July 18th, 2024

Robbery suspect fires fourth lawyer

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on March 22, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A Lethbridge man who complained his robbery case is taking too long to resolve, has fired his fourth lawyer.

“I’ve been in jail for 11 months now, and I still haven’t gotten my full disclosure yet or seen all of it,” Jamie Gerald Bagu told a judge Thursday in Lethbridge court of justice.

Bagu said his two most recent lawyers refused to provide him with his disclosure while he’s been in custody, and his latest lawyer made a deal with the Crown to refuse to provide his disclosure on a USB device.

“This has affected my ability to make progress in this case,” Bagu said. “We’re gonna lose our home in a few short months if I don’t make bail and can get out and work. Your honour, I beg the court I be given my disclosure in the jail.”

Bagu said his physical and mental health has suffered while he’s been in custody, and he plans to represent himself “for now” until he receives his disclosure.

Crown Prosecutor Michael Fox assured the judge there has never been an agreement between the Crown and any of Bagu’s lawyers, although there is an “undertaking” defence counsel gives when the Crown provides a copy of the disclosure relating to its dissemination.

“The disclosure does not belong to the Crown, it belongs to the investigating agency, and the agreement we have is that we get a copy for ourselves and we get a copy for defence,” Fox explained.

Disclosure typically contains all the information, including video footage and audio statements, gathered during the police investigation of an offence.

Bagu is accused of robbing the CIBC in the 500 block of 13 Street North on March 17 and April 11 of last year.

Police reported that in both incidents a man entered the bank and demanded money at gunpoint. The suspect then fled with an undisclosed amount of cash. No one was injured during the robberies.

A vehicle with distinctive features was recorded by a video surveillance camera leaving the area at a high rate of speed following the second robbery. Police later found the vehicle and identified a suspect.

Fox pointed out Bagu’s first court appearance was on April 28, and on May 12 he released his first lawyer. He fired his second lawyer the following month, two weeks after he was denied bail, and by July he had hired his third lawyer.

On Nov. 22, when a pretrial conference was expected to be held to set dates for a preliminary hearing, the Crown was notified that Bagu was firing his third lawyer, and she was officially released two days later.

On Dec. 7 Bagu’s fourth lawyer went on the record, and a pretrial conference was held on Feb. 22, during which a preliminary hearing was scheduled for July 17-19. Less two weeks ago the Crown learned the latest lawyer was to be removed as counsel for the accused.

“So this is Mr. Bagu’s fourth counsel that he has discharged,” Fox said. “The delay in getting this matter advanced soley rests on him and his decisions. The Crown has been trying to advance this matter since (the second lawyer) was first on the matter and we were trying to move towards a prelim at that time.”

Fox said the case is complex because Bagu faces two armed robbery charges and he has been denied bail. He told court that if Bagu has not retained new counsel before the preliminary hearing in July, the Crown will oppose a further adjournment and apply to appoint an “amicus curiae,” or friend of the court, to help Bagu during the hearing and ensure all relevant evidence and arguments are properly presented to the court.

In the meantime, Fox said he and Bagu can talk about the case and make sure the accused has all the disclosure to which he is entitled.

Bagu accepted some of the blame for the delays, and said he probably should not have dismissed his second lawyer.

“I took some very bad advice from other people that I shouldn’t have listened to, so I have made mistakes in this case,” Bagu said. “But your honour, I have not made progress in this case because of what my solicitors have done, not what I have done.”

The matter is scheduled to return to court April 4 to allow Bagu time to receive disclosure and speak to next steps.

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