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Man gets five years for manslaughter

Andrew Raven
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 23/05) - A man with a long criminal record was sentenced to five years in prison Monday for his role in the death of a reputed drug dealer almost two years ago.

Francis Yukon, 29, sat with his head bowed throughout most of the three-hour sentencing hearing, surrounded by family and friends.

Yukon pleaded guilty to manslaughter during a court appearance in early February after the Crown Attorney's office dropped a charge of first degree murder.

In handing down the five year prison term, Supreme Court Justice Ted Richard gave Yukon three years credit for the time he spent in pre-trial custody.

He is the third person convicted in the slaying of Justin Hai Van Vo, a 35-year-old reputed crack cocaine dealer whose charred remains were discovered on the outskirts of Yellowknife in June 2003.

Two other men arrested in connection with the killing - Dale Coutoreille and Richard Tutin - each pleaded guilty to accessory to murder last spring.

Yukon - perhaps best know publicly for giving the middle finger to a Yellowknifer photographer after his arrest in 2003 - smiled and shook hands with members of his family before the sentencing hearing Monday.

Several relatives wept as Yukon read a prepared statement to the court, apologizing for his role in Vo's killing.

"I'm sorry for the sadness," he said. "If there was anything I could do to change what happened... I would do it.

"I will never forgive myself for being a part of this."

Yukon has 14 previous criminal convictions, including five for assault. At the time of the Vo killing, he was on probation after serving several months in jail for robbery.

Yukon will be eligible for parole after serving one-third of the five year sentence - or 20 months.

A fourth man, Gerald Delorme, is scheduled to stand trial on a charge of first degree murder this June.

Crown attorney Caroline Carrasco said her office did not offer Yukon a deal in return for his testimony against Delorme, though she noted he could still be called as a witness.

Richard granted a request from Carrasco and lawyers for Delorme barring the media from reporting the details surrounding Vo's murder until Delorme's case is resolved.