Twenty-eight-year old Alek Minassian was found guilty on 26 charges that include murder and attempted murder Wednesday for purposefully driving a van through a crowd in Toronto nearly three years ago.
On April 23, 2018, the man drove a white rental van onto a crowded sidewalk and plowed into pedestrians, killing 10 people and wounding another 15. Defense attorney Boris Bytensky argued his client's autism disorder rendered him incapable of developing empathy and therefore unaware of the consequences of his actions, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation reported. Justice Anne Molloy immediately dismissed that as a defense. She found Minassian guilty of 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. Lack of empathy, she said, was not a defense.
"He freely chose the option that was morally wrong, knowing what the consequences would be for himself, and for everybody else," Molloy said. "It does not matter that he does not have remorse, nor empathize with the victims."
While announcing her decision, Molloy read the name and age of each of the victims. She also listed the injuries and life-altering circumstances of the survivors. Additionally, the judge refused to use the defendant's name, denying him the notoriety he sought through his crimes, CBC reported. Murder in Canada carries a life sentence and those found guilty must serve at least 25 years before being considered for parole.
Minassian told police he acted on behalf of the "incel" movement -- a group of predominately white, heterosexual men online who want to find somebody to love, yet remain involuntarily celibate. A 17-year-old boy accused of stabbing a woman to death last year, also in Toronto, faces terrorism charges after police determined his actions were inspired by the incel movement, CBC reported.
The Ontario Autism Coalition released a statement following Molloy's verdict, applauding the judge for rejecting the attempted autism defense. "Violent traits have no connection to autism; in fact, people on the autism spectrum are far more likely to be victims as opposed to perpetrators of violence," the statement said.
My statement on today’s verdict in the Yonge Street Tragedy trial pic.twitter.com/FYnl1lYc1r— John Tory (@JohnTory) March 3, 2021
Toronto Mayor John Tory attributed the attacks to the murderer's hatred of women and applauded Molloy's ruling. "Since that day we have been working to help the survivors heal and move forward and to support the families as they mourn," Tory said in a statement. "I truly hope that for the victims and their families and friends, today's verdict will help.