An Ontario Superior Court judge repeatedly criticized the character of a Toronto businessman convicted of orchestrating a plot to burn down his family's building supply store before imposing a 12-year-prison sentence.
The term handed down Friday against John Magno by Justice Todd Ducharme is one of the longest manslaughter sentences ever imposed in Canada, as a result of a fatal arson.
"You did this all for greed," Judge Ducharme stated. "Mr. Magno's actions had a devastating impact on the community. He destroyed the business that his immigrant father built from nothing. He betrayed his family," he added.
Mr. Magno, 53, looked on silently from the prisoner's box, occasionally shaking his head as the judge outlined his findings and described the businessman as the "chief operating mind," behind the fire in east end Toronto nearly a decade ago.
"If not for him, this arson would not have occurred," Judge Ducharme said several times during the nearly one-hour it took to read out his sentencing decision in court. "There was no silent night on Christmas 2001 in Toronto's Danforth and Woodbine neighbourhood," the judge noted.
The sentencing of Mr. Magno occurred more than nine years after he was charged with second-degree murder by Toronto police. He was accused of recruiting several men to burn down the Woodbine Building Supply store as part of an insurance fraud. Tony Jarcevic, the man hired to set the fire, died when the building exploded prematurely. Another accomplice was severely injured.
The fire was one of the largest in the city's history, requiring the services of over 170 firefighters and the evacuation of 50 nearby homes.
The trial of Mr. Magno was delayed for several years for a number of legal reasons, including his unsuccessful challenges to the "unlawful object" murder provisions of the Criminal Code.
Defence lawyer Marie Henein argued that her client did not orchestrate the arson and that the fire was set by the other men to cover up their robbery of the store.
The jury rejected this theory, but convicted Mr. Magno of the lesser charge of manslaughter and three arson-related offences.
Mr. Magno has 10 years left to serve in his sentence, after Judge Ducharme granted 24-months pre-trial credit for the two months the businessman spent in jail after his arrest and the six years his bail conditions were similar to house arrest. The overall punishment though, is the same as what was requested by Crown attorney Anna Tenhouse during the sentencing hearing last month.
The Magno family is now developing a $42-million, 12-story condominium project on the site where the building supply store was located. Mr. Magno continues to maintain his innocence and in addressing the court before he was sentenced, the businessman suggested the condominium project will revitalize the area. "We always had the intention to develop the property and help the community," said Mr. Magno.
The adult children of Mr. Magno and his wife of 33 years left the courtroom in tears after he was taken into custody. "You are innocent," one daughter called out in court as her father was handcuffed by the court security guards.
In his sentencing decision, Judge Ducharme referred to the more than three dozen letters of support filed by family and friends and suggested they have been fooled by Mr. Magno. "It is unfortunate that John Magno the family man, did not at any point stop and consider what impact the activities of John Magno, the scheming criminal, might have on his family," the judge said.