A homeless man convicted of waving a knife at an A&W worker after being refused service last year was sentenced to time served, basic probation and a ban on going to the fast food restaurant.
David Jeff, 65, received the sentence in Williams Lake Provincial Court Friday following a two-day trial the week before on a charge of assault with a weapon and four breaches of undertakings relating to his chronic alcohol use.
Jeff, who sat quietly in the prisoner’s box while Judge Victor Galbraith handed down the sentence, already served 87 days in prison awaiting the trial.
“Many people would recognize Mr. Jeff or even know his name,” Galbraith told the court. “He has been a fixture on these streets for decades.”
At issue during the trial, and which was revisited during sentencing, was Jeff’s mental state – namely his ability to understand what was happening during the proceedings.
Jeff showed the same confusion during sentencing.
Several times over the course of the trial, defence lawyer Burdick Smith questioned how it was possible that Jeff was found fit to stand trial by a psychiatrist before trial.
“It is clear that he suffers from substantial cognitive deficits,” Galbraith agreed during sentencing, noting Jeff had a severe alcohol-use disorder which makes him hallucinate at times as well as a possible mental illness.
“Clearly many years of alcohol abuse has taken its toll.”
Consequently Galbraith said Jeff, who has about 130 prior convictions on his criminal record, couldn’t make a connection with his responsibility for the charges against him and there is little to no hope of rehabilitation from alcohol. He added Jeff’s inability to remember would make it impossible for him to follow a probation order with very many conditions because it would lead to an “endless revolving door of breaches.”
Homeless outreach worker Wayne Lucier and Jubilee Place manager Mike Charron were called upon by the judge the week before to give some insights into the difficulties which may have led Jeff back into the system after being trouble-free for some eight years.
Lucier said supported housing would go a long way in helping Jeff, as would some kind of court order which would see his recently issued monthly old age pensioner’s cheque dispersed in equal payments weekly rather than a large monthly sum, which is what has happened since Jeff turned 65.
Galbraith said there was nothing he could do about the money issue and he wouldn’t order him to stay at Jubilee Place because he doubted Jeff would follow the order.
“Mr. Jeff there is a place for you at Jubilee Place and I hope you go there, but I’m not ordering that,” Galbraith said, who then spent extra time trying to make it clear to Jeff that he could not go to A&W.
Jeff, who seemed to have no one for support in the courtroom aside from the legal aide issued lawyer, did try to speak to Galbraith during sentencing, though much of what he said was inaudible.
Then, wearing baggy prison-issued burgundy clothing, leg shackles and handcuffs, Jeff was led out of the courtroom by a sheriff and released from custody.
Afterwards, Jeff’s lawyer shrugged and seemed to feel the case was hopeless from the onset because Jeff never should have been found fit to stand trial.
“For people like Mr. Jeff, the system is broken and there’s hardly anything you can do for him within the present system,” Burdick said of Jeff, adding the closure of mental institutions has driven people like Jeff either into prisons or the streets.
On Tuesday morning, Jeff could be seen walking down the sidewalk along Mackenzie Avenue of Williams Lake with a friend, and carrying his trademark wooden guitar.