Winnipeg Disbarred Lawyer Peter Ottavio Jachetta, 72, Declared Mentally Unfit for his Criminal Fraud Trial

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On May 4, 2020, Justice Ann Krahn of the Manitoba Provincial Court declared disbarred Manitoba lawyer Peter Ottavio Jachetta mentally unfit to stand trial for criminal fraud allegations made by the Crown.

On June 25, 1974, Mr. Peter Jachetta was called to the Bar. On July 20, 2015, he was disbarred by the Law Society for Manitoba for misappropriation of trust funds in the amount of $307,000. The Law Society reported the disbarment to the Winnipeg Police Service. An investigation was launched. On December 17, 2018, Peter Jachetta was charged with criminal breach of trust, fraud over $5000, false pretences and theft over $5000.

Mr. Jachetta takes the position he is unfit to proceed to trial due to a neuro-cognitive disorder or dementia. The Crown relies on the criminal law presumption all persons are fit to stand trial. The Crown raises concerns about the credibility of Mr. Jachetta’s professed lack of memory or current awareness of his criminal charges due to dementia.

Mr. Jachetta testified in his own defence. He began his testimony by saying he thought he was 73 years old (in fact he is 72). He knew his birthdate was December 24, 1947. He knew he was married to Trudy. He said he had two children who were “around” 26 and 24 years of age. When Mr. Jachetta was asked if he had ever been suspended or disbarred from the practice of law, he said, “I don’t think so.” He responded with those words frequently in his testimony.

Mr. Jachetta provided a definition of theft (”you take something that is not yours”) but when the theft charge was read to him from the information, he said, “I don’t know what that means.” This was his response, every time he was read the charge directly from the information.

When asked if he knew what fraud meant, Mr. Jachetta said ‘fraud is lying about something.’ He said he was not aware he was facing a charge of fraud. He said he did not remember being arrested by the police.

Justice Ann Krahn found that Mr. Jachetta memory deficits would not allow him to remember the evidence of witnesses for any appreciable period of time, such that he could meaningfully participate in a trial or the presentation of his defence. While Mr. Jachetta can communicate, in that he can understand and respond to questions, he cannot communicate with counsel in a meaningful way related to his defence of the criminal charges.

The Court found that Mr. Jachetta had established on a balance of probabilities he is unfit to stand trial. To review the full reasons for decision, see R. v. Jachetta, 2020 MBPC 21.