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

Montreal Gazette - - CITY - PAUL CHERRY pcherry@post­media.com

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.

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