Cheesy Busts

Lifting cheddar, and other misdeeds that can land you in jail


Rating: NNNNN


courtroom 112. old city hall.Friday morning. I’m here for a sentencing hearing that I find out later has been rescheduled — again. The opportunity afforded in the meantime to take in the proceedings feels a bit like watching a bad Monty Python skit.

First up, a 19-year-old black kid who’s been sitting slumped in the back. Busted for riding the GO Train without the required $6.65 ticket. Sentence: $100 fine, six months probation and 25 hours of community work. He says he’s unemployed and can’t pay, probably the reason he was riding the rails without a ticket in the first place, so the judge waives the fine. Next up, an 18-year-old charged with theft under. His crime? Lifting a piece of cheese (retail value $4.71) from a local Dominion. Complicating factor: a conviction for armed robbery two years ago. He receives the same sentence as the black guy — six months probation, 25 hours community work. The fact that his lawyer got him a job with a tobacconist downtown seems to help. “I have a cigar locker there, Your Honour, and I can tell you that the owner has nothing but good things to say about my client.”

“Well, he is improving,” offers the judge. Yeah. The black guy should be so lucky.

In between, about a dozen drug cases are dealt with in very quick succession, most of them for simple possession of pot or coke. Most of the accused on these charges have already spent a few nights in jail and are now sitting in the prisoner’s box awaiting their fate. They’re sent back to jail.

A group of school kids on a day trip fills up the courtroom just in time to see the unfortunately named Mr. Lie sentenced to 15 days in jail above and beyond the 14 days he’s already served. His crime: breach of probation. He’s supposed to stay at least 500 metres from Yonge and Maitland. The cops picked him up at Yonge and Wellesley.

Less than an hour in, there are no more cases left on the docket. Many have been held over because their lawyers are not present.

The accused in the yellow jumpsuit in the prisoner’s box is so frustrated with the delays — apparently, he went through this yesterday — that he’s willing to proceed without a lawyer even though he’s facing the possibility of a penitentiary term. The judge reserves the matter for later anyway.

“I suppose we’ve run out of things to do,” he says somewhat sheepishly.

One of the provincial Crowns offers an impromptu lesson to the kiddies.

“Maybe we shouldn’t start court till 11:30,” the judge murmurs to one of the Crown attorneys.enzom@nowtoronto.com

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