A last-minute turn of events at today's sentencing hearing for a man charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a Barrie teenager has left the accused without a lawyer as the case was adjourned until mid-April.
Alexander Craggs, who was 18 years old at the time of the shooting, was charged along with two 17-year-old males with first-degree murder in the death of a 17-year-old victim on the evening of Nov. 19, 2021.
The male victim, whose name cannot be published, was shot outside a River Ridge Road home in south-end Barrie, near Golden Meadow Road and Hurst Drive. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
At the time, neighbourhood residents reported hearing multiple gunshots. Barrie police called the fatal shooting an isolated incident.
The identities of the two younger suspects, as well as the victim, are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Craggs, who was charged as an adult, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact of murder in December 2022. He appeared at his sentencing hearing on the accessory charge in a Bradford courtroom Friday, due to overcrowding at the Barrie courthouse, after previously pleading guilty. He is still charged with first-degree murder.
"In December, at the conclusion of resolution discussions, an additional charge (of) being accessory after the fact of murder was sworn," Crown attorney Lynne Saunders told BarrieToday. "Mr. Craggs pleaded guilty to that offence on Dec. 13, 2022. He was adjourned to today for sentencing on the accessory charge with the murder count remaining outstanding.
"This is quite normal because we want to ensure that the plea and sentencing on the lesser charge are completed before we agree to withdraw the original charge(s)," she added. "As a result of the proceedings today, both charges remain outstanding while Mr. Craggs searches for a new lawyer."
Saunders was referring to an unexpected change of plans that occurred when Craggs' lawyer, Stacey Taraniuk, asked to be removed from the case due to what he said were “statements that were made in the pre-sentencing report in Mr. Craggs' matter ... which leads me to the inescapable conclusion that Mr. Craggs should probably speak to another lawyer.”
Saunders said she agreed with Taraniuk, based on what she sees as “a significant contradiction between admissions made in the agreed statement of fact and comments attributed to Mr. Craggs by the author of the pre-sentence report.”
The court did not hear what those specific concerns were, but the justice of the peace agreed to excuse Taraniuk after hearing from both lawyers and getting approval from Craggs himself.
Craggs has been remanded until Wednesday, April 19 in a Barrie courtroom to allow him time to seek new counsel through Legal Aid. At that time, the Crown says they hope to set another sentencing date.
The two other people accused in the shooting are scheduled to appear in court May 16.