Update: see previous posts – July 22, 2011 G20 Investigator Wants Law to Ban Disguises After 17 Suspects Unidentified, July 21, 2011 Toronto Police Chief Blair’s Report on the G20 is Deferred, June 25, 2011 G20 Summit Toronto – First Anniversary (June 26 & 27, 2011), June 18, 2011 Harper Falls Short on Toronto Businesses’ G20 Claims, June 10, 2011 G20 – Final Public Hearing for the Toronto Police’s Civilian Review, June 10, 2011 G20 – Another Arrest, June 7, 2011 G20 Update – Who Assaulted Adam? Nooobody!, June 1, 2011 Ottawa Police Enjoy Their Share of the G20 Money Pie, McGuinty to Scrap the Secret G20 Law (1939 Public Works Protection Act), March 31, 2011 The “G20 Bump” Translates into a 60% Increase of Toronto Police Making the 2010 Sunshine List, March 19, 2011 Harper Screws Toronto’s Businesses, March 18, 2011 New G20 Lawsuits Launched Against Toronto Police Board, December 7, 2010 Ontario Umbudsman André Marin Delivers Report on G20 “Caught in the Act”, August 8, 2010 G20 Litigation, August 1, 2010 Damage$ Flowing from Charter Breaches
see source Toronto Star Brendan Kennedy
Lekang Mdlongwa was sentenced Thursday to 21 months in jail for setting fire to a police car during last year’s G20 riots.
More than three weeks after last year’s G20 weekend, the Toronto detectives investigating all G20-related crimes had yet to identify anyone responsible for setting fire to their police cars.
Around that time, Staff Insp. Randy Franks — one of two senior officers in charge of the unit — walked into the investigation’s headquarters on Birmingham St. in the city’s west end and laid down that week’s Maclean’s magazine in front of lead investigator, Det. Sgt. Gary Giroux.
Splashed across the centre spread was one of their most-wanted suspects: a masked man wearing a red-and-blue UNICEF soccer jersey, running away from the flaming cruiser with what Giroux describes as a “cat’s-swallowed-the-canary” expression on his face.
The photo seemed to be mocking him, Giroux says.
“It was a little bit of a shot in the arm to say, ‘C’mon, let’s dig deep.’”
Two months later, after a tip from the public, police arrested Lekang Mdlongwa, who was sentenced in an Old City Hall courtroom on Thursday to six more months in jail.
Justice Rebecca Shamai credited Mdlongwa with 15 months for the 10 months and 11 days he has spent in pre-trial custody, so his additional six months will make the total 21 months.
Shamai did not sentence Mdlongwa to pay any restitution for the cost of the destroyed police car, saying she had no faith in the unemployed man’s ability to pay. She did, however, order him to provide a DNA sample to be included in an arsonists’ database.
Mdlongwa, 32, is the second person to be found guilty of torching squad car no. 766, which burned sensationally in front of a cheering crowd on Queen St. West in front of Steve’s Music Store.
Nicodemo Catenacci, 41, was sentenced in May to 17 months in jail and ordered to pay $33,733 to the police to cover the cost of the car.
A third man, Ashan Ravindhraraj, 26, has been charged with setting fire to the other cruiser at Queen and Spadina Ave. Police have not laid any arson charges in relation to the two cruisers that burned at King and Bay Sts.
Although Catenacci had a much longer criminal record than Mdlongwa, whose only other offence was a 2006 impaired driving conviction, Shamai said the fact Catenacci pleaded guilty, showed remorse and agreed to seek treatment for his mental illness and drug addiction were the reasons behind his lighter sentence.
Mdlongwa was found guilty after a four-day trial last month produced “an abundance of photographic and video evidence,” provided largely by citizens, showed Mdlongwa lighting garbage on fire inside police cruiser #766, and later stoking the fire while covering the bottom half of his face with a black bandana.
Although Shamai agreed with the defence that Mdlongwa acted entirely out of character, was caught up in the mob mentality of the event and had no political motives, she said the context in which the arson took place cannot be ignored and the offence must be swiftly denunciated as a matter of deterrence.
“To describe it as an inflammatory act is perhaps an unfortunate pun,” she said. “But in this case … the danger of inciting further destruction and riot is real.”
Shamai said Mdlongwa’s actions effectively “destroyed the possibility that peaceful protest could take place,” adding that the burning police cruiser has “entered the public consciousness” and injured the reputation of the city.
“To the world, this is what Toronto looked like during the G20 weekend.”
Four police cars were set ablaze on the Saturday of the G20 weekend — June 26, 2010 — when riotous mobs split from the main protest group to rampage through the downtown core, smashing windows and storefronts.
The cruisers were abandoned when they were set upon by a group of violent protesters, police said, adding that “tactical disengagement” was the only way to ensure officers’ safety.
Like Catenacci, Mdlongwa was not part of any political cause or group. “He was just watching the show and got more than a little involved,” assistant crown attorney Elizabeth Nadeau said at a sentencing hearing last week.
Also like Catenacci — who was high on cocaine when he committed his offence — Mdlongwa was intoxicated. He is an alcoholic, who becomes “hyper” when he drinks, Misha Feldmann, Mdlongwa’s lawyer, told the court.
Mdlongwa is the latest conviction for the Toronto Police’s G20 Investigative Team, which has made 43 arrests and laid 257 criminal charges. Established immediately following the summit, the specialized unit was comprised of senior detectives from a wide range of investigative backgrounds within the police force. More than 20 officers and three Crown attorneys were dedicated to the investigation full time for six months following the summit.
The team was not responsible for the high-profile arrests prior to the G20 weekend, including the 17 accused ringleaders facing conspiracy charges, or Byron Sonne, the Forest Hill man accused of possessing homemade explosives.
They used both traditional and social media to disseminate photos of their suspects and relied heavily on the public to aid the investigation, both in terms of compiling evidence and providing identification.
Giroux figures roughly 80 per cent of the 500 videos and more than 40,000 still-photos police compiled came from citizens. “Without the public’s role, we would not have been very successful.”
Police currently have arrest warrants out for five U.S. citizens who have yet to be apprehended. The five Americans — whose names have not been released — are all in the top 10 of the police’s “G20 Most Wanted” list, based on the amount of property damage they caused, Giroux said.
They are also the only outstanding suspects, and police are no longer actively investigating G20 offences.
Giroux admits some vandals have escaped punishment — particularly those who used Black Bloc tactics to effectively conceal their identities — and 17 of the suspects whose photos were released to media have never been identified.
“There was a lot of people who committed criminal acts who didn’t go on to be apprehended just based on how much of a disguise they were wearing.”
Giroux added it is “obviously disappointing” that police have not been able to arrest anyone for setting fire to the two cruisers at King and Bay Sts., where identification was nearly impossible. “King and Bay was all Black Bloc,” Giroux said. “Queen and Spadina was a mob mentality.”
If Toronto were to hold another international event, with security on the scale of what was required at the G20, Giroux said he would like to see a law in place to ban the wearing of a disguise at any time.
Under the Criminal Code, wearing a disguise is only illegal while committing an offence.
“If it was illegal for people to disguise themselves — even if it’s just over a seven-day period — if it was illegal to do that, then things would be totally different.”
G20 Investigative Team Stats
Total number of people arrested for G20 violence and vandalism
Convicted of at least one offence
Still before the courts
Had all charges stayed or withdrawn
Arrest warrants for U.S. citizens not yet apprehended
Suspects still unknown.
*3 people arrested twice.
Source: Toronto Police Service