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Magnotta trial goes to day 7

MONTREAL - The jury will deliberate for a seventh day on Monday at Luka Rocco Magnotta's murder trial.

Day 6 on Sunday came and went without the 12 jurors reaching verdicts in the five charges against the accused.

Magnotta is charged with first-degree murder and four other offences in the slaying and dismemberment of Chinese engineering student Jun Lin in May 2012.

The eight women and four men deciding his fate began deliberations on Tuesday and have since contacted the court only twice — once to ask a legal question and once to get technical help.

Magnotta has pleaded not guilty by way of mental disorder and is trying to be found not criminally responsible.

His lawyer says he is schizophrenic and couldn't tell right from wrong at the time of the slaying, but prosecutors say Lin's death was planned and deliberate.

In addition to the murder charge, Magnotta is also accused of criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament; mailing obscene and indecent material; committing an indignity to a body; and publishing obscene materials.

The Canadian Press

Federal Polls Don't Agree

OTTAWA - A spate of public opinion surveys this autumn has prompted the usual end-of-year parsing of political fortunes and chin-stroking prognostications about a federal election that may still be 10 months in the future.

Stephen Harper's Conservatives are up. Justin Trudeau's Liberals are down. Tom Mulcair's New Democrats are out of it.

Reader beware.

In fact, a look at months of results from six different pollsters suggests Trudeau's Liberals remain imperviously buoyant, Harper's Tories have seen only marginal gains despite a number of issues breaking their way, and NDP fortunes are stalled, notwithstanding Mulcair's widely lauded parliamentary performance.

In the past week alone, national polls from recognized opinion surveyors have placed Liberal support as high as 41 per cent (Forum Research) and as low as 32 per cent (EKOS), Conservative support from 33 to 31 per cent and NDP support at 19 (Leger), 20 (Forum) and 17 per cent (EKOS).

Back in September, before an event-packed fall that supposedly moved the public opinion dial, Liberals polled as high as 38 per cent (Abacus and Ipsos Reid), Conservatives were between 30 and 31 per cent and New Democrats between 21 and 23., which aggregates political polling, says the average of all public polls put Liberal support last week at 36 per cent, Conservatives at 32 and the NDP at 20. In September, those averages were 38-30-22.

"It's important not to make too much of relatively small movements in the polls," says Paul Adams, a former parliamentary reporter and pollster who now teaches journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Nonetheless, Adams says by looking across the various polls conducted since the summer, "the race looks significantly tighter than it has."

The Canadian Press

Canadian shot at US border

The US border agency says a Canadian man was shot after allegedly pointing a handgun at guards at the Ambassador Bridge crossing between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit.

US Customs and Border Protection says in a statement the man stopped his car before the inspection booth around 3 a.m. Sunday and starting walking towards border officers while waving a gun.

It says the officers ordered him to drop the weapon but that he then pointed it in the officers' direction, prompting them to open fire.

The agency says the unidentified man was treated and released from hospital before being taken into custody.

It says the man has had "previous encounters" with Canadian law enforcement.

The statement says border and Department of Homeland Security officials are investigating along with Detroit police.

The Canadian Press

Still no verdict in Magnotta trial

Jurors deciding the fate of Luka Rocco Magnotta ended Day 5 of their deliberations on Saturday without reaching a verdict.

They will return on Sunday.

Magnotta, 32, is charged with first-degree murder and four other offences in the slaying and dismemberment of Chinese engineering student Jun Lin in May 2012.

The eight women and four men started their work on Tuesday and have written just two notes since then — once to ask a legal question and once to seek technical help.

Magnotta has pleaded not guilty by way of mental disorder and is trying to be found not criminally responsible.

His lawyer says he is schizophrenic and couldn't tell right from wrong at the time of the slaying, while the Crown says Lin's slaying was planned and deliberate.

The jurors sent a legal question Wednesday to Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer asking whether a personality disorder is a disease of the mind from a legal standpoint, something he confirmed.

