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Judge sentences cabbie to four years in jail for break-in while on duty

‘If we cannot trust taxi drivers, who can we trust?’


Published on June 28, 2017

Lulzim Jakupaj speaks to his lawyer, Amanda Summers, after being sentenced to a four-year jail term at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s today.

©Rosie Mullaley/The Telegram

People need to feel safe when they get in a cab and when they’re in their own home, a St. John’s judge said today in sentencing a former cab driver to a four-year jail term.

Chief Justice Raymond Whalen gave Lulzim (Leon) Jakupaj the jail term for breaking into a woman’s apartment after dropping her off last year.

With credit for time served, Jakupaj has just less than three years left on his term.

“Such a sentence recognizes the need for citizens to feel safe in their homes,” Whalen said in sentencing Lulzim at Newfoundland Supreme Court.

“Equally, it recognizes that citizens place their trust in taxi drivers to carry them safely to their destination without fear of having the driver in any way taking advantage or abuse that position of trust they hold towards the passenger,” he said.

“If we cannot trust taxi drivers in our community, who can we trust?”

Jakupaj was found guilty in March of break and enter with intent and was taken into custody. 

Following the trial, Whalen found that Jakupaj broke into an apartment on Carondale Drive in Kilbride at 3 a.m. on May 21, 2016. The 33-year-old was on duty with City Wide cabs, dropped a young woman off and then went into the apartment minutes later.

The woman’s ex-boyfriend, who lived in the apartment, testified at the trial that he saw a dark-skinned, dark-haired man peering through the bedroom door minutes after he let the woman inside. He said he screamed, ran after the intruder and confronted him in the kitchen, where the intruder elbowed him in the eye before taking off. Nothing was taken from the apartment.

In court, he identified Jakupaj as the intruder and the vest he was wearing at the time.

A neighbour also saw a man going to and from the house, and gave a description of Jakupaj.

During the sentencing hearing earlier this month, Crown prosecutor Dana Sullivan recommended Jakupaj get a 4 1/2- to five-year prison term. She pointed to the seriousness of the crime, the fact there was violence and a breach of trust. She said there was a young, vulnerable victim and the offence was planned and deliberate.

Defence lawyer Amanda Summers suggested Jakupaj get a year in jail. She noted several mitigating factors — Jakupaj is a first-time offender, is educated and has continuously held down jobs.

Besides the breach of trust, Whalen said the home invasion was the most significant aggravating factor.

“One’s home is your castle and fortress where you must feel safe and protected,” the judge said.

“In my view, a home invasion is a most serious and egregious crime for which offenders should expect to receive lengthy terms of imprisonment.”

He said had it not been for the mitigating factors, he would have gone alone with the Crown’s suggestion of five years.

During his sentencing hearing, Jakupaj, originally from Kosovo, said he would rather return to his war-torn home country than return to Her Majesty’s Penitentiary. He said he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and wants to focus on taking care of his father and his siblings.

Whalen, however, said there was no evidence presented to suggest the PTSD had anything to do with the crime he committed.

“(Jakupaj) was fully in control his actions,” the judge said.

Jakupaj is not done with the justice system yet. He has other serious charges to deal with stemming from an alleged sexual assault last year. His trial in that case is set to begin in October.

 

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