A 20-year-old man who pleaded guilty to a string of home invasions was sentenced Friday in Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench.
Donovan Lee Assiniboine was 19 when he broke into two Saskatoon homes and then one in Regina in December 2014.
In the first Saskatoon case, Assiniboine stole an axe from a shed, then broke into the home next door accompanied by two or three other people — all of whom are young offenders whose names can’t be published.
The group chased the woman living in the house into her bedroom. Assiniboine later admitted to police that he used the axe to hack at the bedroom door. In a victim impact statement, the woman said she relives the incident every time she tries to go to sleep.
“I hear my screams and my pleading for my attacker to just take whatever he wants and to please leave. I hear his voice yell that if I give them money, they won’t kill me,” she wrote.
About an hour later, Assiniboine and his crew broke into another home. This time, the man living inside woke up to men standing over him, one with an axe, the other with a knife. The thieves forced him to hand over about $400 in cash, a gold watch, an iPad and his passport. They then made him give them alcohol, before marching him outside in his underwear and driving off in his truck.
Thirteen days later in Regina, Assiniboine and an accomplice burst into a home after a 16-year-old girl answered the door. A fight ensued between the home invaders and the girl’s parents. One man held a knife to the throat of the girl’s brother. The other man threatened to burn another child with a lighter. The men took off when they heard sirens. Police ran the men down, finding Assiniboine wearing a sheath, but without a knife on him.
Justice says bad upbringing no excuse for string of crimes
In his decision, Justice Richard Danyliuk wrote that it was clear Assiniboine’s childhood was a bad one.
“Mr. Assiniboine had an early life sown with chaos, neglect and uncertainty. He, as well as the rest of society, now reaps the consequences of his tragic provenance,” Danyliuk wrote to begin his decision.
As a child, Assiniboine moved between a dozen placements in foster homes. Danyliuk pointed to a pre-sentence report in which Assiniboine stated he first tried alcohol at age six, and was drinking and using marijuana daily by the age of 13.
While acknowledging Assiniboine’s circumstances, Danyliuk said many people from similar backgrounds don’t turn to lives of crime.
Danyliuk said he found Assiniboine’s lengthy criminal record troubling. Between his record as a young offender and run-ins with the law as an adult, Assiniboine racked up 53 convictions on counts from 27 incidents in a period of just over four-and-a-half years by the time he was 19.
“One would expect that at some point in the course of amassing 53 convictions in approximately five years, the light would go on for Mr. Assiniboine. It did not. It has not,” Danyliuk wrote.
The nature of the crimes also weighed against Assiniboine. Danyliuk pointed out that the Criminal Code of Canada has a specific section requiring judges to view home invasions as among the most serious of offences.
“(Home invasions) strike at the essence of society, at our feelings of security,” Danyliuk wrote.He added that it was particularly worrying that Assiniboine targeted total strangers — heightening the terror of his victims who had no idea why they were being attacked.
While Danyliuk noted Assiniboine has a Native Syndicate street gang tattoo on his right hand, Danyliuk said the role of gang ties in Assiniboine’s crime spree wasn’t proven thoroughly enough to impact sentencing. He wrote that while Assiniboine admitted to police in the past that he was a gang member, he currently claims to have no gang ties and even denies having the gang tattoo.
“Mr. Assiniboine must realize that his conduct is repugnant. He is not tough, or streetwise, or someone to be respected. He is none of those things. His actions in these home invasions were cowardly and weak, He has acted like a punk thus far throughout his short life,” Danyliuk wrote.
Danyliuk sentenced Assiniboine to 11 years in prison. With credit for time spent on remand, Assiniboine has about nine years left to serve.