A Yarmouth teenager who was brutally assaulted months ago says her ongoing fear and trauma has seized her in a dark, sad place from which she cannot escape.
And following the sentencing of one of the people charged with assaulting her, she says it leaves her feeling that people don’t care about what happened to her – especially, she says, the justice system.
After pleading guilty to assault with a weapon, 65-year-old Jacqueline Elizabeth Angell received a 12-month conditional sentence in provincial court in Yarmouth on June 25, which the court says is “imprisonment within the community.” She will spend the first six months on house arrest and the last six months abiding by a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.
There are exceptions during house arrest. While under house arrest the court says she can leave the house for medical emergencies for herself or her immediate family; to attend medical or legal appointments; and to attend assessment, counselling or treatment. The court has identified the need to complete anger management and violence intervention during the 12-month conditional sentence. During the house arrest period she is also permitted to be absent from the home for a few hours every Wednesday morning to attend to the "necessities of life," as the court calls it.
The teenaged victim and her family are shocked, angered and disappointed with the sentence, which was a joint Crown and defence recommendation.
On Jan. 4 the 17-year-old girl (who cannot be identified because of a publication ban) was picked up by a friend, not knowing there were three others in the vehicle. Over several hours the court was told the girl was taken to multiple locations where she was beaten, threatened and terrorized. She eventually escaped and was able to seek refuge from the staff of a local business.
During that evening she was taken to an apartment on Green Street in Yarmouth by four others, where Angell resides. “The other people were going through her phone, they were looking at her text messages, and they were getting angrier and angrier with the victim,” Crown attorney Misty Morrison told the court, saying the narrative is that there were allegations concerning money. “She was assaulted within the home by three of the others.”
Rather than put a stop to what was happening, Angell became involved.
“The first thing she did was she put on black leather gloves. She stated that would be so there would be no fingerprints,” Morrison said, saying the woman began yelling commands at the girl and hit her with a wooded stick. She also grabbed her by the throat. “At one point the offender took the collar off of her dog and tried to get the dog to go after the victim. This was not successful,” said the Crown.
The court was told there were other assaults that occurred at the residence that Angell did not participate in. Eventually the four others left with the victim.
Defence attorney Kiel Mercer told the court, “Prior to the co-accuseds arriving with the victim at my client’s house, she had no knowledge that this was taking place. This wasn’t a conspiracy.”
He said his client lives with and cares for her uncle who has been diagnosed with cancer. She too has health problems, he said. His comments were not lengthy during the sentencing, but he noted his client had a fairly favourable presentence report, had no addictions and no anti-social behavior and there were “no problem areas” to cause concern of her reoffending.
The Crown noted by pleading guilty the offender had spared the victim of having to testify at a trial. But the Crown also said on Jan. 4 the offender did nothing to stop the assaults.
“Instead she helped to create a level of intimidation that added to the terror of the whole situation and in the end stood by when they left with the victim,” said Morrison. “This term of jail that the Crown has recommended be served in the community should send a message to Ms. Angell and others that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”
But the victim and her family say the sentence doesn't send that message at all. They say people have been sentenced to jail time for lesser crimes. And the family felt blindsided by the recommended sentence, saying it wasn't the same as what they held been told about earlier on in the process.
The victim’s grandmother said sitting in court and hearing the description of what had happened inside the residence was very difficult to listen to.
“We were just sitting there bawling. And then to have the slap on the wrist and for the judge to say with the pre-sentence report it wouldn’t look like she would be involved in something like this? These other people brought this beaten, distressed girl to her house and instead of getting her help, or trying to diffuse the situation, she participated in it," the grandmother said, saying it was upsetting to hear the offender had put on gloves so that there wouldn't be fingerprints.
“This will be with (our granddaughter) for the rest of her life,” the grandmother said, calling the sentence “ludicrous.”
The victim’s aunt agrees.
“This sentence shows nothing other than it’s okay. A 65-year-old, of all people, should have stopped this at her door, not allow it and take part in it,” the girl's aunt says. “How could anyone think that’s nearly enough punishment?”
A charge of unlawful confinement against Angell was dismissed as a result of her guilty plea to the charge of assault with a weapon.
The other four co-accused in this case are in varying stages of the court proceedings, with two still at the plea stage and two scheduled for preliminary inquiries. The others charged are Trey (Jadelyn Kristi-Ann) Rhyno, Danesha Russell, Ashley Comeau and a youth offender.
During Angell’s sentencing, Judge Claudine MacDonald mentioned repeatedly how the behavior of the accused made no sense to her, given the pre-sentence report, which she said was relatively positive.
“As a consequence of your actions, as a consequence of what you did – what you participated in, the assault that you committed – here is a person now . . . who has understandably suffered significant trauma that has an impact on her daily life. What happened to her. The way that she was treated. The way she was assaulted. The way that she was intimidated, it’s no wonder that she has suffered such trauma,” said the judge, calling Angell’s behavior “reprehensible.”
“Anything less than imprisonment, even if in the community, would not serve to denounce the conduct that you engaged in,” she told Angell, who declined the opportunity to speak when she was given the opportunity.
But the words with the most impact during the sentencing hearing belonged to the teenaged victim. Her aunt, struggling at times with her emotions, read a victim impact statement that her niece had written.
“My life was changed catastrophically on Jan. 4. I was violently assaulted by people I knew. People I thought we my friends. People I thought I could trust. I am paralyzed with fear. I have anxiety attacks. I am not in control of my own emotions. I feel detached, numb, sad, blackouts, anger . . . I am terrorized by flashbacks and nightmares. I am scared to leave the safety net of my home. I have significant trust issues.”
“I don’t understand why they did this to me. I cannot understand how people can do these sorts of things to other people…I am seized in this place, this dark, sad place. It’s like a vortex and it won’t let me out. I can’t breathe. I’m suffocating… My body feels heavy with pain . . . I have difficulty sleeping every night as I still have nightmares.”
The teenager said she has had to block people on social media. When she walks down the street she gets harassed. She is not able to trust anyone outside of her family. She is scared for her family as they have received threats. And she is scared to get into cars. She said the simplest things in life that people take for granted – and that she had taken for granted – have been taken away from her
“And I feel I will never have them back,” she told the court.