband. Over the next several months, Ciochon-Newton left the woman numerous voicemail messages containing “female shrieks, panting and sexualized moaning,” Doe said.
Ciochon-Newton called city police in March 2017, claiming a man armed with a knife had been driving by her house and following her, and gave police the licence plate number of the victim’s husband’s car. Weeks later, she called police to say the victim was sitting in her car outside her apartment, armed with a gun. Ciochon-Newton made similar allegations in the months that followed.
By late 2017, Ciochon-Newton shifted her attention to another victim, a firefighter she had met at a yard sale. The two exchanged phone numbers after she asked the man if he would be interested in doing some renovation work at her Osborne Village condo.
The man later met her for coffee at her home, but backed out of doing any work after she made comments that made him uncomfortable.
As the man tried to distance himself from her, Ciochon-Newton continued to leave messages and letters for him, as well as “gift” packages outside his house.
The two hadn’t seen each other for about a year when, in October 2019, Ciochon-Newton left the man a voicemail claiming she had cancer and was going blind. After he responded with a sympathetic text, she showed up days later at his house and saw him sitting at his dining room table with his girlfriend. Ciochon-Newton left and a barrage of angry text messages followed, calling the man “a cheater” and “worthless.”
A week later, the man arrived home to find a stranger peering through his deck window. Asked what he was doing, the stranger said he was there to meet a woman he had talked to online “for an intimate encounter.”
Later that night, the victim received a text from a second man through dating website Ashley Madison, seeking directions to get into his house.
The man’s adult daughter was living with him at the time. “The thought of what could have potentially happened to my 29-year-old after being confronted by a stranger in her own home who, under the direction of this woman, would have let himself in with the expectation of getting sexual pleasure, sickens me,” the man told court at a sentencing hearing last fall.
Ciochon-Newton continued to harass the man by filing bogus complaints with his union and city police, and posting derogatory messages and doctored photographs on Facebook.
When the man secured a protection order against her, Ciochon-Newton countered with one of her own and claimed he was following her. She filed a police complaint alleging he had sexually assaulted her.
Ciochon-Newton pleaded guilty to additional counts of fraud, forgery and theft, involving a now-89-year-old acquaintance from whom she stole and forged cheques for several thousand dollars last September. She also pleaded guilty to public mischief after falsely accusing a Club Regent casino security guard of sexually assaulting her in a washroom.
The judge adjourned sentencing to later this spring, saying he needed more time to consider the recommendations.
“It’s a broad range,” he said. “These are significant sentences that are being sought.”
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.