On Friday afternoon, they sent a note to the judge indicating they weren't able to view certain videos on the court-issued computer in the room where they're doing their work.

Lin's father was at the courthouse Saturday awaiting the verdict.

On the murder charge, the jury has four options: find Magnotta guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or manslaughter, or find him not criminally responsible because of mental disorder.

The judge told the jurors Monday that if they find the accused not criminally responsible, that verdict must be the same for all five charges.

Besides the murder charge, Magnotta is charged with criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament; mailing obscene and indecent material; committing an indignity to a body; and publishing obscene materials.

The Canadian Press

Arrest made in WW2 vet break-in

Ottawa police say they have made an arrest and laid charges in connection with a home invasion involving a 101-year-old D-Day veteran.

Police say the vet was tied up in his home Thursday morning and robbed by a man posing as a city employee.

He later freed himself and called police.

Police say a 59-year-old Ottawa man was arrested without incident Friday after they received a tip. He has been charged with attempted murder, robbery with violence, forcible confinement, break and enter, and using a credit card obtained by crime.

The suspect, who has not been named by police, has a court appearance scheduled for today.

While the veteran was not named by police, Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino issued a statement Thursday identifying him as Ernest Cote, adding he had travelled with him for D-Day anniversary ceremonies and was honoured to know him.

The Canadian Press

Amber Alert cancelled

UPDATE -- 4:20 P.M.

Authorities in Edmonton have cancelled an Amber Alert for three children.

They say the boys — aged two, eight and nine — were found safe and unharmed several hours after being taken from a north Edmonton home on Friday morning.

Police said a man had been taken into custody.

Earlier in the day, they said they had been looking for Leonard Hutchinson, 50, who was described as being Caucasian, standing about six-foot-one and weighing 300 pounds.

Authorities in Edmonton have issued an Amber Alert for three children.

They say the boys — who are two, eight and nine — were abducted from a north Edmonton home at 9:45 a.m. on Friday.

Police are looking for Leonard Hutchinson, 50, who is described as being Caucasian, standing about six-foot-one and weighing 300 pounds.

He is bald and believed to be wearing a grey shirt, grey pants with suspenders and glasses.

He and the children were last seen in a 2002 Red Kia Sedona license plate BPB 6141.

It's believed the minivan is heading west from Edmonton and that Hutchinson may be with an aboriginal woman with long dark hair.

The alert says two of the children have the same last name, and police haven't given the last name of the third.

Jeremy, who is two, has curly blond hair and is three-feet-six-inches tall.

Eight-year-old Andrew Hutchinson has short, dark, messy hair and stands four-foot-two, and nine-year-old Damien Hutchinson has light-brown short hair and is also four-feet-two inches tall.

The Canadian Press

Long sentence for escapees

The three men who spectacularly broke out of a Quebec jail by helicopter last June were sentenced Friday to between 16 and 22 years in prison on drug charges.

Serge Pomerleau, Denis Lefebvre and Yves Denis were found guilty in October of conspiracy, gangsterism and drug trafficking.

On those charges, Pomerleau, Lefebvre and Denis were given prison terms of 22, 20 and 16 years respectively.

Before being sentenced, the three pleaded guilty to breaking out of jail and, as a consequence, Quebec Superior Court Justice Louis Dionne added an extra year to their sentences.

Pomerleau and Lefebvre were also ordered to pay $3.2 million and $1.3 million respectively within five years, or face more years in prison.

The three men ran a drug-trafficking cell in northwestern Quebec from 2007 to 2010. Police allege the trio sold more than 640 kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated $64 million.

The Canadian Press

101-year-old WW2 vet robbed


Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino is expressing outrage that a Second World War veteran was robbed in his home on Thursday.

Fantino issued a statement saying he is deeply angry that someone would do such a thing to Ernest Cote, who he said was a D-Day veteran who landed on Juno Beach on June 6,1944.

