June 16th, 2024

Court proceedings delayed while man seeks funds for legal defence

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on December 13, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A man charged with several sex-related offences stemming from a human trafficking case has been unable to hire a lawyer because it’s too expensive, the accused told a judge Monday.

Meriton Krasniqi said Monday in Lethbridge provincial court he is trying to retain a lawyer, but he hasn’t had enough time since finding a job to save enough money. He has also been waiting to receive disclosure from the Crown’s office which, court was told, comprises more than 3,000 pages.

Duty counsel lawyer Jeremy DeBow said the accused may be eligible for Legal Aid assistance, and he requested an adjournment for a week so he can send Legal Aid a referral and determine whether Krasniqi qualifies.

Judge Jerry LeGrandeur acknowledged Krasniqi’s problems, but noted the case is taking too long to get to trial, and a trial may need to be scheduled while Krasniqi looks for a lawyer.

“We probably need to start thinking about fixing something, because it’s going to be down the lane a ways, anyhow, which will still give him time to try and organize counsel,” LeGrandeur said.

Krasniqi was set to stand trial in September, but it was cancelled after his previous lawyer withdrew. The following month the court removed one of several conditions of Krasniqi’s previous bail release, which required him to obey a curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day. That enabled him to obtain a second job so he could earn enough money for a retainer.

Krasniqi pleaded not guilty Jan. 7 to charges of sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, sexual assault causing bodily harm, sexual assault/party to offence with another person, aggravated sexual assault, trafficking in persons under the age of 18, and two counts of sexual assault.

Police alleged that eight men and two youth from Lethbridge and Calgary selected and groomed a 15-year-old girl and took her to specific locations where sex offences occurred. The same individuals had also engaged in sexual activity with a 13-year-old girl, and three additional complainants came forward later in connection with the investigation.

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