THUNDER BAY — A man who randomly assaulted a cab driver by choking him before stealing the cab and driving it into a ditch will serve an additional 75 days in custody.
Raymond Bublitz, 42, appeared before Justice Vince Scaramuzza in a Thunder Bay Courtroom on Wednesday where he pleaded guilty to one count of assault, one count of uttering threats to cause death, and one count of theft of a motor vehicle.
According to an agreed statement of facts, the cab driver picked up Bublitz from the city’s north side at approximately 2 a.m. the morning of Feb. 5, 2021. Bublitz requested to be taken to the Westfort area and the cab driver asked he pay in advance, to which he agreed.
In the area of the Harbour Expressway, Bublitz gave the driver instructions on where to go and then reached under the barrier and grabbed his arm and asked if he “got that” in an aggressive tone.
The driver told Bublitz not to touch him. Bublitz then reached over the barrier and started to punch the driver in the head. As the driver began heading in the direction of the Thunder Bay Police Service headquarters, Bublitz proceeded to choke him.
The cab was pulled over and the two men exited. On the side of the road, Bublitz placed the driver in a choke hold and said he was going to stab him and choke him to death. The driver managed to free himself and talked Bublitz back into the backseat of the cab.
The driver attempted to drive to the police headquarters again but stopped at a gas station on Balmoral Street and ran from the vehicle. Bublitz then got into the driver seat and drove away with the cab.
Police were contacted by the driver and the cab was located in a ditch on Amber Drive. Officers located Bublitz and identified him as the driver based on the fresh tracks he left in the snow.
Officers determined Bublitz was under the influence of drugs based on his odd behaviour, including statements that he was training to be a police officer.
Contested submissions for sentencing were presented by Crown attorney Rob Kozak and defense counsel, Justin Blanco, who both agreed a custodial sentence was warranted but disagreed on the amount of time.
Blanco was seeking a sentence of time served while Kozak sought 14 months of additional custody.
Blanco agreed there were several aggravating factors associated with the offence, including the victim being a vulnerable person as a cab driver in the city.
But Blanco also cited several mitigating factors, including Bublitz’s pleas of guilty, expressions of remorse, and desire to apologize to the victim.
There was also the absence of more severe aggravating factors, according to Blanco, such as the victim not suffering any serious injuries and that the incident was not driven by a financial motive.
“It’s a serious of offences that appears to be driven by substance abuse,” Blanco said. “They are so inherently bizarre that one has to question if Mr. Bublitz was in touch with reality at the time or if impairment had taken over his faculties.”
A Gladue report also detailed difficulties in Bublitz’s upbringing, including exposure to substances and abuse from an early age.
Kozak also highlighted the aggravating factor of the assault being committed against a vulnerable member of the community, namely a cab driver working late at night.
And while Bublitz’s behaviour was bizarre, Kozak said it was based on intoxication rather than a mental health disorder and he is taking criminal responsibility for his actions.
When given the opportunity to speak, Bublitz told the court that he is a priest now and that he was really impaired the night of the incident and only remembers getting in the cab.
“Regardless of what happened, I hope I can talk to [the victim] and ask him to forgive me,” he said.
Scaramuzza said the Crown is not wrong in seeking further custody in the matter, agreeing with both counsel that there was a significant aggravating factor in this case.
“It is indeed aggravating that the person who was affected is a vulnerable person in the community,” he said. “[The victim] was operating a taxi cab in the middle of the night. We know in Thunder Bay there are fewer and fewer taxi cabs in the evening. If you ask a driver why you don’t work in the evening, I’m sure they will tell you it is because there are people on the street who are dangerous.”
But Scaramuzza disagreed with the Crown in terms of the length of additional time in custody Bublitz should serve.
“I don’t believe that an additional 14 months in custody would make a big difference to you or for that matter for the community,” Scaramuzza said.
Bublitz was sentenced to two years less a day. With pre-sentence custody of 388 real days enhanced to 582 days, plus two months of credit for conditions at the Thunder Bay District Jail, for a total of 21.5 months, Bublitz will serve an additional 75 days in custody to be followed by 18 months probation.
Bublitz is also required to submit a DNA sample and is subject to a 10-year weapon prohibition.