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Thursday, 08 December 2011 10:03

Judge/crown prosecutor quarrel during a sentencing in Swift Current

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By Matthew Liebenberg
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The sentencing of a 26-year-old man in a Swift Current courtroom on Dec. 7 for attempting to rob a 7-Eleven store was almost overshadowed by a verbal tiff between Judge Leslie Matsalla and Senior Crown Prosecutor Stephen Kritzer.

Donald Kleppe, who is originally from Edmonton, represented himself after dismissing his lawyer during a previous court appearance. He pleaded guilty to all six charges read to him by Judge Matsalla.

In addition to three charges of failing to comply with a probation order by consuming alcohol and a charge of failing to attend court, he pleaded guilty to a charge of trafficking marijuana and one of an attempted robbery.

But in an unexpected turn of events, there was an unscheduled adjournment of court after a verbal disagreement between Judge Matsalla and Senior Crown Prosecutor Stephen Kritzer.

It happened after a strong insistence by Judge Matsalla that the Crown will have to provide a more detailed statement about the charges against Kleppe and his criminal record before sentencing can take place. Kritzer's response was to express concern over what he described as an attack on the Crown. It prompted Judge Matsalla to storm out of the court room, but he returned after about 10 minutes to continue with sentencing.

According to the Crown, the police arrested Kleppe on Nov. 24 at the 7-Eleven in Swift Current after he tried to steal money from the food store. Kleppe, who was intoxicated at the time, initially scooped up a handful of sandwiches and left the store without paying. He then returned to pay and wandered around inside the store before leaving again.

When he returned, he had the back of his shirt pulled over his head and he told a store clerk to open up the till. By this time the police arrived, as they were called after he left without paying. Kleppe tried to escape through a back door, but he was arrested.

The drug trafficking charge against him resulted from an incident on July 30, when the RCMP arrested three men at a truck outside a bar in Swift Current for possession of about 23.5 grams of marijuana. Statements obtained from the men indicated they obtained the marijuana from Kleppe. His fingerprints were also found on jars filled with marijuana inside a cooler that was seized from the back of the truck.

“Basically I'm guilty,” Kleppe said after listening to detail about the different charges. “I know I have drug and alcohol problems I have to take care of. ... It's hard for me too to make sense of some of my decisions.”

He asked for a minimum jail sentence of at least two years, as that would result in placement in a federal penitentiary where he felt there might be better programs available to help him to deal with his addiction problems.

After considering Kleppe's previous criminal record, which includes a number of convictions for property related offences, Judge Matsalla agreed a significant jail sentence is required.

“It's a rather sad state of affairs for you that in 2011 the offences just kept coming,” he told the accused.

He sentenced Kleppe to 27 months in prison, including 18 months for the attempted robbery and six months for drug trafficking. On one of the breach charges he received a two month sentence, to be served concurrently. He also received a one month sentence, to be served consecutively, on each of the two other breach charges and for failing to attend court.

In addition, Judge Matsalla made an order to prohibit Kleppe from possessing any weaposn for 10 years and from possessing any restricted weapon or firearm for life.

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