Deadly beating at Bordeaux jail was ‘well orchestrated,’ says prosecutor
Crown wants Tarik Biji, leader of assault on fellow inmate, to serve at least 15 years
The Crown has asked that the man who acted as a leader in an assault that resulted in the death of a fellow inmate at the Montreal Detention Centre be required to serve at least 15 years behind bars before he is eligible for parole.
Tarik Biji was convicted by a jury of second-degree murder this week for his leading role in the death of Michel Barrette. The conviction comes with an automatic life sentence but Biji’s parole eligibility can be set at anywhere between 10 and 25 years.
The victim was beaten for 23 minutes while Biji demanded that he turn over tobacco that Barrette had managed to smuggle into the detention centre, also known as the Bordeaux jail.
“It was an attack by a group on one person,” prosecutor Louis Bouthillier told Superior Court Justice Hélène Di Salvo on Thursday during a hearing at the Montreal courthouse.
He noted the evidence showed the assault “was planned and well orchestrated” with Biji acting as the leader.
Several inmates were involved in the beating. Footage recorded on surveillance cameras revealed some inmates acted as lookouts while Barrette was severely beaten and others stood guard in a corridor, apparently to make sure anyone sympathetic to Barrette didn’t seek help from guards.
A security camera also captured how, shortly after Barrette was beaten inside Biji’s cell, Biji joked with other inmates, inside a common room and mimicked the action of a person stomping on something. That evidence matched testimony from an eyewitness, who said Biji stomped on Barrette’s head five times while the victim was lying on the floor.
Defence lawyer Gary Martin told Di Salvo that Biji is not just the person who was recorded on the video cameras motioning other inmates into his cell before Barrette was beaten, and high-fiving inmates after the assault. Martin described Biji as a father of three young children who ended up in Bordeaux after he began abusing alcohol to deal with the deaths of three people who were close to him.
The attorney said that included the death of Biji’s brother, who was killed in an accident on a highway near Valleyfield while working for Biji’s paving company. Martin said the wrong section of the highway had been closed to traffic while Biji’s company worked on it and Biji’s brother was struck because of the error.
Martin said the employee who replaced Biji’s brother died of natural causes shortly after he started working for him.
Two other men — Garmy Guerrier and Jason Côté — were convicted of manslaughter by the same jury. Bouthillier asked that both be sentenced to 15-year prison terms.
David Petranic, the lawyer representing Guerrier recommended his client be sentenced to a prison term between five and seven years. Côté’s lawyer, Fanie Lacroix, asked for an overall prison term of five years.
Di Salvo will deliver her decision on the sentences in June.
While making his arguments, Bouthillier revealed that the strategy of defence lawyers who represented the three men during their preliminary inquiry was to make the argument that guards at the detention centre did not do their jobs properly.
Barrette returned to his cell after he was assaulted and his injuries were discovered by staff two hours later. He died before he could be taken to a hospital.
The question of whether guards were at fault for Barrette’s death was not part of the defence’s strategy during the trial.
Tarik Biji’s cell at the Montreal Detention Centre, where Michel Barrette was beaten to death. Biji was convicted of second-degree murder this week.