Jul 13, 2015 - 'BAD' DRIVER GETS THIRD LIFETIME BAN


Thomas A. Knapp is by definition a very bad driver, so it appeared to surprise even the judge when, following his latest conviction for driving while disqualified, his lawyer, Judyth Rekai, requested that no additional driving prohibition be imposed on him.

Knapp already has a lifetime driving prohibition, Justice Allan Letourneau pointed out.

"Two of them," Rekai responded mildly.

But she said her client, an auto mechanic by trade, according to her, feels that he needs to drive and hopes to eventually get his licence back. A fresh driving prohibition, she suggested, would prevent him from applying.

Knapp had just pleaded guilty in Kingston's Ontario Court of Justice to driving while disqualified earlier this year in April -- his 21st conviction on that particular charge by Justice Letourneau's count.

He was given enhanced credit on 83 days of pretrial custody, sentenced to a further 56 days in jail and prohibited from driving for life, consecutive to his previous life prohibitions.

Crown attorney Ross Drummond described to the judge how Knapp was arrested on April 17, after he popped up on the periphery of a Kingston Police Drug Unit investigation.

That day, police had undercover surveillance on the Conacher Drive address of a woman suspected of dealing drugs. A year earlier, the drug unit had executed a search warrant at her residence and seized crystal meth, cocaine and a set of digital scales.

Drummond told the judge that officers watching the place had already taken note of a black rental Kia parked out front, when a man wearing a grey "Tap Out" T-shirt came out the front door shortly before 11 a.m. and got into the Kia's driver's seat. Justice Letourneau was told the man, who was alone in the car, then drove into a nearby parking lot, turned the vehicle around and drove away, west on Conacher.

One of the officers thought he recognized the Kia's driver as Thomas Knapp. He wasn't their target, however, and, Drummond said, the surveillance team didn't want to jeopardized their operation by following him, so they let him go.

But then he drove back and the woman who was of interest came out of the house, took Knapp's place behind the wheel and they drove off again together.

Drummond said the drug unit later pulled over the Kia on Westbrook Road, north of Princess Street, and arrested them both -- Knapp for his earlier driving.

Rekai urged Justice Letourneau to sentence her client to time served, suggesting that the Crown might have had difficulty proving its case against her client had he not pleaded guilty.

She told Justice Letourneau that Knapp, at 45, has "had a real problem with authority since he was a small boy," a problem she attributed to issues he has with his father, who was in law enforcement.

Drummond recommended the equivalent of a six-month jail sentence, inclusive of pretrial custody with the standard enhanced credit, which in Knapp's case converted his 83 days into 124 days.

The judge, who had been leafing through Knapp's substantial record, told him that in all the time he's been practising law, "I cannot recall a driving record as bad as yours."

His impression wasn't unique. Eleven years ago, Justice Charles Anderson, upon sentencing Knapp in Brockville on charges of dangerous driving, driving while disqualified and failing to stop for police, observed: "This is the most significant driving record I had the opportunity of reviewing."

Justice Letourneau, speaking directly to Knapp, then started to review his driving sins when Knapp interjected, "not on this day. I was not driving on this occasion."

The judge fell silent and Knapp was on the verge of having his guilty plea struck, which would have meant a return to custody without a sentence and queuing up again for a trial date, when Rekai spoke to him in the prisoners box. He then conceded driving in the parking lot and Rekai, after another brief exchange with her client, interjected that "Mr. Knapp admits he was driving on the road."

Justice Letourneau said nothing and didn't acknowledge the defence lawyer's correction.

He was busy writing -- addition, as it turned out, tallying up Knapp's driving record.

When he raised his head again, it was to tell Knapp and the lawyers that, by his count, Knapp's record to date has accumulated two impaired driving convictions, eight convictions for dangerous driving and 20 prior convictions for driving while disqualified.

It underlined Drummond's earlier point that Knapp drives when he wants, irrespective of court orders.

Drummond noted that two lifetime driving prohibitions were imposed on Knapp by the courts in 2007 in Napanee, another 10-year prohibition was handed down in 2012 and a two-year prohibition was ordered -- again out of Napanee -- in February. He was also prohibited for 10 years in 2004 after leading police on a high-speed chase through Brockville -- a stunt that also netted him 21 months in jail.

"You're a person who should never be behind the wheel of a motor vehicle again," Justice Letourneau told him.

He noted that if someone was unfortunate enough to be hit by Knapp while he's out driving illegally, there would be no insurance coverage.

And auto mechanic or not, "you're a prohibited driver. You're not allowed to drive," the judge told him.

He suggested to Rekai and her client that he was not only imposing another lifetime driving prohibition, but he was making it consecutive to push that point home.

Source: The Kingston Whig-Standard


Last updated on: 2015-07-20 | Link to this post