VANCOUVER — A British Columbia man convicted of trafficking teenage girls for sex has again fired his lawyers in a long-delayed legal battle that prosecutors say has devolved into a “circus.”
In B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday, Justice Catherine Bruce again revised the date for Reza Moazami’s sentencing hearing, which was initially set for last December. He is scheduled to return to court for three days in the final week of October.
“I will not grant you any further adjournments,” said Bruce, speaking bluntly as she told Moazami those dates were set in stone, even if he had to represent himself.
“I have no appetite for adjourning this sentencing over for any length of time,” she added. “There have been substantial delays as a result of decisions you’ve made with regards to changing counsel.”
Moazami was found guilty last September of luring nearly a dozen teenage girls into a prostitution ring in B.C.’s first human-trafficking conviction. He was convicted of 30 of 36 charges against him, including sexual exploitation, sexual assault and living off the avails of prostitution.
This is the third time Moazami has released his defence counsel since his arrest in 2011.
After confirming that he had dismissed his two most recent lawyers, he told the court he intended to hire David Milburn.
“I’ll agree to step in as counsel at this late stage in the interest of justice,” said Milburn, speaking via conference call during a break from a trial in Nanaimo, B.C.
Milburn represented Moazami briefly for an earlier bail hearing in provincial court.
“Everyone’s worked really hard to ensure (Moazami) has a fair trial,” said prosecutor Kristin Bryson outside the courtroom about the repeated delays, describing the “endless antics” that have bogged the proceedings.
On Monday, Crown counsel pushed for a sentence of 20 years and seven months. Moazami should serve back-to-back sentences for each of his 11 victims, who ranged in age from 14 to 19, said Bryson.
The Crown’s proposed sentence would amount to a further 17 years imprisonment after factoring in the three years seven months of time already served.
Moazami’s lawyers were to present their sentencing arguments on Tuesday, but the hearing is delayed so that Milburn can familiarize himself with the case.
The court heard during his trial that Moazami recruited at-risk girls by promising them alcohol, drugs and, in one instance, a puppy, which he threatened to harm.
He testified that he wasn’t aware his victims were underage and insisted he hadn’t been living off the money they earned having sex with an average of 12 men a day.
Moazami is scheduled to appear in court next month to face additional charges of breaching his bail conditions and obstructing justice.
In both instances he allegedly made contact with victims, once online while on bail and once through a third party while in custody at a pre-trial centre.
It is unclear who will now represent Moazami in those matters.
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Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press