Charge withdrawn in alleged 'hate-motivated' attack on Muslim woman at Southgate LRT

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An assault charge against a woman accused of committing a “hate-motivated” attack on a Muslim woman in an Edmonton transit station has been withdrawn.

Rene Cassandra Ladouceur, 33, was charged with assault with a weapon following an incident at Southgate LRT station on Dec. 15, 2020. Police alleged Ladouceur swung a shopping bag at a 23-year-old, hijab-wearing Muslim while shouting “racially motivated” obscenities and blocking her escape.

The case was one of seven allegedly hate-motivated assaults involving Black and Muslim complainants in Edmonton in a span of five months. They include an alleged assault on a mother and daughter in the Southgate Centre parking lot, a road rage incident that allegedly involved “religious slurs,” and an incident in which a man reportedly threatened to kill a woman and tear off her burka.

Ladouceur appeared in court Monday afternoon via CCTV from Fort Saskatchewan Correctional Centre. Crown prosecutors withdrew the charge related to the Southgate incident, but accepted guilty pleas from Ladouceur to a series of other offences.

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She was sentenced to 150 days in jail followed by one year of probation, during which she is to seek addictions treatment. With credit for time in pre-trial custody, Ladouceur has 29 days left to serve.

Among the counts to which Ladouceur pleaded guilty were two assault charges. In one case, Ladouceur admitted to threatening a Jasper Avenue 7-Eleven employee with a pocket knife. She also admitted to spitting on a stranger walking his dog on 104 Street during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ladouceur also pleaded guilty to one count of arson, admitting she started a fire in Louise McKinney Park that burned several square metres of dry grass.

Ace Yaggey, Ladouceur’s lawyer, told court his client is homeless and dealing with addiction. He said she was gainfully employed, had some post-secondary education and no involvement with the justice system prior to age 28, when “suddenly her life gets thrown upside-down.”

Ladouceur is a member of a Métis settlement in northern Alberta and has at least one family member who is a residential school survivor, Yaggey added. The judge considered such “Gladue factors” in Ladouceur’s sentence.

The charge related to the Southgate LRT incident was not discussed in court. Alberta Justice confirmed the charge had been withdrawn but did not comment further. The Crown typically withdraws a charge when there is no longer a “reasonable likelihood” of conviction.

Charges that are stayed can be revived by the Crown within one year. Charges that are withdrawn cannot be pursued further in court.

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Second case to make way through courts

Between December 2020 and April 2021, police laid charges in seven incidents which investigators with the Edmonton police hate crimes and violent extremism unit deemed to be “hate-motivated” assaults on Black and Muslim Edmontonians.

Police did not specifically charge any of the offences as hate crimes, instead recommending courts consider stiffer sentences under Section 718.2 of the Criminal Code.

Ladouceur’s is the second such incident to make its way through the courts.

The first case to conclude was that of 39-year-old Joseph Dennis Gladue, who was accused for attacking a Black man on Dec. 16 while allegedly uttering “racially motivated” obscenities. According to a transcript obtained by Postmedia, the issue of hate did not come up during Gladue’s March 24 guilty plea and sentencing, which resulted in a 180-day jail sentence.

Gladue encountered the 48-year-old victim just after 10 a.m. on Dec. 16, 2020, in a residential area near 92 Street and 114 Avenue. Neither man knew one another, but Gladue began yelling that the other man was “raping all the women,” Crown prosecutor Marty Gillingwater told court.

Gladue began to shove the man, who ran toward his home and tried to find something with which to defend himself. Gladue followed and knocked him to the ground, where he repeatedly punched the man and bit his index finger.

Police arrived after a witness reported the attack. Officers pulled Gladue off the injured man, who was bleeding “profusely” from the finger and forehead. Gladue continued to threaten first responders but eventually calmed down in hospital.

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Gladue pleaded guilty to a single charge of assault causing bodily harm. He admitted he was intoxicated at the time and that what he did was “a stupid decision.”

“That’s all it was,” he said. “It was a childish action … and I’m going to pay for it.”

Like Ladouceur, Gladue had no fixed address at the time of the assault and was staying with a sibling. He told Judge E.A. Johnson that he is Indigenous but declined to have a Gladue report written to consider what role intergenerational trauma played in his offending. He told court he “grew up on the streets, basically.”

The Crown produced a lengthy criminal record, which includes previous convictions for robbery, assault and uttering threats.

Gladue repeatedly apologized for “wasting the court’s time” and insisted on pleading guilty even without a lawyer.

With credit for time served in pretrial custody, Gladue had 32 days left on his sentence.

The case of Richard Bradley Stevens, who is accused of assaulting a mother and daughter wearing hijabs outside Southgate Centre on Dec. 8, is scheduled to go to trial Aug. 18.

jwakefield@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jonnywakefield

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