HALIFAX — A sexual predator released and deported to the United States after a controversial Parole Board of Canada decision is now arguing several charges against him should be dropped due to the passage of time.
William Shrubsall was designated as a dangerous offender after he went on a spree of sexual violence against women in Halifax, fracturing one of his victim’s skulls with a baseball bat in 1998 to the point she spent five days in a coma and almost died.
The parole board allowed his release to American authorities this year, saying he faced “many more years” of incarceration in his native U.S., but his U.S. lawyer is now seeking to stay bail jumping charges in New York’s Niagara County.
If successful, it could mean Shrubsall – who has changed his name to Ethan Simon Templar MacLeod – would be eligible for parole in just over two years under New York State law.
Caroline Wojtaszek, the district attorney for Niagara County, is calling the defence motion “a fairly absurd argument.” She said the delay in the American prosecution was due to Shrubsall’s decision to flee a New York State trial and then his incarceration for brutal crimes in Canada.
The public defender representing Shrubsall, Jenelle Faso Messer, said her delay arguments are sound and she’ll vigorously pursue her client’s argument that witnesses and evidence are no longer available.
“Our constitution guarantees due process … my argument is his due process rights were violated because they didn’t extradite him to the United States in 19 years,” said the defender, based in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Shrubsall had been sentenced as a dangerous offender after a two-month trial in 2001, meaning the 48-year-old could have remained in jail indefinitely in Canada.
However, the parole board allowed his release in January, in a decision that stated: “you (Shrubsall) face many more years of incarceration in your country which will give you the benefit to continue to better yourself in a secured environment.”
He was sent to a Niagara County prison to begin serving time for a 1996 conviction in absentia on a charge of sexual abuse in the first degree of a 17-year-old woman in that region.
Shrubsall was also originally scheduled to appear in court on June 10 for the added charges of jumping bail and criminal contempt due to his flight to Canada on the third day of his trial for the sex crime.
Prosecutors have said the earliest possible parole for Shrubsall would be in just over two years for the sexual abuse conviction, and the bail jumping conviction would mean he’d serve at least another two years and four months on top of that.
Wojtaszek said in an interview Tuesday she still intends to seek the maximum sentence for the bail jumping indictment, after dealing with the defence motion on May 31.
The lawyer said she’ll demonstrate the American authorities laid charges against Shrubsall “as swiftly as practical,” and made attempts to extradite him in 2001.
“The way the U.S. and Canadian treaty works is it’s discretionary as to whether Canada wants to send him to us for a prosecution,” she said.
“That was highly unlikely when Canada was pursuing three violent felonies against him, versus a bail jumping.”
However, Faso Messer said she’s yet to see evidence Canada ever refused the request for Shrubsall’s extradition. She argued that defence witnesses are no longer available due to the failure to prosecute him sooner.
“I’m not seeing specifically where Canada said, ‘No, you can’t get him,'” she said.
“What we call it in the United States is a failure to prosecute.”
Wojtaszek said that initially U.S. authorities simply didn’t know where Shrubsall was after he suddenly disappeared on the third day of his sexual abuse trial, leaving a suicide note.
In Canada, he used a series of aliases as he first stalked a woman he’d met and then went on to commit brutal crimes against three others.
In February 1998, he inflicted the baseball bat assault on the clerk in a Halifax waterfront store.
Three months later, he beat, robbed and sexually assaulted a 19-year-old university student in a south-end Halifax driveway. And in June 1998, he choked and confined a 26-year-old woman.
That came on top of his American crimes, which included beating his mother to death when he was 17 in their home in Niagara Falls, N.Y. He told the court at the time that his mother had abused him.
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Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press