Congolese man living in Oshawa without status sentenced to 3.5 years for kidnapping and robbery

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Published March 20, 2023 at 7:44 pm

Gavel court sentence

A man convicted of kidnapping and holding his victim hostage for hours to access the man’s bank accounts has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

Charles Okito, 22, was found guilty of kidnapping and robbery for holding a man against his will for nine hours in the evening of March 16, 2021.

He and another man, Nicholas Pitter, forced the victim to surrender his passwords to his bank account and phone over the course of that night. After securing the login information, the pair took the victim back to his home. They then robbed him of his Playstation 4 gaming console.

In their sentencing decision, Justice M. Forestell found Okito “played an active role in the kidnapping and robbery” and threatened the victim with “what appeared to be a firearm.” The gun was later found to be a replica.

“The victim was not physically injured but was understandably terrified by his ordeal,” Forestell wrote.

Following his later arrest, Okito pled guilty to all charges. During the proceeding, Dr. Erica Martin, a clinical and forensic psychologist assessed Okito and outlined his personal history in a court report.

She learned Okito was born in the Congo and came to Canada at 14 years old with his sister. He is not a Canadian citizen and is subject to removal after his conviction. However, Forestell argued Okito’s chances of rehabilitation are very low should he return to the country of his birth given the lack of support there.

Martin’s report found Okito was “exposed to violence regularly” while growing up. He witnessed a stabbing, and reported that it was “common” for people to be beaten and to be “burned to death if they stole.” Okito also told Martin he was part of a street gang.

On his arrival to Canada, Okito lived in Oshawa with his aunt and uncle. After year in the city, his aunt put him on a plane back to Congo. However as he could not contact his family in Africa. He got off the plane in Montreal and took the train back to Ontario.

After his return, Okito was placed in the care of the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) upon discovery his aunt and uncle had abused him. He left foster care at age 16 and moved to a group home, where he remained until the kidnapping.

CAS diagnosed Okito with Mild Intellectual Disability, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and behavioural concerns. Additionally, they found he was “vulnerable and showed borderline to extremely low conceptive and social adaptive functioning.”

“Mr. Okito’s scores for verbal comprehension and non-verbal reasoning fell in the extremely low range,” Forestell wrote, adding that Dr. Martin opined that Mr. Okito has a “mild intellectual disability.”

“Martin also assessed Mr. Okito’s risk and concluded that his risk for future violence is moderate in a group residential facility but would be high if he lived independently,” the Justice continued, “She noted his vulnerability to the influence of antisocial peers.”

Generally sentencing for robbery and kidnapping is more about “deterrence and denunciation,” Forestell said. However given Okito’s youth as a first offender, Forestell decided rehabilitation was necessary to consider.

“I must take into account any relevant aggravating and mitigating circumstances. Aggravating factors in this case are the significant impact on the victim, and the use of an imitation firearm,” Forestell decided.

“Mitigating factors are Mr. Okito’s youth, the fact that this is his first offence, his guilty plea which is indicative of remorse and Mr. Okito’s very difficult background and mental health challenges.”

Finally, the Justice recommended Okito be allowed to stay in Canada rather than be deported back to the Congo. “Significant supports have been arranged for Mr. Okito. I am concerned that Mr. Okito’s prospects for rehabilitation will be lost if he is deported to the Congo. He has no supports in the Congo. All of his community support is in Canada.”
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