Joseph Wuor, one of two men arrested following the December 2019 shooting outside the 202 bar in downtown Whitehorse, has been sentenced for drug and firearms possession charges. The sentencing decision was read by Yukon Supreme Court Chief Justice Suzanne Duncan on May 19, following submissions on sentencing by lawyers for Wuor and the Crown earlier in the week.
A trial last year saw Wuor facing charges of drug possession for the purpose of trafficking, possession of the proceeds of crime and possession of a restricted firearm without a license and while bound by a court order barring him from doing so. Wuor’s trial unfolded simultaneously with the trial of Malakal Tuel, who was convicted of aggravated assault for the shooting outside the bar as well as drug trafficking and firearms charges. Wuor was present at the bar the night of the shooting and was caught on camera running away immediately afterwards.
Wuor would ultimately be found guilty of one of the firearms charges he faced. This was because the gun used in the shooting was located under the passenger seat of Tuel’s pickup truck, which Wuor was sitting on when the pair were arrested.
Tuel was found guilty of possession of drugs for the purposes of trafficking, while Wuor was convicted of the lesser charge of possession. This charge was related to a little more than eight grams of cocaine found in Wuor’s suitcase in the back of the vehicle that both men were arrested in near Carcross.
A larger bag of cocaine was also found in the vehicle, although the judge was unable to conclude that Wuor was involved in Tuel’s drug trafficking operation, as the Crown had argued.
With convictions entered on the drug and firearms possession charges, the court heard sentencing submissions for Wuor on May 17.
The Crown, represented by Leo Lane, asked the judge to sentence Wuor to one year of custody for the firearms charge and 30 days for drug possession to be served concurrently. Lane conceded that Wuor could be credited with six months of time served, recognizing his time in custody before trial.
Lynn MacDiarmid, Wuor’s lawyer, sought a sentence of time served, hoping to have Wuor’s past time served under house arrest or curfew credited towards the rest of his sentence. Noting Wuor’s compliance with all his pre-trial conditions, MacDiarmid said that any additional time in custody imposed by the court should be served in the community under conditions rather than in jail.
MacDiarmid also noted that delays in bringing the matter to trial were not Wuor’s doing and that the court did not approve an application to have her client’s charges judged separately from Tuel’s.
The judge considered mitigating circumstances, including Wuor’s troubled home life and the racism he faced growing up in Medicine Hat, Alberta, as a part of one of the few Black families living there. The judge also recognized Wuor’s young age, 26, at the time of his arrest, and the stringent conditions of his house arrest as mitigating factors.
Wuor’s past convictions, including for assault and drug trafficking, were considered aggravating, as was the fact that he was bound by a court-ordered weapons prohibition at the time of the offence.
The judge noted that the law is clear that offences involving illegal handguns must draw “stern condemnation” from the court but noted that Wuor’s offence is on the low end of the spectrum where gun crime is concerned. In her reasons for sentencing, Duncan stated that Wuor knew that the gun under his seat had recently been used in the shooting but also found that there was no immediate risk to the public stemming from his actions. Duncan also found Wuor’s youth, challenging upbringing and past trauma reduce his culpability.
Duncan imposed a nine-month sentence for the weapons offence. Wuor will receive six months of credit for time served before trial, leaving him behind bars for another three months. The judge found a conditional sentence to be served in the community insufficient in this case. Wuor will serve a 30-day sentence for drug possession concurrently with the longer jail term. He will also be subject to an order barring him from owning a firearm for 20 years.
Lane said Tuel will be sentenced in September.
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com