Downtown Yellowknife is pictured in July 2019. James O'Connor/Cabin Radio
A Territorial Court judge expressed reservations as he sentenced an offender with a diagnosed psychiatric illness to time served for crimes involving threats to kill.
Judge Robert Gorin said he had “serious concerns” about the sentence proposed, but little choice.
It marked the second case in a week exhibiting similar factors to come before Gorin for sentencing.
In this case, the front doors of a financial institution on Franklin Avenue had to be locked on June 5 at 9:45am after an angry Michael Mantla told a teller she was “white trash” – and that he would return, rob the bank, and “kill everyone,” the court was told.
Mantla had learned his account was empty. When the manager responded to the disturbance and told Mantla he was no longer welcome to conduct business at the bank, Mantla said he would “find out where [the manager] lived, would run him over and kill him,” said Crown prosecutor Brendan Green.
Mantla eventually left, the bank was closed, and police were called.
The following day, looking for money to buy groceries, 48-year-old Mantla went to the Education, Culture, and Employment (ECE) service centre in the Nova Plaza on 52 Street at 2:15pm, Green told the court.
There, with an unidentified metal object in his hand, he confronted two territorial government employees and said he was “ready to cut throats,” Green said.
Mantla told one ECE employee he was “going to cut his hands off and slit his throat.”
The Crown and defence had a joint sentencing recommendation of time served, with one year’s probation, for Mantla’s three guilty pleas and convictions for threatening to cause death or bodily harm.
During that time Mantla cannot attend the bank or the ECE office – unless, in the latter instance, he has written permission from his probation officer.
Mantla had been in custody for 41 days, meaning he had accumulated just over 60 days of pre-trial credit. That 1.5 multiplier has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada to ensure “otherwise identical offenders” released on bail could receive the same sentence as an offender held in pre-trial custody without credit for time served.
It is designed to minimize the potential unequal impact on offenders who cannot post bail or do not, for various reasons, have as fair a shot at complying with bail conditions.
“When I look at the accused’s record, not withstanding the Gladue factors and early guilty pleas, I am concerned as to whether or not this particular joint submission … could bring the administration of justice into disrepute,” Gorin said.
“Look at his record … I do have serious concerns.”
The longstanding Gladue principle, named after Cree woman Jamie Tanis Gladue, requires judges to take into consideration circumstances facing Indigenous peoples in order to arrive at an appropriate sentence.
Mantla’s lengthy record contains several convictions for uttering threats, a sexual assault, several aggravated assaults, and three convictions for assaulting a peace officer.
Defence lawyer Leslie Moore told court Mantla has a Grade 10 education, is working on his Grade 11, and hopes to upgrade to Grade 12. He had been living in Housing First – a supported housing initiative for homeless people run by the Yellowknife Women’s Society – but was evicted after the suite was damaged.
Moore said Mantla has “some hope” the organization will allow him to move back in.
Mantla is single with two grown children. He has worked with the Clean Sweep initiative, a program to help homeless people earn money. He receives $700 a month in disability payments from ECE.
“He considers himself a drug addict,” Moore told the court. “He does have some serious health issues … he is also schizophrenic, he takes injections from a doctor every two weeks.
“He wants to get [the dose] re-tweaked. He doesn’t think it’s as effective as it was in the past.”
Both of his parents went to residential schools and he grew up in a troubled home, with drugs and alcohol around him as a child, said Moore.
Gorin adjourned the sentencing hearing until the following day, to allow lawyers to prepare to defend – or amend – their joint submission.
Eventually, Gorin reluctantly decided to accept the joint submission on sentencing.
“My ultimate concern is to protect the public,” Gorin said, noting a joint submission must be extremely out-of-sorts before a judge should toss it.
‘No other option’
As reported by Cabin Radio on July 16, Gorin sent a homeless Yellowknife woman – who has a range of diagnosed psychological conditions – to jail as he had no other option.
Debbie Anne Ailanak had 49 convictions for violent crimes, including a bank robbery and dozens of court order violations.
She received a total sentence of 14 months for crimes that included threatening to stab a female worker inside Yellowknife’s day shelter and sobering centre, and then throwing a knife at her.
Ailanak also pleaded guilty to assault and criminal harassment for a string of incidents from April 19 to 24 at the Yellowknife women’s shelter.
On one occasion, an angry Ailanak showed up at the shelter covered in feces and blood. Refused entry, she pushed the long-time employee at the door out of the way before police were called.
On several other occasions, Ailanak would appear outside the same shelter worker’s home, screaming threats and insults.
Ailanak’s lawyer, who was also Leslie Moore, said the 46-year old was homeless at the time and has a range of diagnosed psychological conditions.
“Does Debbie Ailanak deserve jail? It appears there is no other option,” he said, referring to a lack of services for people with her challenges.