Sentencing of arsonist who attacked Siksika First Nation delayed

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The sentencing of convicted firefighter Philip John Strange has been delayed again, this time due to technical problems at the Tsuut’ina Court of Justice.

But Judge Karen Crowshoe told defense lawyer Shaun Leochko that deferring Strange’s sentence will not result in him spending more time behind bars.

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“From the court’s perspective, he will be in custody for a while longer,” Crowshoe said, rejecting Leochko’s request that his client appear in court by telephone.

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“It really should be on video or in person,” the judge said.

Leochko had requested that Strange appear by phone from the Medicine Hat Detention Center where he is currently being held due to video link issues on Friday at the Tsuut’ina courthouse.

“Due to technical difficulties, it will not be possible to produce Strange for today,” he said.

The lawyer adjourned Strange’s sentencing until February 22, this time at the Siksika Court of Justice, where he was initially prosecuted for arson.

Crowshoe told Leochko that in the meantime he should also be in contact with the Crown to discuss possible parole conditions if she were to make such an order.

“That doesn’t mean there will be probation,” he said.

Crowshoe also hinted that Strange will face additional jail time on top of what he already served in pretrial detention after the Calgary man’s bail was revoked when he allegedly set more fires.

“It is likely that he will not be released that day,” the judge said of Strange’s next appearance.

Strange was found guilty of arson by Crowshoe last April after she rejected his defense of necessity.

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Strange testified that he set at least two grass fires on the Siksika First Nation on the morning of July 1, 2021 to send out smoke signals and call for help.

He said he became stranded on the reserve southeast of Calgary after going there the night of June 30 to pick up friends who were rafting on the Bow River and showed up at the wrong place.

He eventually got lost and ran out of gas, and his phone also lost power before starting a fire around 7:20 a.m. the next morning.

Crowshoe agreed with Crown prosecutor Alyx Nanji that Strange was not in serious danger when he lit the fires to call for help.

“The Crown submitted that the accused was not in immediate danger as he was not dehydrated, starved or close to death,” he said.

“The defendant may have been thirsty and hot, but he was not in imminent danger.”

Strange’s bail was revoked last August after he was charged with two counts of arson and one count of mischief for fires at an Esso gas station and a dumpster at a cannabis store.

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