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Robber offers apology for inflicting life-changing brain injury

A mugger whose daylight attack left a prominent local social worker suffering from a life-changing brain injury apologized to his victim through his lawyer during a sentencing hearing.
pgcourt exterior
The exterior of the Prince George courthouse. Citizen file photo

A mugger whose daylight attack left a prominent local social worker suffering from a life-changing brain injury apologized to his victim through his lawyer during a sentencing hearing.

Marshall Randolph Schulze plead guilty to robbing Diane Nakamura on Oct. 29, 2018, when she was walking along Fifth Avenue near Quebec Street. As Schulze and Nakamura struggled for control of her bag, Nakamura fell and hit her head on the sidewalk, suffering a concussion that left her unable to work, sleeping 12 to 18 hours a day and feeling emotionally dead inside, according the victim impact statement she presented to the court in November.

The robbery took place a month after the Prince George Community Foundation named Nakamura a 2018 Citizen of the Year for her work with those suffering from poverty, homelessness and addiction.

Schulze's lawyer, Jason LeBlond, said his client wanted to express his remorse to Nakamura, and read aloud from an email his client wrote on March 11 to her and the court.

"My heart is solemnly sad I caused this distress and injury to you," LeBlond read. "Although I can not change what happened two years ago, I will make sure nothing like that happens again. I give you my deepest and most heartfelt apologies."

Schulze was working in construction in the Lower Mainland, where he lived, when he and his girlfriend - the mother of his daughter – split up, leaving him depressed, LeBlond said. Around the same time, he underwent surgery and was proscribed Oxycontin for the pain.

He became addicted and endws up in a series of legal troubles in the Lower Mainland, LeBlond said, including a weapon and drug trafficking charge in 2011, drug offences in 2015 and a mischief charge in 2018.

He made several attempts to beat his addiction, but those failed.

"My family helped me apply to Baldy Hughes, nearby Prince George," LeBlond read from Schulze's letter. "My cousin drove me to Prince George and dropped me off."

He attended a detox program in Prince George for a week, but found the withdrawal symptoms were more than he could handle and left, LeBlond said. Once he left, he wasn't allowed to return with a doctor's referral.

He was alone, broke and in pain from withdrawal when the robbery occurred, LeBlond said.

"This was not a specific effort to commit assault, but a struggle for control of the bag," LeBlond said. "Mr. Schulze, for his part, says that he just wanted to pull the bag away. He certainly did not subjectively know that Ms. Nakamura would strike her head and be injured as badly as she did."

After spending 131 days in custody, Schulze was released to the custody of the Joshua House residential addiction treatment program in Chilliwack, where he spent almost a year in recovery, LaBlond said.

"Recovery from addiction is not easy," he said. "Mr. Schulze has demonstrated... an exemplary commitment to his recovery. Mr. Schulze has acknowledged it is a lifelong battle and is committed to maintaining his sobriety."

Since completing the treatment program, Schulze has found full-time employment in construction, is making child support payments to support his daughter, and is living independently with roommates, LeBlond said.

"With medication, dedication and therapy, I'm working to beat my addiction," LeBlond read from Schulze's email. "I will continue to work hard to maintain my sobriety... and maintain a Christian life."

Crown counsel is seeking 12-20 months in jail followed by three years probation for  Schulze. LeBlond argued that Schulze's successful efforts to beat his addiction and reform his life constitute exceptional circumstances and that he should only be sentenced to time served, plus three years probation.

Schulze has taken responsibility for his actions and successfully restarted his life and putting him in jail would threaten to derail that, LeBlond said. His employer and members of his new church spoke highly of Schulze, he added, and he now volunteers mentoring others suffering from addiction.

The lawyer for the Crown said he was concerned about the message that would be sent if Schultz doesn't face additional jail time.

"I think the implications of this are significant," he said. "It says, 'go ahead and commit the crime,' you just have to go ahead and get your act together after the fact."

Provincial Court Judge Michael Brecknell said he faces a difficult balancing act in determining an appropriate sentence and would need time to consider all the factors before issuing a sentence in the case. 

Schulze appeared in court remotely from Abbotsford, where he now lives.

— With files from Mark Nielsen