Judge sets 2020 trial date for man accused in Toronto van attack
Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, December 4, 2018 5:04AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 4, 2018 7:06PM EST
TORONTO -- A months-long trial is set to begin in February 2020 for a man accused of killing 10 people while driving a van down a sidewalk in north Toronto.
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.
Police allege the 26-year-old drove a rental van down a busy sidewalk along Toronto's bustling Yonge Street, striking down pedestrians on the way. Eight women and two men ranging in age from 22 to 94 died in the attack.
During a brief hearing on Tuesday, which marked the first time the case appeared before the Superior Court of Justice, Minassian's trial was set for Feb. 3, 2020.
Justice John McMahon set aside up to four months for the trial.
There was some discussion in court about the possibility of setting a trial date for September, 2019, but Minassian's lawyer, Boris Bytensky, said a 2020 date was more realistic in order to allow enough time to prepare for the high-profile case.
"If the matter proceeds to trial, I want to make sure there's no further hiccups or further adjournments required," he said outside court.
When asked about a possible plea in the case, Bytensky demurred.
"We're not at the stage where pleas are really being discussed," he said.
The defence is still receiving disclosure, he said.
"Frankly there's been a significant amount to disclose, but just because of the sheer volume there's only so much we can get through in the time that we've had so far," Bytensky said.
Last month, court heard the deputy attorney general granted the prosecution's request to skip the preliminary hearing in the case and head straight to trial.
Minassian wasn't present in court on Tuesday and he won't likely appear for a while, Bytensky said.
"He's not coming back to court until there's a reason for him coming back to court," the lawyer said.
A judicial pre-trial has been scheduled for Jan. 30, 2019 and the next hearing in the case is set for Jan. 31, 2019.