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Laundry coin thief slept, ate on floor of ant-infested cell: lawyer

On the other hand, the Crown points out that he committed several of his crimes while out on bail for earlier burglaries
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Steven Turco's lawyer argued Thursday that he should receive enhanced credit for the time he has spent under "harsh conditions" in pre-sentence custody at the Algoma Treatment and Remand Centre.

Jessica Belisle maintained that her 34-year-old client should be given two-for-one credit for the 200 days he has been behind bars at the local facility.

With this credit, Turco would be deemed to have served 400 days for the offences he has been convicted of committing.

The usual credit judges give offenders is 1.5 days for each day in pre-sentence custody.

Belisle told Ontario Court Justice Romuald Kwolek that he has the ability to increase the credit when there are harsh conditions and adverse effects flowing from them.

Turco has been double-bunked in an ant-infested cell designed for one person, sleeping on the floor, eating all his meals there, and has been prescribed increased medications for his anxiety and other issues, she said.

"He wakes up with ants crawling across his face," Belisle said. "He slept and ate and did Bible study in the same spot for six months."

She urged the judge to place him on probation for two years.

Turco pleaded guilty Tuesday to 14 offences stemming from a two-month break-in spree, targeting laundry rooms at numerous apartment buildings, earlier this year.

The Crown is seeking a jail term of two years a less day, which prosecutor David Didiodato described as "the lowest sentence available in law" for the number of crimes Turco was involved in.

He committed 50 offences, including 13 break-ins to buildings where he damaged laundry machines to extract coins from them between Dec. 23 and Feb. 19, the assistant Crown attorney said.

Didiodato noted six of the break-ins occurred after Turco had been released on bail after being charged with seven burglaries.

The offences occurred over a protracted period of time, were planned, and Turco went to specfic buildings with tools, such as drills, screwdrivers and magnets on a wire.

"The break-ins were flagrant, going back to the same places in the middle of the night and breaking in while he was on bail."

For just one of these break-ins Turco could be sentenced to one-year jail, Didiodato argued.

The sentence proposed by the defence would be less than one month for each B and E, and not take into account of the myriad of other offences the accused committed.

The jail term should be followed by two years probation, he said.

Didiodato opposed an enhanced credit for Turco's pre-sentence custody.

Evidence the court heard from Turco and an ATRC official indicated that the range where he is housed was in various stages of lockdown during 60 of the last 90 days, he noted

The lockdowns were for varying time periods, but were not for 24 hours.

"The crux of the argument is whether the amount of lockdowns caused harsh conditions. I don't think so."

Belisle said the court must also taken into account Turco's Indigenous heritage, his guilty pleas and the considerable gap in his criminal record.

Her client has struggled with addiction and mental health issues, and indicated if he didn't turn himself in he was going to be dead.

"He was addicted to just about any street level drug he could get his hands on."

The six months he has spent in jail has been a turning point for Turco, and he is remorseful, Belisle said.

"He said 'I'm willing to do anything this court feels fit.'"

Kwolek reserved his decision until Sept. 17.

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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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