Monday, November 2, 2009

Hero or villain? A man takes a stand and pays a price.

What went down: Career shoplifter and convicted thief Anthony Bennett returns to David Chen's Toronto store for the second time that day on May 23. He has been videotaped stealing from Chen an hour earlier, and is notorious for repeatedly stealing from neighbourhood merchants in the past. Now he's back to scoop up some more stuff. This time the shopkeeper offers him the chance to pay for the items stolen earlier. Bennett takes off, Chen gives chase, Chen apprehends Bennett, the police charge Bennett with theft, and he later gets 30 days in jail.

So far, sounds like the way things ought to work, right? Honest, hardworking merchant grabs serial scumbag, who gets sent to the slammer.

Nope, the cops also lodge four charges against Chen, on the basis that he did not grab Bennett in the actual act. The cops can arrest the guy for the theft committed earlier, but Chen can not legally go after him for that crime, even though it's on tape. All clear now?

It gets worse. Bennett gets to serve time for another theft concurrently with his sentence for this one, because he agrees to testify against Chen. The thief gets rewarded for testifying against the victim.

The charges: Chen is charged with assault, forcible confinement, carrying a concealed weapon (a boxcutter, which he uses in his business), and kidnapping.

The offer: Plead guilty to two of the four charges, and serve no jail time.

The reply: Mr.Chen and his lawyer say, "No thanks," and will take their chances with a jury trial. As Chen runs a small business, the trial will be a major hardship, his means of earning a livelihood put on hold and legal bills piling up.

There's a bad smell around this one. Stay tuned.

Update: On October 29, 2010, Chen is acquitted of all charges. Justice prevails.

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