Officers pepper-sprayed during arrest in Sudbury

Sudbury Star

A man holding pepper spray in his hand. Getty Images / iStockphoto

For pepper-spraying two Greater Sudbury Police officers while fleeing a residential break-in last August, Justin Bowerman was given the equivalent of an 18-month sentence Tuesday.

“I am very encouraged, Mr. Bowerman, by your willingness to change through the time you have spent speaking to me and telling me you have the drive to change,” Ontario Court Justice Karen Lische told the tall, burly Bowerman standing in the prisoner’s box. “I believe you have the drive to change. I am not the only one. Your mother is here supporting you. Your sister will support you with a place to live. Your uncle says he can get you a job. All of these people have faith in you despite your atrocious record … I believe that you still have it you to change.

“But, the time you have spent in (jail), and it has been difficult, it is not enough. I have to do what is right looking at all of the facts. That sincerity — you may be angry after you hear my sentence — if it’s sincere, it will come back.”

Lische, who had been asked by defence lawyer Denis Michel to impose a sentence of one day jail to reflect the 259 days Bowerman had been in custody at a credit of 389 days (almost 13 months) and probation, versus a Crown call of two years less a day minus pre-custody credit, issued a total sentence of 18 months, minus the pre-custody credit. That means Bowerman will have about five more months to serve.

Bowerman, 30, who has been in custody since his arrest on Aug. 8 concerning a break-in at a Homewood Avenue residence in which he pepper-sprayed two police officers attempting to arrest him, had pleaded guilty last November to break and enter, assault with a weapon and breach of probation.

A pre-sentence report and Gladue report were ordered. A Gladue report assists a judge with sentencing options for people of First Nation heritage. Sentencing was delayed in March because the Gladue report not ready.

Lische also issued a lifetime weapons ban, a DNA order and a one-year probation order that includes a condition that Bowerman take recommended assessment, counselling or programs. At the time of the break-in, Bowerman was under a 10-year weapons ban issued in 2011.

In a lengthy speech to Lische just before he received his sentence, Bowerman said he was sorry for breaking into the home and for pepper-spraying the officers. He said he had been jumped numerous times in the past and he only took the pepper-spray can out after he had been Tasered three times, once in the back, once in the chest and one shot that bounced off his face.

“I went like this (circular motion with his arm over his head),” he told Lische. “I even ‘maced’ myself.”
Bowerman said he was done with a life dependent on drugs and crime and wanted to do something positive.

“I almost (overdosed) on Feb. 4 (in jail),” he said. “I don’t want to live like that anymore. I don’t want to be the old man in the jail talking to some kid. If you release me today, I know 100 per cent you won’t see me anymore. I know that in my heart …

“For the first time in my life, I realize that it’s not everybody else’s fault. It’s my fault. I don’t want to be the stupid old man in jail giving advice … What ever your (sentencing) decision, I’m ready to change.”
Bowerman has a lengthy record dating back to 2010 when he was a youth. It includes two prior break-ins as an adult for which he received four and 10-month sentences, and an assault conviction in 2011.

In his sentencing submission, Michel said that Bowerman had been physically, sexually and emotionally abused as a child, got into alcohol and drugs as a pre-teen, and has been homeless at times. In fact, noted the lawyer, Bowerman has spent about 20 of his 30 years in prison.

Michel said that when Bowerman gets released from custody, he has an uncle who can provide him with a job, a sister who will take him in and is also being supported by his mother. He said Bowerman wants to change the path he is on.

“He is understanding of what he has done in his life and he doesn’t want to go there anymore,” said Michel, referring to the contents of the pre-sentence and Gladue reports. “I need change … I know I can succeed if I feel I’m being supported.”

Assistant Crown attorney Maria DiClemente said the Crown recognizes the Gladue factors at play in Bowerman’s life and, if not for them, would be seeking a penitentiary sentence.

DiClemente said one of the officers Bowerman pepper-sprayed had to be treated at hospital, and noted that at the time of the break-in, Bowerman was on two probation orders.

The Crown also said Bowerman’s criminal record consists of about 70 convictions or about five a year since he was a 14-year-old youth in 2002, and features two break-in convictions, 22 property offences, three weapons convictions and 20 breaches of court orders.

“It is clear he is not getting the message and denunciation and deterrence must be emphasized (in the new sentence),” she said.

Bowerman’s mother and uncle attended the sentencing hearing.

hcarmichael@postmedia.com

Twitter: @HaroldCarmichae

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