An attempted murder charge was dropped against an O’Chiese First Nations man who pleaded guilty to two lesser charges in Red Deer court on Monday.
Quentin Strawberry had been charged by RCMP with attempted murder in connection to a Dec. 2, 2019, machete attack in Red Deer. But this did not proceed in Court of Queen’s Bench.
Crown Prosecutor Stephen Hill dropped the charge, as well as a breach of recognizance charge, after Strawberry pleaded guilty to obstructing police and breaching the terms of his house arrest.
“The onus is on the Crown to prove guilt and, in this case, the Crown has not been able to do so,” so Strawberry remains not guilty of attempted murder, said defence lawyer Maurice Collard.
The lawyer called it a good day for Indigenous people in the criminal justice system.
“It shows the court system works for all, not just the privileged,” said Collard.
According to the statement of facts read in court, 911 was called after a machete attack on a man at the Potter’s Hands facility on 51st Street in Red Deer.
A large Indigenous male was seen jumping out of a second-storey window and heading towards the Street Ties facility.
Strawberry was found by police in the vicinity, sitting at the bottom of some stairs and bleeding “from a jagged wound.” When approached, he attempted to crawl away on his hands and knees.
RCMP officers noted the smell of liquor on Strawberry’s breath when they questioned him. Strawberry falsely gave his name as “Quentin Gopher” to try to throw the officers off the trail, since no one of that name was registered with police.
RCMP officers eventually discovered Strawberry’s real identity and that he should have been serving house arrest on the O’Chiese reserve west of Rocky Mountain House for a previous offence.
It’s ironic, said Justice Monica Bast, that Strawberry has used his home’s remote location, and his dependence on others for transportation, as reasons why he didn’t always show up in court — yet somehow, he managed to get to Red Deer, more than 100 kilometres from home, when he was supposed to be under house arrest on the reserve.
As mitigating circumstances, Collard described Strawberry’s dysfunctional upbringing in an alcoholic, violent home, where he was neglected, and the subsequent time his client spent in the foster care system.
He said Strawberry’s father and brother had both been murdered. His grandparents went through the residential school system, which caused inter-generational family trauma, he said.
While Collard admitted Strawberry has a lengthy list of previous charges (and faces an upcoming trial in March for an unrelated murder charge), he said the 39-year-old has had fewer police encounters over the past few years.
He recommended Bast give his client a total jail sentence of 30 days.
Crown Prosecutor Stephen Hill asked the justice for a 90-day sentence for Strawberry.
Bast split the difference and gave Strawberry a 60-day sentence, which was already fulfilled by the time he’s spent in pre-trial custody.