first_imgKenneth Jackson APTN National NewsOn day parole in an Edmonton halfway house, Frank Okimaw learned Thursday night he may not have to return for curfew.That’s because he won an appeal lowering his sentence for aggravated assault and weapon charges Aug. 19, only no one had told him.Okimaw got the news from an APTN reporter writing him on Facebook about the case having read the Court of Appeal of Alberta decision, and sent it to him to confirm.“Yes that’s me,” he wrote. “Is this for real?”Very real, but there’s more.No one had also told Okimaw‎ his appeal was being heard in June, as he thought he applied too late.“I didn’t know I was going for an appeal till you just told me,” he said. “I’ll let my parole officer know in the morning. This is crazy.”Okimaw was sentenced in November to 30 months, with a credit of seven and half months of time already served. That lowered his actual sentence to 22.5 months in provincial custody stemming from an incident at an Edmonton liquor store in 2013.The court of appeal essentially lowered the sentence to 13.5 months, meaning he should be able to leave the halfway house, as his original statutory release was in January.After sentencing Okimaw applied to Legal Aid to have them fund his appeal and never heard anything back. He got day parole in March and said he never thought of the appeal again.Legal Aid picked Edmonton lawyer Graham Johnson to represent Okimaw at his appeal. Johnson told APTN he had no way of reaching Okimaw but had been trying to since the appellate court’s decision.“By the time I got appointed to act he was no longer at whatever remand centre he was in when he first applied for coverage, so I had no contact information from him,” said Johnson.He said if Okimaw had still been in custody he would have found out right away.“But I guess he was already on parole, so wouldn’t have automatically found out. I’m happy you managed to track him down,” said Johnson.So not only did Okimaw win, but his case could be the “roadmap” for sentencing judges with Indigenous offenders in their court.The court of appeal found Okimaw is the “artefact” of colonization in a detailed decision outlining how Okimaw’s life is the prime example of how Gladue principles should be applied to Indigenous offenders.“Our hope … is that these reasons may succeed in providing a useful roadmap to sentencing judges when crafting a sentence for an Aboriginal offender,” wrote the panel of three judges in its unanimous decision.The sentencing judge found Okimaw’s past, severely affected by residential schools and colonization, didn’t lessen his “moral blameworthiness” and the sentence needed to fit the crime. The appellate court disagreed.“Although the sentencing judge found that the mitigating factors in this case included ‘at least to some extent, the existence of systemic Gladue factors’, he did not find such factors had any bearing on Okimaw’s moral blameworthiness for these offences. We disagree…,” the court ruled.The appellate court said a sentence of 30 months would have been fair in most cases, but not for someone has “suffered the personal difficulties, systemic discrimination, and cultural challenges faced by Okimaw, a lesser sentence is called for in light of his reduced moral culpability.”In short, Okimaw’s life didn’t start off well. In fact it was put in jeopardy while his mom was pregnant, as she drank a lot, according to the court.Soon he found himself fighting his own addictions, and before long he was caught up in gang life until he walked away from that life at 21. A few years later he was attacked and stabbed in a swarming. Ever since then he would carry a paring knife with him for protection.At 27, he was slapped by a woman after an incident inside the Edmonton liquor store and her boyfriend and Okimaw exchanged words. A fight broke out and Okimaw stabbed the boyfriend with the knife multiple times. He argued it was in self-defence. The victim suffered non-life threatening injuries and never gave the court a victim impact statement.The court describes Okimaw as a good father who wants to be there for his kids.He’s currently working with a moving [email protected]: Shortly after this story was published Friday Frank Okimaw said he was being released from his halfway house and going to visit his kids.last_img