Pubdate: Thu, 31 Aug 2006
Source: Windsor Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2006 The Windsor Star
Author: Trevor Wilhelm


Drug Dealer Expected To Be Key Witness At Murder Trial

The teen who admitted to his role in a crack cocaine scheme that 
ended in Const. John Atkinson's murder said he was sorry Wednesday 
before receiving a 20-month prison sentence.

In handing out the sentence, Justice Guy DeMarco said he couldn't 
ignore the fact that the drug trafficking Coty Clifford Defausses was 
engaged in resulted in Atkinson's death, even if he didn't pull the trigger.

"It has to be put into the mix," said DeMarco.

"You are not the person who killed Const. Atkinson. You were engaged 
in a drug trafficking enterprise with the person accused of killing 
Const. Atkinson."

Defausses had been out on bail since pleading guilty in July to 
possession of crack cocaine for the purpose of trafficking. With four 
months credit for his 62 days of pre-custody jail time, DeMarco gave 
Defausses another 16 months.

Defausses and Nikkolas Robert Brennan, both 18, were arrested the day 
of Atkinson's murder after a massive manhunt through the streets and 
backyards of Windsor's east end.

Atkinson, 37, a plainclothes officer, was gunned down May 5 with his 
badge in his hand and his gun in a holster after interrupting an 
apparent drug transaction.

Both teens originally faced drug and first-degree murder charges.

But prosecutors dropped the murder charge against Defausses.

Brennan still faces charges of first-degree murder, use of a firearm 
while committing an indictable offence and possession of crack 
cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.

Investigators have said Defausses will be a key witness in Brennan's trial.

The families of both Defausses and Atkinson packed the courtroom 
Wednesday, along with reporters and several police officers.

Atkinson's widow Shelley, who made a rare appearance in court to hear 
the sentencing, did not comment.

Insp. Greg Renaud, a lead investigator on the case, said the sentence 
was appropriate for the drug offence.

"We can live with that sentence," he said. "Mr. Defausses is guilty 
of drug trafficking, he is not guilty of the murder of Const. Atkinson."

Shelley Atkinson fought back tears while listening to the facts of 
the case read out in court, which are protected by a publication ban. 
She closed her eyes and took deep breaths as she heard how her 
husband was shot in the head at close range trying to do his job.

Later, when the judge asked if Defausses had anything to say before 
sentencing, she leaned forward and listened intently, with her eyes 
fixed on him.

Defausses said only a few words.

"I would just like to send my apologies to the family."

Defausses' family broke into sobs following the sentence as he was 
led away. They also refused to comment.

"It's hard for the family," said Maria Carroccia, Defausses's lawyer. 
"He's been out on bail for a couple of months and doing very well 
abiding by his conditions. It's just difficult to watch him go back to jail."

Carroccia had requested a conditional sentence, meaning Defausses 
wouldn't have returned to jail. She said this was her client's first 
offence, he has admitted his guilt and he is cooperating with police.

"I think Justice DeMarco imposed a sentence that was appropriate," 
Carroccia said outside court. "It's more than the defence had 
requested, but also significantly less than the Crown was asking for. 
So I think the sentence is fair, balancing all the circumstances. He 
knew he'd have a sentence to serve, but he was hopeful he could serve 
it in the community. He's somewhat disappointed."

Federal prosecutor Richard Pollock asked for three to five years, a 
sentence which would have gone beyond the customary six-month to 
two-year range for the offence.

He pointed out that Defausses fled after the shooting. Pollock said 
Defausses was arrested three kilometres away, so he had time to think 
about what happened.

He didn't call 911 or approach the police, he held on to the cocaine 
he was carrying and he didn't try to help Atkinson, Pollock said.

"The accused was sentenced by a very experienced and learned trial 
judge," Pollock said after sentencing. "He considered all the factors 
and at the end of the day, Mr. Defausses is being held accountable 
for his conduct. Crack cocaine and violence go hand in hand (in) 
communities across the country. I'm grateful the court took into 
account Const. Atkinson's death and the serious consequences that can 
arise from crack cocaine trafficking."


- - Eighteen of the 36 homicides in Windsor in the past six years were 
drug related.

- - There was a 200 per cent increase in the use of firearms in crimes 
from 2000 to 2005.

- - The execution of 50 per cent of all drug warrants in 2005. required 
help from the tactical unit because the drug offenders were believed 
to have guns.

- -- Windsor Police Insp. Greg Renaud
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom