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JONESIE: Thanks for nothing, judge

October 26, 2018 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


I want to tell you about this guy.

A couple years ago, he was in his late 30s, hard-working, skilled guy running his own business, taking care of his family, including two kids with autism. He’s involved in his community and had good reason to be frustrated with crime in his neighbourhood.

He and his neighbours were concerned about violent crime, drugs, property thefts and break and enters in the area. He started to get active in defence. He installed surveillance cameras and security equipment on his property and kept a close eye on nearby activities.

He’s six-feet tall, 220 pounds so one night, in February 2016, a neighbour called to tell him a man followed her kids home from school and was now on the property and appeared to be considering smashing in a glass door with a piece of concrete. Our guy runs after him and while on the phone with 911, he reports the man has a knife and as he does this, the man slices his own wrists and neck. Later he called in a report about a party and told the operator “we’re getting a bit fed up over here.” He called police again a month later because he caught a man in his yard. It appears no charges were laid. Two days later, he caught someone breaking a window to get into his vehicle. He "chased him down, game him a couple smacks and then he ran." Two weeks after that, he spoke with a cop investigating another suspicious occurrence there and said he was prepared to take matters into his own hands. That was the same day he found a man wearing nothing but underwear and a dust mask standing in the middle of the street. He told police the man punched his vehicle and threatened to kill him. Then he went looking for a drug dealer he was convinced was involved in the overdose death of a friend.

He or his immediate neighbours called police 39 times in one year to report crimes. If his neighbours were frustrated with police response, I can’t tell you. But he was. He told a 911 operator: “There’s gonna be some vigilante shit going on down here pretty soon if it doesn’t change. Tellin’ ya. This is not workin’... I got kids, man."

Does that sound like the frustrations of anyone you know? Maybe many people? Frustrated with crime and unruly behaviour? What seems like little response by over-worked and under-resourced RCMP detachments? In Vernon, one frustrated business owner recently got fined because he took a shopping cart of someone’s belongings to a nearby shelter. Others have dumped the same kind of stuff on the steps of City Hall. In Penticton, authorities are so frustrated, they recently openly discussed finding ways to shut down people who cook and serve food to homeless people who congregate downtown.

That's a long way from street justice, but they're early steps down the road.

You see it building everywhere, not just tough talk on social media anymore. People trying to slow down traffic on their own, trying to find their own solutions to discarded needles, even trying to solve homicides and major crimes because they are frustrated at what they believe is a lack of action. The Soldiers of Odin and their various brands, the Creep Catchers and their various brands actually organize under a banner of vigilantism due, to some extent, this same frustration (I actually have my doubts). 

I promised those groups that if they ever got hauled into court for crimes as vigilantes, the courts would come down hard.

Boy was I wrong.

The man in my story is Kristopher Teichrieb of Kamloops, now 41, and headed off to spend another three-and-a-half years in prison. His frustrations, you likely already know by now, led him to a violent confrontation with yet another person he found in his yard, June 19, 2016 — two weeks after the last. His dogs alerted him to an intruder in his driveway, an 18-year-old kid, at 4:30 a.m.

Jessie Simpson, 5’5” and 130 pounds was drunk and heading home from more than a kilometre away. We have no idea what he was actually doing there.

Teichrieb grabbed an aluminum baseball bat and found Simpson in the backyard. He tried to apprehend him, but Simpson managed to get away and made it roughly 90 metres from the property before Teichrieb chased him down.

The neighbours called 911 again, this time on Teichrieb.

They described seeing Teichrieb beat him with the bat, his fists and his feet, then drag him 15 metres back onto his property and beat him some more.

When police arrived, they found Teichrieb covered with Simpson’s blood, Simpson's face swollen, covered in blood, blood coming from his ears, in spasm and few signs of consciousness.

“I got him,” Teichrieb said.

Yes, he certainly did. He fractured his skull, several bones in his face, nose, jaw, elbow and back. It was essentially murder. Simpson will never regain meaningful consciousness and will spend the rest of his life in unimaginable pain. Catastrophic injuries, they called it.

Teichrieb was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in prison. Quibble with the sentence if you want, but it’s actually at the higher end of the range of sentences for aggravated assault, especially since Teichrieb had no previous criminal record. He got a longer sentence, in part, because the Crown said an aggravating factor to the crime was his admission he was acting as vigilante.

My complaint isn’t with the sentence, it’s because once again, the judge doesn’t seem to understand the point of sentencing.

It’s right there in the criminal code. Denounce the crime and deter the offender specifically — and society generally — from taking matters into their own hands like this.

Justice Dev Dley had to know the entire city of Kamloops struggled with this case for more than two years. Anyone who follows it knows it only seemed to spur more pro-vigilante sentiment. Teichrieb was defended by many people who said they would do the same and even some angry opposition also promised retribution.

If he looked, Dley could see the threat of it in his own courtroom as Teichrieb was surrounded at nearly all times by Sheriffs. They were prepared in case something happened, even, I suspect, sneaking Teichrieb in past the media cameras. They sized up the threat of vigilante retribution and they reacted appropriately.

So here you are, Justice Dley: You’ve got every media outlet in town here to carry your words to the community. We’ve waited all this time for this moment, this resolution. Police, courts tell us to be patient — the matter is before the courts — for just this occasion. We are ready to hear you publicly denounce and deter this kind of crime. 

We need and crave some wisdom on the subject. You are perfectly suited to this role, this position. Tell us the folly of people taking such matters into their own hands. Back up the police officers who warned him not to. Defend our slow, careful system of justice and make these frustrated people understand how it seeks to prevent this very thing.

Remind us that Teichrieb was legally fortunate Simpson didn’t die that night, that he could have gone to prison for life, maybe never again see his kids. Tell everyone that Teichrieb's frustrations were his own, nothing to do with Jessie Simpson. Tell us Jessie was innocent of the crime he paid for, he didn't deserve this street justice, that Teichrieb had no idea who he was or what he was doing, he didn’t even ask him a question. Say something to Jessie's broken mother, his friends and family who will watch Teichrieb walk — not carried by nurses — through that door to prison. Give them hope some good may come from this tragedy, if others may learn from this and spare the next kid in the wrong place with the wrong angry man. Create some greater good from this, please.

Say people who do this think they are good, but good people just don’t do this. I see great judges do this all the time, it's not unusual. 

Go on, judge. What do you have to say?

In his ten-minute sentencing, a recitation of facts, he used the word vigilante once, borrowed words like "extreme" "out of proportion" and simply acknowledged that general denunciation and deterrence are factors in sentencing — but no actual denunciation.

No bloody wonder we have a problem.

— Marshall Jones is the editor of iNFOnews.ca

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