‘Brutally vicious’: Judge gives 9-year prison sentence to Edmonton man who choked mother in front of children

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Calling his crime “frighteningly uncontrolled” and “brutally vicious,” an Edmonton judge sentenced a man to nine years in prison for choking a mother of three in front of her children.

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In a strongly worded decision Wednesday, provincial court Judge Carrie Sharpe said Rockie Rabbit must serve longer than the six years recommended by the Crown — an unusual move Sharpe said underlined the seriousness of the random attack outside a central Edmonton daycare center last summer.

“The sentence for the underlying offense of aggravated assault should be significantly increased because it was accompanied by choking,” Sharpe wrote.

“Given the findings of the medical expert that the actions of Rockie Rabbit could have caused the death of the complainant, the seriousness of the strangulation is not adequately reflected in the upper range of the global sentence (of) six years’ incarceration.”

Rabbit, 31, pleaded guilty last year to aggravated assault and choking to overcome resistance. He admitted to attacking the woman on July 14, 2021, outside Seven Stones Daycare, 10538 111 Street, where she was waiting to pick up children.

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Rabbit began by unzipping the woman’s backpack and looking inside. When she tried to break away, Rabbit shouted “did you kill my daughter?”

He then grabbed her head with both hands and slammed her to the ground.

After the woman was on the sidewalk, Rabbit smashed her head into the pavement, mounted her and wrapped her hands around her neck. He continued throttling the woman after she lost consciousness, a total of four minutes and 27 seconds.

Two of the woman’s children — aged six and eight — saw the entire attack through the glass door of the daycare.

“They cried hysterically as they observed their mother being assaulted and strangled,” Sharpe wrote.

Police eventually arrived after a call from a bystander who witnessed the attack. The woman’s husband, who was waiting at the family home half-a-block away, ran to the scene when he heard his wife screaming.

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Medical crews found the woman barely conscious, “noticeably blue” and foaming at the mouth, Sharpe wrote. A recent immigrant from Eritrea, she suffered a seizure during the attack and continues to experience mental and physical repercussions, including an eye that randomly sheds tears.

Rabbit told police after his arrest that he had used methamphetamine earlier that day. He was on release at the time for allegedly assaulting his brother of him.

At a sentencing hearing in February attended by Rabbit’s victim, Crown prosecutor Mark Fernandes proposed a sentence of six years in prison, calling Rabbit’s crime an “unprovoked and terrifying attack on a complete.”

Defense lawyer Methal Fayad recommended a three-year prison sentence. A Gladue report prepared to assess the role government policy towards Indigenous people played in Rabbit’s crimes determined that multiple generations of Rabbit’s family attended residential schools, including his mother, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

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Rabbit experienced abuse growing up and tragedy later in life. His father served an eight-year prison sentence before Rabbit was born. Rabbit told the Gladue writer that two of his family members had died in prison: a cousin who was murdered, and a brother who took his own life.

Rabbit said he began using meth regularly around three years before the attack, and claimed he was experiencing a “drug-induced psychosis” when he assaulted the mother. Sharpe, however, said there was “no further evidence before the court to support this assertion,” and noted Rabbit knew he became violent when using.

Rabbit wrote a letter of apology to his victim, which Fayad read during sentencing.

“I carry a lot of shame for what I did,” he told the woman. “That is going to follow me for the rest of my life.”

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Sharpe ultimately sentenced Rabbit to nine years for each of his two crimes, to be served simultaneously.

She noted Rabbit has been in jail since the attack but declined to grant him additional credit for conditions at the Edmonton Remand Center during the COVID-19 pandemic. With credit for pretrial custody, Rabbit has around just under eight years left to serve.

“Young, innocent children should never be put in a position where they are fearful for their safety and the safety of their families,” Sharpe said. “The senseless violence perpetrated by Rockie Rabbit did just that.”

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