Jail for Cornwall gas station robber

A Cornwall man has been sentenced to five months in jail after pleaded guilty to robbing a MacEwen gas station on Second Street West, seen here on Friday, March 16, 2018. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, FIle)

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CORNWALL – A city man has been sentenced for robbing a gas station on Second Street West in Cornwall in October 2017.

Larry Deserres, 59, was sentenced Monday in a Cornwall courtroom after earlier pleading guilty to robbery and three court breaches.

His lawyer, Bill Wade, said his client, a diesel mechanic, had a clean record until this robbery, which was “unsophisticated and unplanned,” and that his client suffered from depression and is possibly bi-polar. Deserres’ mother died when he was very young and has not fully addressed the issue, Wade argued. The judge agreed with that assessment in her ruling.

Wade described Deserres as one who had “fallen down the rabbit hole,” going into a quick tailspin from a drug addiction where he lost his job, burned through his savings and eventually robbed the MacEwen to feed that addiction. After speaking with family and friends, Wade said “this is certainly not typical of Larry.”

Crown attorney Michael Purcell said the victim – the gas station attendant – is still traumatized by the robbery. “The effects of this offence are ongoing in that she remains fearful and unable to fully function in circumstances that remind her of the evening of the incident” when Deserres walked up to her around 10 p.m. on Oct. 11 with a hand in his pocket, mimicking a weapon, and demanded money as she was locking up for the night.

Deserres got away with about $200.

The defence was seeking 90 days served on weekends with two years probation and community service while the Crown wanted five months in jail, two years probation and restitution.

Deserres was given one day of pre-trial custody for the day he was arrested on the three court breaches. But he received five months in jail for the most serious charge of robbery.

While sympathetic to Deserres in the “throws of a drug addiction,” Judge Deborah Kinsella sided with the Crown by imposing a harsh sentence to send a message to the community.

Kinsella noted that the addiction happened very quickly, starting in the summer before the October robbery, and Deserres had lost his job, gone through his savings and hurt friendships along the way before making the “poor decision” to rob the gas station.

“A gas station just down the street from this courthouse. It’s a gas station in a very densely packed residential neighbourhood. It’s a gas station in a neighbourhood where I used to play as a child so I’m very familiar with the area,” Kinsella remarked.

“When you commit offences such as robberies of vulnerable places like gas stations, like convenience stores. These are generally not places where there’s a ton of employees. There’s generally one person working alone for minimum wage or not much more than that. Those people are particularly vulnerable,” Kinsella said.

The judge noted if Deserres had a weapon, the sentence would have been a lot more. “If he had a knife or a gun, we would be talking about very different things,” like two years or slightly less in jail.

Kinsella said the Crown was taking a very “measured or tempered approach” and agreed with five months, which was at the lower end of a custodial sentence.

“Although I respect Mr. (Bill) Wade’s submissions…I must…keep in mind that this is one of those cases where I have to place emphasis on denunciation and deterrence. I don’t think you’ll ever be back in front of me again. I’m reasonably confident that’s the case,” the judge said.

“Even though people do these things in the throws of addiction. Even though they are not well planned out like yours. You didn’t intend to do this, you just took advantage of it. I have to find some way to make it clear that if you do that, there will be consequences. I am tempering those consequences because of all of the good things there are about you,” Kinsella said.

In addition to the five months in jail, Deserres will be on probation for two years and has to abide by a number of conditions, including no contact with the victim and he is not allowed to go to the gas station. He will also have to make a $200 restitution payment to the court, which will be forwarded to the MacEwen gas bar at 201 Second Street West. There are also $500 in fines (victim fine surcharge).

“Appreciate the support,” Deserres said to two friends in the gallery, who have been there during his court appearances, as he was lead away by the bailiff. “You bet,” one replied.