Fantino travelled to France earlier this year with the 101-year-old veteran for D-Day anniversary ceremonies and says he is honoured to know him.

Ottawa police have not named Cote as the victim, but said a 101-year-old man was tied up in his home Thursday morning and robbed by a man posing as a city employee.

Investigators say the man was alone in his apartment around 7:30 a.m. when a man claiming to work for the city asked to be buzzed in.

They say the phoney employee went to the apartment and asked for money at the door, then forced his way inside when his demands weren't met.

Police say the intruder bound the man and took undisclosed items from the apartment.

They say the man later managed to free himself and call police.

Neighbours have identified the alleged victim as Cote.

"I am angry to think that someone would do such a thing to any Canadian senior, let alone someone who fought to secure the freedom we all enjoy," Fantino said in the statement.

“I hope that the person who did this will face the full force of the law.”

Police are seeking a suspect but have made no arrests.

The Canadian Press

Drunken ice bucket challenge arrest

A man has been arrested in North Battleford, Sask., after his ALS ice-bucket challenge misfired.

Mounties were called to a hotel after getting a call about a drunken, agitated man causing a scene and claiming he had been assaulted.

Witnesses said he wanted to take the challenge and convinced people to dump a bucket of ice water on him.

Trouble was, bystanders forgot to videotape the stunt and the water was colder than he expected, which made him angry and prompted him to kick everyone out of his room.

Police said the man was taken into custody because he had breached several court conditions, including not consuming alcohol.


The Canadian Press

Drug bust has ties to cartel

A large drug bust in Alberta has broken up a family that is allegedly connected to cartels and gangs in both Mexico and El Salvador.

Four members of the La Familia gang, including club president Jose Antonia Monterrey, were arrested earlier this month, according to a release from the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team.

They say the group is connected to the Mara Salvatrucha gang from El Salvador, which also has ties to Mexican drug cartels, and was attempting to gain control of the drug distribution channels in Alberta.

It’s alleged the group was supplying drug lines in Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Drayton Valley, Lloydminster, and Red Deer.

The Alberta chapter of La Familia wore a three-piece patch similar to outlaw motorcycle groups and had an established rank structure and club rules.

Along with the 33-year-old Monterrey, who was arrested while attempting to board a flight at the Edmonton airport, ALERT also arrested Peter Alan Griffon, 34, Cody Sterling Tremblett, 28, and Penny Sue Fleming, 34.

They face 40 combined drug and weapons related charges.

The arrests coincided with drug busts at three Edmonton area homes where an estimated $600,000 worth of drugs were seized, including:

  • 5 kilograms of cocaine
  • 2.7 kilograms of MDMA
  • 2 kilograms of a buffing agent
  • Oxycodone pills
  • Cocaine press
  • $45,000 in cash proceeds of crime

A variety of firearms and weapons were also seized:

  • Two .22 caliber rifles, one equipped with a silencer
  • .44 caliber Desert Eagle handgun
  • Sawed-off shotgun
  • Thousands of rounds of ammunition
  • Body armour vests.

Duck helper off to jail

A woman who caused a fatal traffic accident after stopping her car to help ducks on a busy highway has been sentenced to 90 days in prison.

Emma Czornobaj will serve the time on weekends.

The sentence handed down in Montreal this morning also prohibits her from driving for 10 years.

After Czornobaj stopped her car in June 2010 to rescue ducklings on the side of the highway, a motorcycle carrying the victims —Andre Roy and his teenager daughter Jessie — slammed into her car.

A jury convicted her of two counts of criminal negligence causing death and two counts of dangerous driving causing death.

The Crown was seeking nine months of detention and 240 hours of community service, while the defence argued she should only get the community service.

Czornobaj is appealing her conviction.

The Canadian Press

Guilty of killing, burning woman

A man accused of killing a woman he met in a bar a decade ago and burning her body was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison with no parole for 15 years.

Douglas Hales, 36, was found guilty of second-degree murder and offering indignity to human remains in the death of Daleen Bosse in 2004. He had been charged with first-degree murder but the judge ruled the killing was not planned or deliberate.

