Crown wants 12-year sentence for crime spree that started with ‘unprovoked, savage’ bus shelter attack

By | May 17, 2019

The man who beat an international student at a downtown Winnipeg bus shelter in what a Crown attorney called an “unprovoked, savage attack in a public area” could face up to 12 years in prison.

Joshua Zachary Alan Snakeskin, 28, pleaded guilty in March to four charges — including aggravated assault, robbery, theft and fleeing from police — in connection with a two day-long string of crimes that included the beating of a 17-year-old university student outside Portage Place Mall on Jan. 23, 2018.

During Snakeskin’s sentencing hearing in provincial court Thursday, Crown attorney Bryton Moen argued that he is a high risk to reoffend, given his long history of addiction and crime, which includes 30 convictions in total as an adult.

The most recent, the vicious bus shelter attack on the 17-year-old studying at the University of Manitoba, came just five days after Snakeskin had been released from Stony Mountain Penitentiary.

“Jail time has had little effect on changing his behaviour,” Moen said.

Joshua Zachary Snakeskin, 28, pleaded guilty in March to a number of charges, including aggravated assault, robbery and theft of a motor vehicle. (Josh Snakeskin/Facebook)

The victim was an international student who had been in Canada less than month. He was sent to hospital with serious facial and head injuries, including fractured bones in his face.

Surveillance video of the attack shown at Snakeskin’s sentencing hearing showed the student standing in the bus shelter when Snakeskin started punching him in the face, knocking him to the ground. The youth was repeatedly struck before the attacker stomped on his head several times.

Snakeskin’s lawyer, Aaron Braun, said his client was “under the influence of meth, in a paranoid and delusional state,” and thought the student was going to harm him.

“This behaviour came out of nowhere. It was motivated by delusion,” the defence argued Thursday.

Snakeskin’s mother, court heard, contacted police, saying her son was high on meth and she believed he was the assailant in the bus shelter attack. 

2 vehicles stolen, high-speed chase

The day after the bus shelter attack, court was told, Snakeskin was involved in another assault, two auto thefts and a high-speed police chase. 

Snakeskin went to Seven Oaks Hospital where, in the parking lot, he spotted a man in a car and smashed the driver’s side window. Snakeskin punched the driver in the face and tossed him out of the car. He then drove the car to Gimli, 84 kilometres north of Winnipeg, where the crime spree continued.

There, Snakeskin stole a truck and filled it up with more than $100 dollars worth of gas, without paying. He then drove back to Winnipeg. 

Snakeskin was found driving a stolen truck, which Winnipeg police brought to a stop near Portage Avenue and Albany Street on Jan. 24, 2018. (Submitted by Danton Unger)

On the evening of Jan. 24, 2018, Winnipeg police spotted the stolen vehicle in the area of Portage Avenue and Maryland Street and tried to pull him over.

Moen told Judge Lawrence Allen Snakeskin led police on a high-speed chase that involved more than a dozen police cruisers. When the cars had to abandon the high-speed chase for safety reasons, the police service’s helicopter took over and tracked the stolen vehicle as it sped through the city for about 20 minutes.

The vehicle was finally forced to stop because of flat tires on Portage Avenue near Albany Street. 

As police tried to stop Snakeskin along several streets, Snakeskin hit nine vehicles, causing more than $77,000 in damage, Moen said.

Gladue report

A Gladue report — which provides court with background on an Indigenous offender’s personal history to consider in sentencing — was prepared for Snakeskin.

Court was told he turned to alcohol and drugs as a youth. He was in the care of child and family services at the age of 12. Snakeskin’s grandmother was a residential school survivor, and his father was not present while he was growing up. He also had a close cousin who took his own life.

Moen noted Snakeskin was the only person in his family with a criminal record.

The Crown asked Judge Allen for a sentence of six years for the aggravated assault, three years for robbery, one year for theft and two for fleeing from police. He noted Snakeskin, to his credit, pleaded guilty to the charges, sparing the victims from having to testify.

A robbery conviction carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. The maximum sentence for aggravated assault is 14 years.

Snakeskin’s defence attorney argued the guilty plea shows remorse, arguing for a sentence of five-and-a-half years.

Braun also commented on the Gladue report, saying culture and tradition were valued but non-existent in Snakeskin’s life at a young age. Had he had a connection with Indigenous spirituality, he may have gone down a different path, Braun argued.

He also criticized Corrections Canada for placing Snakeskin at a Salvation Army shelter in Winnipeg’s core area when he was released from Stony Mountain, only days before the bus shelter attack, after serving time for a 2016 meth-fuelled crime spree.

“He was an addict, and he was placed in an environment with other addicts,” Braun argued.

After leaving the Salvation Army because of a bedbug problem, Snakeskin found meth on the streets again, Braun said.

The judge has reserved his decision.