No Jail for Mother Who Admits Swarmings, Lawyer Argues

Andrew Seymour, Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 2, 2008

An “extremely troubled and disturbed” young mother who participated in a pair of swarmings two years ago should receive house arrest instead of a jail time to allow her to look after her newborn infant, a defence lawyer argued Monday.

Adil Mohamed Omer, 22, pleaded guilty in August to two counts of robbery and one of assault for her role in the swarmings, which occurred about 70 minutes apart at the Rideau Centre and Place d’Orléans shopping malls on Nov. 14, 2006.

Court heard that Ms. Omer was among a group of six young women of Somali descent who attacked Chanel Marcotte as she sat on a bench in the mall, punching, kicking and pulling her hair before one of the women stole her cellphone and wallet at about 4:50 p.m.

The group, which included Ms. Omer, then travelled to Place d’Orléans by bus, where they cornered two more young women near some garbage bins before attempting to steal one of the women’s purses at about 6 p.m.

Court heard that the victim, Jamie Kennedy, was punched and had her hair pulled when she went after the person who stole her purse. Ms. Kennedy, who struck one of her attackers in the head with the handbag, was able to escape when a passerby intervened.

According to a summary of the facts read into court, the second robbery was part of a plan hatched by Ms. Omer and the other women to target a “white girl” from Orléans “because they were rich.”

With her four-month-old baby girl sleeping quietly in a stroller in the front row of the courtroom, Ms. Omer apologized Monday to Ms. Marcotte for the harm she caused.

“I just wanted to say I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you like that,” Ms. Omer told Ms. Marcotte, who sat in the front row on the opposite side of the courtroom crying softly.

Geraldine Castle-Trudel, who represents Ms. Omer, argued the young mother should receive a conditional sentence of two years less a day to be served in the community, including one year of house arrest.

“Now that I have a kid, a lot of things have changed,” Ms. Omer said when given a chance to address the court.

But assistant Crown attorney Matt Humphreys argued an eight- to 10-month jail sentence was more appropriate for the “violent” offences committed against complete strangers.

“Ms. Marcotte and the other victims are entitled to enjoy a day at the mall,” said Mr. Humphreys, who described Ms. Omer as the “main aggressor” during the swarming at the Rideau Centre.

Mr. Humphreys said the robbery and beating have had a “terrible impact” on Ms. Marcotte, who has since quit her job at a clothing store in the Rideau Centre.

In a victim impact statement, Ms. Marcotte, 23, wrote that the attack left her depressed and feeling inadequate.

“I constantly look over my shoulder. I feel like I’m being robbed and beaten every day,” said Ms. Marcotte, who suffered nerve damage as a result of the beating.

While Ms. Castle-Trudel agreed that the Crown’s argument for jail time was not unreasonable, she asked the court to make an exception for Ms. Omer, who has struggled with a difficult upbringing.

“With her young child, perhaps she has found her rock, her anchor, to becoming a productive member of society,” said Ms. Castle-Trudel.

The community’s “long-term interest is a productive member of society who will bring up a productive member of society,” she said.

Ms. Omer is expected to be sentenced on Jan. 6.

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