It was an emotional day for Bosse's relatives, who had spent four years searching for her before getting the call in 2008 that her body had been found burned in an abandoned dumpsite.

In their victim impact statements, the family members described their horror at hearing Hales on recordings made by undercover officers, dismissing the 25-year-old university student and mother as an aboriginal woman who, in his view, no one cared about.

"I failed my sister. I failed as her protector," said Bosse's brother, choking back tears as he read his statement. He was interrupted by Justice Gerald Allbright, who told him that he hadn't failed anyone.

Bosse's mother, Pauline Muskego, had critical words for the media, saying she was disappointed a request for a publication ban wasn't honoured and saying the news coverage added to the family's pain.

Hales was the subject of a so-called Mr. Big sting in which RCMP officers posed as members of a criminal organization, inviting him to tell them about his previous crimes in order to be recruited into the gang.

A verdict in the case was delayed after a Supreme Court ruling changed the rules for evidence gathered by undercover police. However, Allbright said in this case, the Saskatchewan RCMP had met all the proper standards.

He also said Hales lied about details in his testimony, adding he didn't buy Hales's story that Bosse died of alcohol poisoning after they'd left the bar and driven out to a rural area to continue drinking.

Given a chance to speak before Allbright decided on a sentence, Hales apologized and wept, saying: "I don't expect anyone to forgive me. I don't deserve it."

Hales' lawyer, Bob Hrycan, said outside court he is preparing an appeal based on the Supreme Court's decision on how how RCMP sting evidence is to be handled by the courts.

The Canadian Press

Eaton Centre shooter guilty

A man accused in a shooting at Toronto's Eaton Centre was found guilty Wednesday of second-degree murder in the deaths of two men who were killed at the popular downtown mall two years ago.

Christopher Husbands was also found guilty of five counts of aggravated assault and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The second-degree murder convictions carry a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years.

His lawyer Dirk Derstine said his client is disappointed with the verdict but took solace the jury didn't convict him on the original charges of first-degree murder.

"He was sad. He was hoping for better but certainly the jury at least found that he was not guilty of a planned and deliberate murder."

Derstine said Husbands will appeal.

Husbands had admitted to fatally shooting Nixon Nirmalendran and Ahmed Hassan and wounding five others in June 2012, but had pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.

His defence lawyers had argued that the 25-year-old should be found not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder.

They had said the post-traumatic stress disorder Husbands developed after a vicious beating and stabbing months before the mall shooting triggered an intense emotional reaction when he saw two of his assailants in the Eaton Centre food court.

Husbands went into a "robotic" state as he fired off 14 shots, they argued, and saw only dark shadows and heard only "pins dropping" as pandemonium erupted around him.

The Crown, meanwhile, had argued that Husbands opened fire at the mall because he was determined to get revenge on the men who had attacked him months earlier.

Husbands's PTSD was "far from disabling," they had countered, and he was in full control of his mental faculties during the shooting, as was demonstrated by video surveillance footage played at the trial.

The judge presiding over the case had instructed jurors to weigh all the evidence before them, including Husbands's testimony, the opinions of psychiatrists called by the defence and the Crown, and the video footage from the mall, which he called "the best witness" in the case.

Husbands — who was also found guilty of discharge of firearm — stood in the prisoner's box with his hands clasped and was seen shaking his head after the 12-member jury delivered their unanimous verdict.

A critical issue at the trial was Husbands's state of mind at the time of the mall shooting, but his defence lawyers' argument that Husbands was not criminally responsible for the incident was one which caught the Crown off-guard mid-trial.

When it became clear that Husbands's lawyers were going down that route following a psychiatrist's evaluation of Husbands, Crown prosecutors had to rush to find their own psychiatrist to assess Husbands in a very short period of time — a scramble that took place unbeknownst to the jurors.

Mental health experts on both the defence and Crown sides testified that Husbands had PTSD, but the extent to which it rendered him incapable of appreciating his actions at the mall was in dispute.

