Teenager Elias Schiller was on Tuesday sentenced to four years in prison for the manslaughter of Yellowknife taxi driver Ahmed Mahamud Ali in November 2018.
Supreme Court Justice Andrew Mahar said the four-year term was an “unusually low sentence, under the circumstances” as he announced the decision in a Yellowknife courtroom.
Schiller’s father, James, received a six-month sentence – which amounts to the time he has already served in custody.
He admitted being an accessory to aggravated assault, having tried to help his 18-year-old son avoid justice by lying to police and attempting to cover up evidence.
The elder Schiller’s sentence was a joint recommendation from the Crown and defence. The Crown had sought six years for Elias Schiller, while the defence had recommended four.
Mahar said Ali had been “a good, hard-working man who deserved better” as he delivered the decision to a full courtroom, with supporters of the Schillers on one side and a dozen members of the Somali community on the other.
“He was an important member of the Somali community here, in Toronto, and in Somalia,” Mahar continued.
The Schillers were originally charged with second-degree murder. Those charges were downgraded after a short preliminary inquiry last fall.
Elias Schiller, who had no other criminal record, has already been in custody for 436 days. That gives him 654 days of pre-trial credit, leaving him 806 days (or a little over two years) still to serve.
An ‘impossible situation’
Mahar, explaining how he arrived at a four-year sentence, said he had relied on a slightly dated Alberta Court of Appeal case, then taken into consideration the teenager’s early guilty plea and expression of sincere remorse.
The judge also weighed the several Gladue factors he had to consider when dealing with an Indigenous offender.
“There has to be some balancing,” said Mahar. “It’s not a brutal form of revenge, we have moved past that. This would have been a complicated and difficult trial.”
Ali was pronounced dead shortly after being found unconscious in his cab outside Stanton Territorial Hospital in November 2018. The City Cab driver died after being assaulted in the early morning of November 19 by an intoxicated passenger – the younger Schiller – who chased Ali down and “beat him to death on a public street,” Crown attorney Jill Andrews told the court.
James Schiller, 49 at the time, had attempted to cover up the crime and help his son avoid arrest. He has been on bail since last March.
The court heard the father lied to police about where he and his son had been at the time of Ali’s death; tried to cover up blood on the road where the assault had occurred; and anonymously phoned Stanton Territorial Hospital to alert staff to the injured Ali’s presence in a cab outside.
“What James Schiller did was criminal, but that night he was presented with an impossible situation,” said the judge. “He tried to protect his son [and] get Mr Ali help.”
The father and son both stood in court on Tuesday morning and offered apologies to the family and friends of Ali.
“I’m sorry, from the bottom of my heart,” said the younger Schiller. “I will have to live with the actions of that night for the rest of my life.”
Elias Schiller will have to provide a DNA sample for the national data bank and will be under a 10-year firearms ban when released. James Schiller will have to pay a $200 victim-of-crime surcharge to the court.