The day Mona LeBlanc’s daughter was born was supposed to be the best of her life. Instead, it is also marked by her brother’s death.

A 35-year-old Edmonton man was found guilty Thursday for causing the collision that killed Jeremie LeBlanc, who was driving to the Grey Nun’s Hospital where his sister was giving birth in April 2010.

“My daughter is now four and asks about him constantly. It’s very hard trying to make her birthday special every year, it’s hard trying to explain to her why he’s never come to her birthdays. And even if she’s only four, she knows that her birthday is a very sad day for us,” Mona LeBlanc said in an email.

Justice Donna Shelley found Jayant Soni guilty of dangerous driving causing death. While she was “very suspicious” Soni, 35, was street racing that night, she said there was not sufficient evidence to convict him on that charge.

“Today’s verdict gives minimal closure to my family. We are happy the accused was held responsible for killing my brother that night but at the end of the day it doesn’t bring him back,” Mona LeBlanc wrote.

The family has already sat through the trial of another driver, Rena Noi Onevathana, who received a 90-day sentence earlier this year for fleeing the scene of the accident.

The teenager’s Oldsmobile was struck by a Lexus and a Mercedes-Benz speeding on 66th Street near 31st Avenue on April 23, 2010. Soni was driving the Mercedes and Onevathana, the Lexus.

“Mr. Soni’s driving had a number of objectively dangerous components,” Shelley said.

She found that Soni was speeding for a prolonged period of time while close to another speeding vehicle — the Lexus — in the period before the crash. An investigator found Soni’s vehicle was travelling between 85 km/h and 100 km/h in a 60 km/h zone. The Lexus was found to be travelling at up to 125 km/h.

The years-long court proceedings have taken a number of bizarre turns. While Onevathana was convicted of fleeing the scene, he never admitted at his trial he was driving the Lexus. At this trial, he did — but he told the judge little else. Another witness, a passenger in Soni’s car, also remembered nothing significant about the collision while on the witness stand. Both, however, said there was no street race. Neither could say why they fled the scene.

Shelley found their limited recollections were, at best, an attempt to avoid responsibility. At worst, they were “likely the product of outright lying.”

In 2012, Soni sued the LeBlanc family for $200,000 and claimed the accident was LeBlanc’s fault. The suit was later dropped.

Several witnesses who testified at Soni’s trial said they heard engines revving before they heard the sounds of a collision.

Defence lawyer Brian Beresh argued the prosecution failed to prove Soni was racing or driving dangerously, noting that speeding alone does not constitute dangerous driving.

A dangerous driving conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a driver’s behaviour presented a marked departure from what a reasonable person would do in similar circumstances. A momentary lapse of attention in an otherwise normal driving pattern would not result in conviction.

Beresh also argued the eyewitnesses who testified the vehicles were racing cannot be fully trusted because of various discrepancies.

Soni will be sentenced in 2015.

Source: Edmonton Journal


Last updated on: 2014-12-23 | Link to this post