This story hasn’t received much coverage, but with it is a Canadian story, one which downright boggles the mind. This from Kelly McParland at the National Post.
The decision to put Toronto shop owner David Chen on trial for attempting a citizens arrest on a career thief grows more mind-boggling by the day.
For those of you not familiar with the case, here’s a capsule summary: Chen runs a small grocery store called the Lucky Moose Food Mart in Toronto’s Chinatown. In May 2009 a local thief, who had shoplifted some plants earlier in the day, returned to the store. Chen recognized him, gave chase, and — with some help — bundled him into the back of a van while police were called. Rather than thank him for his civic-mindedness, the cops charged Chen with assault and unlawful confinement while the thief got a reduced sentence after agreeing to testify against him.
The first day of the trial was a farce. With 17 months to prepare, the Crown hadn’t come up with a machine able to play the store video that showed Anthony Bennett, the “victim” of the tale, helping himself to some flowers at Chen’s store. Nor was the court able to find an accredited Mandarin interpreter (because, you know, there are no Chinese people in Toronto).
Day Two was worse. Bennett admits to everything: yes he’s a thief and a drug dealer, yes he has a record as long as your arm, yes he had returned to the Lucky Moose to steal some more, yes he lied to police, yes he lies under oath. No, he can’t be considered a reliable witness. Yes he likes to give shop owners the finger when they confront him.
Gee, Ontario justice system, we sure are impressed that you decided to enlist this guy to go after an honest shopkeeper who tried to stop the guy from stealing from him. Boy do we support the idea that David Chen should be made an example of, because otherwise honest people might think they had a right to protect themselves from people like Bennett. And we can’t have that.
Here’s what Chi-Kun Shi, a lawyer supporting Mr. Chen, has to say about Bennett:
“The guy is a living, breathing and walking mockery of our justice system,” she said. “He’s a product of our system. He has shown neither fear nor respect for the system, and no wonder. It has coddled him for the last 30 years.”
Hard to argue with that.
There is also an article by Peter Kuitenbrouwer up on the National Post’s website which has more information on this continuing story.
What started all this was one career criminal. Anthony Bennett shouldn’t have even been on the streets, not with his long history of theft and drug dealing. I am not saying that we adopt the Three Strikes Law, but I am saying that the criminal justice system has to adapt to deal with these serial offenders. The fact is that no amount of jail time will make these people law-abiding citizens. That is one of the flaws with our legal system, that with our obsession with rehabilitating offenders, we overlook the fact that many of them don’t want a “second chance”. Let us recognize that Bennett is one of these offenders.
So if our system refuses to deal with those like Bennett, what are those like David Chen supposed to do? After police refused to respond to his calls, the owner of the Lucky Moose grocery store decided to take the law into his own hands. When Bennett returned to his store to steal more goods, Chen, his brother-in-law Qing Ping Li, and his employee Jie Chen, held him until the police could come and place him into their custody. A ‘citizen’s arrest’ scenario, not one where he and and the others should be charged with assault and unlawful confinement. To add insult to injury, the arresting officer offered Bennett a sentencing recommendation if he would testify in court. Then the Chinatown grocer, as well as the two employees, were taken down to the 52 precinct for a “level three” strip search. Why was this action necessary? Well apparently the arresting officer found a box cutter on Chen, you know, the tool used by shop owners to open boxes? Urgh…
Where to begin? Well, the fact that this case has gone to court indicates that not only should the arresting officer be fired for misconduct, but the Crown attorney should also lose his job for even allowing this to go to trial. This isn’t simply prosecutorial misconduct, but sheer lunacy. Considering how far this nonsense has gotten, I definitely would question whether or not anyone involved had a prejudice against those of Chinese decent. It is the only reason that would make sense. Whether or not this is fueled by racism, Chen does deserve an apology from the city of Toronto, as well as financial compensation for the suffering him and his family endured. I am usually on the side of law enforcement, but I cannot defend what has happened. I also don’t advocate for financial compensation as the system, in my opinion, is abused, but considering all the trouble Chen and his family have been put through, I don’t know what else could be done to make up for this gross miscarriage of justice.
As I said at the start, this story should be in the national news. If David Chen could be arrested for defending his livelihood, it could happen to anyone. He might be of Chinese decent, but Chen is still a Canadian and he deserves to be treated as such. He is the victim, and Anthony, who has a long criminal record, is the offender, not the other way around… Mind-boggling…