The trial head that Husbands, who immigrated to Canada at age 11 after being born in Guyana, fell into drug dealing in a rough Toronto neighbourhood and was in and out of school.

Jurors heard that a turning point in his life was the February 2012 attack on him, in which Nirmalendran, a childhood friend, was one of the assailants.

Husbands told his trial he was going to deliver some drugs to Nirmalendran but was set upon as soon as he entered an apartment. He testified he was punched, his legs were taped, a gun was held to his head and he was severely beaten and stabbed.

The trial heard that Husbands managed to eventually make it out of that apartment and collapsed in a pool of blood on a street, where he was found by a passerby.

That attack left him paranoid and fearful, led to flashbacks and a fear of crowds, Husbands testified, and he believed his assailants were out to kill him.

On the day he went to the Eaton Centre in June 2012, the trial heard that Husbands was walking around with a fully loaded gun — given to him by a friend a day earlier to look after, he said. He testified the firearm made him feel safer because he knew the men who had attacked him carried guns.

Central to the trial was what happened in the minutes before the shooting at the mall.

Husbands testified that as he was standing in the mall's food court when he heard Nirmalendran say "shoot him" and saw another man reach for his pocket.

He said he did not remember exactly what happened next as he panicked at the sight of his assailants.

Jurors were cautioned by the judge that they had to determine whether Husbands's statements about what he heard and saw at the food court were true, and if his testimony wasn't believed, there was "no evidential basis to find that he experienced a disassociative state."

Video surveillance footage shows Husbands opening fire, holding a gun with both hands, and pumping several shots into a man lying on the ground.

The Canadian Press

Wildrose politicians leave party

Alberta's Opposition leader says she and eight of her Wildrose caucus colleagues joined the province's Progressive Conservative government on Wednesday because they needed to be "at the table, not outside the door."

Danielle Smith and Premier Jim Prentice took turns praising each other at a joint late-day news conference that confirmed speculation that had been swirling for two days.

"Today we stand together ready to move on from past partisan rivalries and lead Alberta with renewed focus and a strong sense of purpose," said Smith.

She said her party had worked hard to push for balanced budgets, elimination of wasteful spending, a respect for property rights and ethics in government.

"Over the course of the last several months, I've become more and more convinced that these are values I share with Premier Prentice," Smith said.

"Past premiers have merely paid lip service to these issues, saying the right things, and then doing the opposite, but Premier Prentice has shown me and my caucus that he is different."

Smith's resignation letter, released just before the news conference at Government House, said Prentice has indicated that any elected Wildrose members choosing to join his PCs will play "key roles in a united government."

Prentice thanked Smith and said she showed great "personal courage" in her decision.

He suggested that the current global economic uncertainty makes it important for conservatives to work together and suggested he would welcome any other Wildrose members who want to join him.

"We need all conservatives pulling in the same direction," he said.

"These (members of the legislature) are both wanted and needed in our government caucus as part of our team. Alberta is stronger today with these committed Albertans working together."

Prentice said his government once again represents "the full diversity of voices and regions from across Alberta – north, south, urban and rural.”

Smith was asked what she would tell the 400,000 supporters who voted for the party, helped her campaign and donated money.

"I'm asking Wildrose members to come with us," she replied.

She said she didn't feel she could remain leader of the Opposition.

"If you're going to be the official Opposition leader, you have to really want to take down the government and really take down the premier," she said. "I don't want to take down this premier.

"I want this premier to succeed and I want to be part and parcel of helping him succeed."

Prentice and Smith are calling the move the "unification of Alberta’s conservatives

The defections leave the Wildrose with five sitting members in the 87-seat legislature. The Liberals also have five members and the NDP have four. Former Wildrose member Joe Anglin sits as an Independent.

It was not immediately clear Wednesday what party will form the official Opposition, given that the Liberals and Wildrose now have the same number of seats.

The Canadian Press

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