A Winnipeg man responsible for a drunk driving crash that killed a woman waiting at a bus stop will serve one year less in jail, Manitoba's Court of Appeal has ruled.

Dakota Smoke, 20, argued his 6 1/2-year prison sentence was "harsh and excessive" and that the sentencing judge did not properly consider his aboriginal upbringing in determining an appropriate sentence.

Smoke pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death, two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm, and fleeing the scene of an accident for a Feb. 15, 2013 crash that killed 53-year-old Kim Delaurier.

In a decision released Wednesday, the Court of Appeal ruled sentencing Judge Rocky Pollack erred in finding there were no mitigating factors that would support a reduced sentence for Smoke.

"It is clear from the pre-sentence report that the accused's aboriginal background led to him developing both a drug and alcohol addiction and leaving school at an early age and was a significant underlying cause leading to him committing these offences," Justice Holly Beard wrote, speaking for the appeal court.

Last October, Pollack sentenced Smoke to 5 1/2 years in prison for the driving offences and another year for fleeing the scene.

At sentencing, Pollack cited the case of Hugo Ruizfuentes, who, after appeal, was sentenced in October 2010 to 4 1/2 years in prison for a drunk driving collision that killed 63-year-old grandmother Elaine Stoller.

Stoller was driving south on Waverley Street at Grant Avenue just before 10 p.m. on Dec. 2, 2008, when Ruizfuentes, then 40, blew through a red light -- the third in a row -- and smashed into the driver's side of her 2003 Pontiac Vibe.

At the time of the collision Ruizfuentes had 11 prior convictions under the Highway Traffic Act, including multiple convictions for running red lights and stop signs, and driving without a licence.

The appeal court ruled Pollack erred in determining the circumstances of the impaired driving offences in Smoke's case justified a sentence one year longer than that imposed on Ruizfuentes.

Smoke's age -- 18 at the time of the fatal crash -- his lack of a criminal record and "history of dysfunction" all served to distinguish the two cases and reduce Smoke's "moral culpability", the appeal court said.

Smoke had been drinking for several hours when, shortly before 6 a.m., Feb. 15, 2013, he and five passengers piled into his brother's 2004 Chevy Impala.

Witnesses said Smoke drove at speeds in excess of 100 km/h, blew through four red lights, and ignored pleas to slow down before T-boning a 2011 Honda CR-V at the intersection of Balmoral Street and Notre Dame Avenue.

The force of the collision sent the Honda careening onto the sidewalk, where it struck Delaurier at a bus stop.

She was rushed to hospital in critical condition and died.

The driver of the Honda and one of Smoke's passengers were also taken to hospital but recovered.

Smoke fled the scene and was arrested two days later at his brother's home.

Source: Winnipeg Sun


Last updated on: 2014-10-09 | Link to this post