An Edmonton driver involved in an alleged street race that killed a teenager testified Tuesday it was his “natural instinct” to flee the scene without checking if anyone needed medical attention.

Rena Noi Onevathana testified at the trial of 35-year-old Jayant Soni, who faces charges of dangerous driving causing death and street racing causing death. Prosecutors allege the two men were street racing before the April 2010 crash that killed 16-year-old Jeremie LeBlanc.

Leblanc was driving to the Grey Nuns Hospital, where his sister was giving birth.

In February, Onevathana pleaded guilty to fleeing the scene of an accident and received a 90-day jail sentence to be served on weekends.

“I got scared and ran, it was a natural instinct,” he testified Tuesday. “That’s all I can really tell you.”

Onevathana admitted he was the driver of the Lexus after his own lawyer attended the trial to assert that, under the Canada Evidence Act, his testimony couldn’t be used to incriminate him.

Onevathana testified he couldn’t remember many details before, during or after the crash. He couldn’t recall where he spent time that afternoon, what speed he was driving, who was in the car or if he’d ever reported the crash to police.

“It’s been a long time since that incident and I don’t remember,” he said.

Onevathana acknowledged that his girlfriend’s Lexus was damaged while he was driving.

Onevathana also couldn’t recall what he’d said to his girlfriend after the crash. In February, he signed an agreed statement of facts stating that he lied and told her the vehicle was stolen.

The 35-year-old abandoned his girlfriend’s vehicle and testified he walked home from the intersection of 66th Street and 31st Avenue to Sherwood Park. Later, he testified he might have taken a taxi.

Under cross-examination, Onevathana denied he was street racing and said he hadn’t seen Soni that night. The two had known each other since high school, he said, but only casually.

Two years after LeBlanc’s death, Soni sued the LeBlanc family for $200,000 and claimed the accident was LeBlanc’s fault. That statement of claim states that Soni was driving when the crash occurred.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Donna Shelley ruled that claim inadmissible because it couldn’t be proven Soni made admissions himself or knew they could be used against him.

“There is nothing to suggest he was specifically told of any penal consequences in the event of a false or inaccurate statement,” the judge concluded. “I also do not know if he was told that such an allegation could or could not be used for any other purpose, including in criminal proceedings against him, without his consent.”

Soni discontinued his lawsuit in August 2013.

When his trial began, Soni also faced a charge of refusing to provide a breath sample. That charge has been dismissed.

Source: Edmonton Journal


Last updated on: 2014-11-07 | Link to this post