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Toronto grocer charged for catching thief faces further wait

David Chen outside the grocery store he owns on Dundas Street in Toronto's Chinatown.

Charla Jones/Charla Jones/The Globe and Mail

Charges against the Chinatown grocer who tackled, bound and held a man stealing from his store still stand - and Wang (David) Chen won't find out for another two weeks whether the prosecution will drop the most serious of four criminal offences he's facing.

"I'm disappointed," Mr. Chen said in court at Old City Hall Thursday. "The charges should have been withdrawn."

Mr. Chen and two of his employees are facing charges of assault, kidnapping, forcible confinement and concealment of a weapon after they apprehended a man who had stolen from Mr. Chen's Lucky Moose market earlier the same day.

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Anthony Bennett pleaded guilty to two charges of theft in August - one in relation to Mr. Chen's store, and another for stealing from a plant shop on King Street West. He got a lighter sentence for agreeing to testify as a Crown witness in the case against Mr. Chen, the store owner who caught him.

Mr. Chen's lawyer Peter Lindsay said Thursday prosecutors have suggested Mr. Chen plead guilty to two of the counts - forcible confinement and concealing a weapon - and receive a suspended sentence and 18 months probation.

"There's no way, shape or form that is going to happen," he told a swarm of reporters on the courthouse steps.

Mr. Lindsay has collected numerous affidavits from business owners in Chinatown and elsewhere in 52 Division, where the crime took place, saying Mr. Bennett, who has a criminal record dating to 1976 that includes theft and drug-related charges, has been stealing from their stores going back for years.

One woman said he stole from her store as recently as two weeks ago.

Mr. Lindsay said he hopes the prosecution will drop the kidnapping charge, which was suggested as early as June. Because it's the most serious of the four and an indictable offence it would get Mr. Chen a jury trial - something Mr. Lindsay said he welcomes.

Mr. Chen was surrounded in court by more than a dozen supporters - friends and members of Toronto's Chinese-Canadian community. One woman said she doesn't even know Mr. Chen, but she has helped raise more than $5,000 to support him.

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Mr. Chen said he doesn't understand why the charges still stand. He said having them hang over his head is hurting his business and his family of four. It doesn't help that his wife has an upcoming surgery next month, and he has been taking her to and from hospital in addition to running the store.

"It's affecting my business, my livelihood. ... Of course we're all worried."

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