The Ottawa man whose home invasion plot led to the 2010 death of 19-year-old Michael Swan has been sentenced to nine years in prison.
Sam Tsega was sentenced Thursday afternoon at the Ottawa courthouse, more than seven years after three armed men broke into Swan's Barrhaven home to rob him of money and drugs.
Tsega plotted the Feb. 22, 2010 robbery but was not present during the early morning home invasion, court had heard.
He was convicted of manslaughter in June 2016, while three Toronto men were convicted of murder.
In her decision, Justice Catherine Aitken said Tsega, who was 19 at the time of the crime, was "highly responsible and morally blameworthy" for Swan's death — even if he wasn't there and didn't pull the trigger.
"Mr. Tsega got the ball rolling in this plan, and he could have put on the brakes," Aitken said. "Without him, Michael Swan would be alive."
Credit for time served
The sentence falls in between what the Crown and Tsega's defence team had been asking for. The Crown had sought a 14-to-16-year sentence, while Tsega's defence lawyer Mark Ertel had argued for a sentence of only six to eight years.
Aitken said Tsega would receive 17 months of credit for time already served.
Swan's family smiled and hugged each other outside the court after Aitken handed down her sentence.
"It was about just what we thought it would end up being," said Dale Swan, Michael Swan's father.
"This has been a very long process. This part of the process is over. Now we deal with potential parole hearings and whatnot. It never ends for us."
Swan's mother Rea said her son was a genuine person with a big heart, and said to her it doesn't matter how long Tsega spends behind bars.
"It will never bring my son back. Every day I have to wake up knowing I'm never going to see him again," she said.
Plotters sought information about cash, pot
Crown attorney Mark Moors had earlier told court that the plotters intended to break into Swan's home, confine him, extort information about a stash of marijuana and cash, and then return to Toronto.
Tsega's planning "unleashed wanton violence," Moors said.
In his sentencing submissions, Ertel said that his client had shown he was capable of rehabilitation by pursuing post-secondary education.
As well, Tsega had no prior criminal record and hadn't breached any of his strict bail conditions, Ertel told court.
Ertel also said the offence was out of character for Tsega, who played varsity lacrosse, volunteered and held down a job despite having a brain injury and learning problems.
Outside the courthouse Thursday, Ertel said he was glad the judge accepted the argument that Tsega did not play the same role as the three Toronto men involved in the crime, and rejected the "extremely high" sentence requested by the Crown.
He was disappointed, however, that Aitken gave no credit to Tsega's "very clear expression of remorse" that he made during sentencing.
Ertel had applied to have the manslaughter charge stayed because of the length of time it took to bring the case to trial, but his application was denied earlier this month.
Aitken acknowledged that lengthy delay during Thursday's sentencing.
"The criminal justice system did not meet your needs to bring justice," Aitken told Swan's family, who were in the courtroom to hear the sentence.
"It has taken seven years, and it's been an inordinate amount of time on this tortuous journey."