A man considered violent and likely to re-offend was released from jail after being sentenced to time served and probation for a Fort Simpson home invasion in 2020.
After his hearing in NWT Supreme Court on Tuesday morning, Robert Grossetete was free to leave the North Slave Correctional Complex and return to Fort Simpson, where he will be under strict supervised probation for three years.
Justice Shannon Smallwood reluctantly accepted a joint sentencing recommendation arrived at by the Crown and defence in exchange for a guilty plea and a dropped charge.
Concerned about the ability of probation staff in the Dehcho community to supervise the 54-year-old, the judge ordered Grossetete to report weekly to the RCMP detachment.
“This is a sentence that I would consider at the very low end of the range … it causes me concern and I’m concerned that it does not give sufficient consideration to the protection of the public,” said Smallwood, referring to Grossetete’s earlier psychological assessment.
In 2016, she noted, a doctor had concluded Grossetete represented “a high risk for further violent acts … so now we’re faced before the court with Mr Grossetete having committed a further offence of violence.”
Smallwood continued: “I’m concerned that some of the risk factors are still present today, and Mr Grossetete remains a high risk to re-offend.”
Smallwood said she is bound by a previous Supreme Court of Canada decision to accept joint recommendations unless doing so would bring the administration of justice into disrepute or be otherwise contrary to the public interest.
Sentencing judges are required to show restraint when presented with a joint submission “and my discretion to depart from [it] is very limited, and can only occur when a joint submission does not meet the public interest test,” she said.
“It is a sentence that has been imposed before for other offenders – albeit on offenders with less-significant records than Mr Grossetete.”
Grossetete’s criminal record starts in 1984 “with virtually no disruption,” the judge said, adding the gaps in it are periods when he was either incarcerated or on remand.
Grossetete has been convicted of repeated breaches of probation conditions and other court orders.
In 2017, he was refused a probation plan that included his return to Fort Simpson “as the probation officer felt there were not enough supports and services available in that community to ensure he would be successful and not incur additional charges,” said Smallwood.
“I’ve not heard any evidence of additional supports or services available in Fort Simpson. I doubt that there are now more or sufficient supports and services available for Mr Grossetete, and the plan I’m presented with is not just a concern because Mr Grossetete might not be able to comply with the proposed probation conditions … but also because, given his history, it may impact public safety.”
Shortly before his trial was due to begin this week at Yellowknife’s Chateau Nova Hotel, Grossetete admitted he broke into a home and committed an assault on February 13, 2020.
Grossetete was intoxicated and phoned his neighbour in a fourplex, threatening to kill him.
After the neighbour went to bed, Grossetete broke into his home and attacked him as he lay in bed, hitting him in the face or head several times.
The neighbour “ended up on the floor beside his bed on top of broken glass,” said the judge, adding Grossetete left after telling the neighbour not to call the police.
Approximately 30 minutes later, the neighbour heard noises outside his door and believing it was Grossetete returning. He hid in his bathroom and called RCMP.
When police arrived, they found an “angry and yelling” Grossetete swearing and threatening the neighbour.
“Police noticed broken glass and drops of blood on the floor beside the bed,” said Smallwood, adding the neighbour had a cut on his chin, was highly intoxicated, and required three stitches.
Grossetete had faced four charges: breaking and entering with intent; assault causing bodily harm; uttering threats; and obstructing justice.
On Tuesday, he was sentenced for the latter three counts, with the Crown and defence deciding on a sentence of time served and three years’ probation.
Smallwood noted Grossetete is an Indigenous male and Gladue factors must be considered, in which judges weigh the systemic or background factors that may have played a part in bringing an Indigenous offender before the courts.
Grossetete’s mother attended residential school and his family life was marked by violence and alcohol abuse. He has experienced homelessness and addiction as an adult.
Addressing the court, Grossetete apologized for his actions and to his neighbour.
Grossetete has been in custody since the incident. That 664 days of pre-trial custody is multiplied by 1.5, totalling two years, eight months, and 20 days.
Requirements of his three-year probation include that he:
- report to a probation officer as directed;
- report to Fort Simpson RCMP at least once a week in person;
- attend and participate in assessments to determine his risk to re-offend and take counselling or programming as directed;
- have no contact with his neighbour or be within 150 metres of his residence, place of employment, or educational facility;
- not possess any knives except for the immediate preparation and consumption of food or, with approval, for the purpose of employment or carving; and
- not consume or possess alcohol or any controlled substances.
Grossetete must provide a DNA sample and is subject to a 10-year firearms prohibition. He must reside in a trailer on a property at an address he provided to the court, and may not leave the NWT without permission.