An Ottawa man has pleaded guilty in a case in which he was accused of breaking into a third-floor apartment and leading a girl to jump 10 meters from the balcony.
David White, 58, pleaded guilty Friday in the Ontario Justice Court to assault, resisting arrest and trespassing with intent to commit an indictable offence.
White was sentenced to nine months of house arrest and two years of probation, a sentence that was not enough for the girl’s family.
“I feel an injustice to my daughter,” said Zeinab Mohamed, whose daughter Sumaya suffered serious injuries. “I feel like the system really discriminates [toward] us.”
Mohamed said the sentence makes her feel like the legal system is against people of color.
“I feel like I don’t belong… here, that’s how I feel,” he said. “I don’t belong in Canada.”
had recently taken cocaine
The court heard that on June 20, 2021, White broke into an Ottawa community housing building on Cooper Street in the center of the city.
He had recently used cocaine and had been denied entry to another apartment in the same building by his ex-girlfriend. Instead, she went to the third floor where Mohamed and his daughter lived.
Mohamed, who uses a wheelchair, was delivering food to her neighbors when White pushed her and forced her way into her apartment.
White barricaded the apartment door from the inside and yelled at Sumaya, who was 12 at the time, that everyone in the building, including her mother, was dead.
Sumaya told her mother that she hid in the bathroom, but soon realized that none of the doors in the apartment had a lock. In a moment of panic, she ran past the man onto the balcony and jumped about 10 meters down.
Sumaya survived, but shattered bones in her ankle, leg, and back. For months afterward, she wore a back brace and had nails in her legs to hold the bones together.
‘Every aspect of his life has changed’
The Crown lawyer said the family’s impact statement was one of the most disturbing he had heard.
In it, the family described the significant injuries and intense trauma Sumaya suffered from jumping off the balcony.
“This crime… dimmed the light in that house,” Samsam Ahmed, Sumaya’s aunt, said in an interview with CBC. “There is something deep [inside] my niece who is no longer here”.
Ahmed said that the physical injuries sustained during the incident cost Sumaya dearly.
“Every aspect of his life has changed,” Ahmed said.
As for White, the court heard how he came from an abusive past that led to addiction to alcohol and drugs. Shortly before committing the crime, he lost his son to an overdose.
Doctors believe that he was in a mental health crisis at the time and that he feels deep remorse for what he did.
In court on Friday, an emotional White apologized directly to the family and said he wanted to make things right by pleading guilty.
Pleat agreement is the best way forward, lawyers say
Both the Crown and White’s attorney said they felt a plea bargain was the best way forward.
One of the key arguments was that White committed the crime in 2021, a year before federal legislation holding people under extreme intoxication accountable for the crimes they commit was passed.
As a result, if the case went to trial, White’s attorney argued that he probably would not be guilty.
But for the family, that argument rings false.
“We are still suffering,” Mohamed said.