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Accused in Uber killing near Cochrane has COVID-19, trial stalled

The first-degree-murder trial of one of the accused in the killing of a Calgary Uber driver is delayed once again due to COVID-19.

The first-degree-murder trial of one of the accused in the killing of a Calgary Uber driver is delayed once again due to COVID-19.

The court was informed Monday morning (Jan. 10) that accused killer of Kasif Harani, Robert Daignault, had tested positive for the virus after being exposed to a case of COVID-19 at the Calgary Remand Centre early last week.

Presiding Court of Queen's Bench Justice Robert Hall ordered court to reconvene Jan. 14 to discuss how trial scheduling can proceed, marking the fourth time it has done so for Daignault's trial after it was initially set to begin Jan. 4.

Due to the magnitude of the first-degree-murder charge, the accused and his defence lawyer, Adriano Iovinelli, have voiced their adamance for an in-person trial.

"This is out of his hands," said Iovinelli of Daignault testing positive for COVID-19. "He's waited a significant period of time awaiting his trial lead.

"This is an allegation of first-degree-murder and there has been an extensive amount of preparation for the matter to have commenced last week."

The trial is expected to take nine days, which has brought up concerns regarding availability in the courtroom given the amount of delay already experienced. 

Iovinelli expressed concern over the possibility that the accused may need to find a new lawyer as the next time he is available for an almost two-week duration is November-December of this year, which was deemed far too long for his client to wait. 

More trial scheduling details are expected to be provided Jan. 14 when court will adjourn once again, with Daignault appearing by phone.

According to a press releases from the Cochrane RCMP and Alberta Major Crimes Unit, Daignault was one of three accused in the killing of 30-year-old Harani, alongside Trista Tinkler and Andrew Cristal.

The Uber driver's body was found on a rural road near the Sprinbank Airport in December 2019. 

RCMP had issued an arrest warrant for then-34-year-old Tinkler and 51-year-old Daignault, warning the public the pair was believed to be armed and dangerous. Police believed they had stolen the victim's vehicle.

The two were arrested on Jan. 1, 2020, but the bronze 2013 Kia Optima wasn't found.

Tinkler pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter in December 2021, while Cristal is slated to start a first-degree murder trial by jury on April 4.