Too many judges already had heard Troy Wolfe’s speech “from the heart.”
The 34-year-old habitual criminal and getaway driver at the half-million-dollar Gordons Gold heist four years ago stood in the prisoner’s box at his sentencing hearing before Justice Bruce Thomas, the regional senior justice of the Superior Court, and vowed he had “lots of fight left in me, lots of hope, lots of purpose.”
He wanted his Indigenous background to be taken into account before he was sentenced. He talks about his brutal childhood marred by addiction and alcoholism, the legacy of residential schools, the intergenerational trauma, the “racial genocide” of his people and his efforts to understand his background that comes with “this DNA that we’re born with.
“I’ve been in and out of this courtroom since I was 12 years old and it’s not a good thing. I don’t want to see my children having to put through this circle of relapse and my recidivism,” he said.
“I’ve learned to calm my anger a little bit. I’ve learned to continue to work on myself a little bit spiritually. I’ve learned to look at where I come from and the person I’m supposed to be spiritually. And sometimes it’s hard to understand what was done to my people and what continues to be done to our people as a whole.”
Wolfe went on for seven minutes. He said he’s changed. He said he has developed a curriculum for Indigenous inmates, that he had done it despite the lack of programming in the various jails where he’s been housed and that maybe, he might be an elder someday. He said he was “at a good place in my life. I just wish you guys don’t look at me like a lost cause.”
Thomas stayed quiet until Wolfe was finished. He said Wolfe was articulate and “you put forward a firm understanding of the plight of Indigenous people and the issues of reconciliation that need to be before the court.
“But you’ve given impassioned speeches to this court before. Judges in this court have heard from you before and . . . nothing has happened,” he said.
“And so, I ask you this: what were you accomplishing when you drove two people with sledge hammers to Gordons Gold, allowed them to smash the case, take half a million dollars worth of jewelry and then escape? What were you accomplishing for you and your people at that point? What deep-rooted concerns were you dealing with?
“That’s an issue simply of greed,” Thomas said. “You didn’t care who you hurt. You didn’t care what happened to them. You wanted the money.”
Wolfe, Thomas said, had a criminal record with 29 adult offenses, including two prior armed robberies and stints in prison. “You’ve been in what I would describe as a cyclical period of recidivism and re-offending. Every time you get out, you commit another attack.”
Wolfe was one of four men charged after the violent daytime robbery on March 19, 2019, when two masked bandits burst into the jewelry store in northwest London’s Oakridge neighborhood with sledge hammers and smashed show cases in front of a traumatized staff and left with the loot .
He pleaded guilty in July, admitting he was the man behind the wheel of a car, stolen at gunpoint, who drove two men to the store and acted as a lookout until the two robbers made their escape. They transferred the spoils to a van parked nearby and drove to Oneida Nation of the Thames. A police officer recognized the van as being associated to Wolfe and followed it.
The van’s driver, Matthew Simpson, 37, was arrested at gunpoint, but Wolfe, Mason Ireland, 28, and Nevin McCrea, 32, were arrested a short time later when they were seen wading into the Thames River. The jewelry wasn’t recovered except for an earring back and a ring.
Ireland, one of the masked men, entered a guilty plea in December 2020, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison and ordered to pay $162,500, a quarter of the loss.
Simpson was sentenced to five years in prison in November by Thomas, who declined to make a similar restitution order because of Simpson’s troubled Indigenous background.
McCrea failed to show up to plead guilty last summer and remains on the lam.
Thomas agreed with a joint sentencing submission from assistant Crown attorney Meredith Gardiner and defense lawyer Harlene Bajwa for Wolfe to serve a sentence of seven years. With his 67 months and one week in pre-sentence custody factored in at an enhanced rate, he has 16 months and three weeks left to serve in jail.
But unlike Simpson, Wolfe is on the hook for his share of the loss. Thomas ordered him to pay $162,500 within five years or face more jail time, similar to the order given to Ireland.
Thomas noted Wolfe accomplished something while jailed. He has completed Grade 12 since he was incarcerated and finished a business program. He has a plan to start a fence and decking business.
And the judge said he wanted to believe Wolfe and “I don’t want to discard you as a person in the system that is unworthy of my concern, my sympathy and my empathy.”
It’s well documented how Wolfe’s past affected him, but, the judge said, at age 34, Wolfe should do everything he can “to stay outside of the penitentiary, to stay outside the reformatory and be with your family and accomplish something.
“It won’t be easy. It hasn’t been easy for you but it’s been really easy for you to get back into jail and get in trouble,” he said.
Thomas reminded Wolfe he has children who were in the courtroom along with other members of his family and support in his community, but it’s on him to change. While the sentencing submission was appropriate “this is the least I would have given you,” Thomas said.
“If you come back before this court, it will only get worse. So make that decision yourself, do what you have to do. It’s not easy. At some point, you have to say, ‘It’s on me now. I’ve got to do this for my family.’”
The sentence also carries a lifetime weapons ban, a DNA order and a non-association order with his co-accused and the victims of the robbery.
“Mr. Wolfe, good luck to you,” Thomas said. “My hope is that you do what you’re telling me you’re going to. If that’s the case, then you and I won’t have another conversation.”
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