TORONTO – The case of a man accused of killing 10 people in a van attack in north Toronto will skip a preliminary hearing and head straight to trial.
Alek Minassian, of Richmond Hill, Ont., faces 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder in connection with the April 23 incident.
The 25-year-old is accused of driving a rental van down a busy sidewalk along Yonge Street and plowing into dozens of pedestrians.
Court heard on Thursday that the deputy attorney general has granted the Crown’s request to proceed by a direct indictment in the case.
Outside court, Minassian’s lawyer said he wasn’t surprised by the decision.
“It’s really never been discussed if he’d prefer a preliminary inquiry,” said Boris Bytensky. “It’s something that’s been off the table for quite some time in my mind.”
VIDEO: Alleged Yonge Street van attacker case expedited to Superior Court. Mark Carcasole reports.
Minassian did not appear in person or by video during the brief hearing.
Bytensky said it will be 10 to 18 months before the trial would start. There would be numerous dates where Minassian won’t appear as they work through case management.
He wouldn’t comment on whether Minassian would enter a plea beforehand.
“I’m not going to discuss what our intentions may or may not be,” he said.
VIDEO: Survivor recalls haunting memories from Toronto van attack
Bytensky said he’s concerned about his client’s right to a fair trial given the publicity surrounding the attack.
“But I have faith in our criminal justice system,” Bytensky said.
“There is at least the possibility of a change of venue. That’s something — I’ll be candid — that I’ve contemplated. I don’t know if that’s something that we’ll be seeking.”
Crown lawyer Joe Callaghan told court he has given over more disclosure to the defence, which Bytensky described as “voluminous.”
There is a large volume of video evidence, Bytensky said, along with numerous witness statements to go over.
Police have previously said they haven’t identified a motive for the attack, but that the evidence they had didn’t warrant terrorism charges.
Minassian’s family has said they grieve for the victims, who included eight women and two men ranging in age from 22 to 94.
His case will move to the Superior Court of Justice on Dec. 4.