Justin Haynes has been sentenced to 5 years, 7 months in prison for his role in two violent St. John's home invasions that stunned the province seven months ago, which is well short of what the prosecution had recommended.
The sentence was handed today down at provincial court by Judge David Orr.
Orr described the offences as serious because Haynes and his co-accused, Jonathon Hurley, forced their way into two occupied homes six months ago and inflicted injuries and robbed vulnerable people in a crime spree that "did not exhibit a high degree of planning."
He said it was important that his sentence be harsh enough to serve as deterrence for those who might consider violating the sanctity of someone's home. But the judge did not accept the recommendation of Crown attorney Jennifer Standen, who was asking for a jail sentence between seven and eight years.
He instead sided more closely with the four-to-five-year sentence recommended by Haynes' legal aid lawyer, Susan Day.
Orr cited mitigating factors such as Haynes's guilty plea at the earliest opportunity, his co-operation with investigators, his long struggle with addictions and a mental health disorder, and his supportive family. Haynes is also a first-time offender, and is a good candidate for rehabilitation, said Orr.
And the judge also accepted evidence that Hurley was the mastermind, and not Haynes.
"It is clear from the agreed facts that the accused, while a full participant in the events, was not the principal offender," said Orr.
The sentence includes a prison term of five years, six months for the home invasions, and another 40 days for a pair of assaults on Haynes' partner and mother of his young son.
He has been credited with 279 days for pre-sentence custody.
"He has accepted responsibility for his actions, and expressed remorse for his actions," said Orr.
Stabbed in the back, car stolen
Haynes, 32, was one of two people who invaded homes on Beaumont Street and Maunder's Lane on the evening of Sept. 12, with a man stabbed in the back in one home, and an elderly couple roughed up and robbed in the second.
The home invasions occurred just weeks after Haynes first met Jonathon Hurley, also age 32. Hurley has a long history of violent crimes and robbery, and is scheduled for trial at the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador early next year.
According to an agreed statement of facts, Haynes said it was Hurley who hatched a plan to steal a car and rob a pharmacy, telling Haynes "we're going to be rich."
Haynes admitted to punching home occupant
As they walked along Beaumont Street shortly before 8 p.m., they observed a woman through the window of a home. They knocked on the door, and the woman answered. The intruders said they had an emergency and asked to use the woman's phone.
As the woman retreated to another room to call the police the two men forced their way into the home, demanding the keys to the woman's car. At the same time, the women's boyfriend emerged from a bedroom and confronted the two men.
Hurley admitted that he punched the boyfriend in the face and stomach, and alleges that Hurley twice stabbed the man in the back, saying "Jon had the knife and stabbed the man." The boyfriend suffered what police described as serious injuries.
The woman's 12-year-old son was also in the home. He heard the commotion, but remained in another area of the house.
Hurley and his accomplice stole the woman's car and, concerned about a police response, zig-zagged their way across the city, eventually ending up on Maunder's Lane.
They had not planned to invade another home, Haynes told investigators, but thought the home on Maunder's Lane would be an "easy target." Haynes said he did not know who lived in the house before they smashed through the front door.
A man and woman ages 90 and 88 were inside the home, and sustained injuries as they were roughed up by the attackers.
Haynes admitted he stole the elderly woman's brooch and purse, and tried to take her watch. Pictures from the hospital show a piece of jewelry still around her wrist with a large, bloody wound above it. Haynes said Hurley took the man's wallet, which contained $600 in cash, and gold ring.
The attackers later ditched the stolen car in a commercial parking lot off Torbay Road. They then travelled by cab, and used their victims' bank cards to pay for lottery tickets, drinks and cigarettes, and stopped along the way to acquire crack cocaine.
Police used video footage from various sources and point-of-sale data from the bank cards to track down the attackers, and arrested Haynes the next night. He quickly admitted to his crimes, and identified Hurley as his accomplice.
Haynes told investigators he did not intend to hurt anyone, and "just wanted the money."
During a sentencing hearing earlier this month, Haynes read a letter expressing his deep remorse for what he described as terrible wrongdoings.
"I would never in my right mind do such things to anyone, yet I take full responsibility for my actions," he told the court.
Haynes first came to the attention of police in April 2022, when officers were called to a domestic disturbance on Pleasant Street. The mother of his infant son accused Haynes of dumping a bottle of water over her, and threatening to spit on and hit her. The woman told responders that Haynes had mental health problems, and was not taking his medication.
And on the night before the home invasions, police were again called to Beaumont Street after Haynes' partner accused him of assaulting her.
Haynes said he plans to take care of his mental health, and stay sober for the rest of his life.
He became emotional when referencing his young son, saying "my son does not deserve to suffer because of my actions, and I aim to be a good father and positive influence in his life from this day onward."
The Beaumont Street woman whose home was invaded, meanwhile, wrote in an statement to the court that her life will never be the same.
"I have sunk into a dark hole of anxiety and depression. I have so much anger and fear that it consumes me and interrupts every day of my life since that night."
The elderly couple that was attacked by Haynes and his partner did not present a statement to the court.