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Judge hopeful syringe robber can get help he needs

The 35-year-old man will spend three more months behind bars before entering probation and counselling
The Sault Ste. Marie Courthouse is pictured in this file photo
"You are not a bad man, you just have an addiction problem," a judge told William McDonald when he sentenced him to 15 months jail for robbing a liquor store while armed with syringe.

"If you overcome that I'm hopeful you won't be back before this court," Superior Court Justice Edward Gareau said Monday.

He explained to the 35-year-old local man that he could have imposed a longer amount of time behind bars but was focusing on rehabilitation and reformation.

Gareau pointed to pre-sentence and Gladue reports that indicated McDonald has reached the point in his life where he knows that he must make changes.

"If Mr. McDonald is provided with an opportunity to resolve his addiction problems at a time when he is motivated to do so, this court is hopeful that the chain of the offender's criminality can be broken." 

McDonald pleaded guilty to the Feb. 21, 2018 offence at an earlier court appearance.

He grabbed three bottles of booze, valued at $99, from the shelves of the Station Mall LCBO. 

As he attempted to leave without paying, McDonald pulled out a needle and threatened to stab an employee if the man tried to stop him.

Assistant Crown attorney Trent Wilson called for 18 months incarceration, less credit for the accused's time in pre-sentence custody.

Defence lawyer Eric McCooeye proposed a 12-month jail term.

With the usual credit for pre-sentence custody, plus credit for restrictive bail conditions (essentially house arrest) this would translate into time served.

The court heard McDonald has a lengthy criminal record with 53 convictions, including five thefts, eight frauds, three assaults, two uttering threats and a March 2014 conviction for robbery using a firearm.

Gareau noted past attempts at rehabilitation and reformation have failed for an offender who has lived in a cycle of recovery and relapse.

The pre-sentence report indicates McDonald was exposed to excessive and destructive alcohol abuse during a childhood that was checkered with physical abuse and disruption.

He began using drugs at 13, escalating to cocaine, morphine, fentanyl and heroin.

According to the pre-sentence report, he indicated he used "as much as he could and as often as he could get it."

The judge said there are strong Gladue factors involving McDonald, who is a status member of Batchewana First Nation, but has limited knowledge of his culture because he was raised off-reserve.

He has experienced "many of the societal and systemic difficulties associated with his cultural background, including violence, addiction and displacement."

Gareau said an appropriate sentence can be crafted to reflect denunciation and deterrence while recognizing McDonald's needs and commitment to rehabilitation.

"It seems to me that much of Mr. McDonald's involvement with the courts is rooted in his addiction and substance abuse," the judge said.

"This is certainly the case with the offence the court is now sentencing him on." 

Calling it serious and "technically an armed robbery," Gareau said McDonald threatened the salesperson with a weapon.

If not for that encounter, the man essentially shoplifted from the LCBO, he said.

When he imposed the 15 months the judge gave him credit for 12 months pre-sentence custody, leaving McDonald with a further three months behind bars.

Gareau also placed him on probation for two years with conditions designed to get McDonald the services he needs to assist him with his difficulties.

During his probation, he must attend any recommended counselling and treatment programs, and utilize services available to him through Batchewana First Nation. 

He also must remain 50 metres away from the Station Mall.

Gareau also imposed a lifetime firearms prohibition.

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About the Author: Linda Richardson

Linda Richardson is a freelance journalist who has been covering Sault Ste. Marie's courts and other local news for more than 35 years.
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