Harrison, Milly and Daniel Neville-Lake (left to right) are shown in a handout photo. Marco Muzzo, accused of drunk driving in a horrific crash that killed three young children and their grandfather, has pleaded guilty to six charges and will be sentenced on Tuesday.

Marco Muzzo’s affluent background has certainly coloured how the public perceives him. But how much impact does it have inside a courtroom?

Much has been made about Marco Muzzo’s wealth and privilege — from the $1-million bail to his family seemingly being accompanied to court with private security — but lawyers say that it will ultimately have no bearing on his case.

“I think in some ways, his wealth and privilege counted against him,” said criminal defence lawyer Daniel Brown.

“The fact that he travelled home in a private plane left people wondering why he couldn’t have afforded to take a cab back from the airport…And so it certainly didn’t help him, and may be used as an argument to treat his situation more seriously.”

The Muzzo family is influential in York region. They own the construction company Marel Contractors and condominium builder Pemberton Group and are worth nearly $1.8 billion, according to Canadian Business magazine.

Muzzo’s grandfather, also named Marco, was a powerhouse in Ontario real estate, a politically well-connected developer but also a fiercely private person who was ranked among the wealthiest men in Canada by the time of his death in 2005.

Lawyer Edward Prutschi said that on a “superficial level,” Muzzo’s status absolutely had an impact on the public’s perception that the court proceedings would be tilted in his favour.

“I hope money don’t let him get away with murder,” reads one tweet on the final day of Muzzo’s sentencing hearing last month.

“Marco Muzzo shouldn’t have been released on bail. Money talks eh,” reads another.

But like Brown, Prutschi said the attention and fortune could work against Muzzo.

“I think it’s very much a double-edged sword, precisely because of the attention and the privilege, the Crown attorney is even more cognizant of not offering anything remotely resembling a deal,” he said.

While the lawyers may be confident that Muzzo’s background will have no effect on the judge’s decision on sentencing, the public backlash has nonetheless been fierce, no more so than when Muzzo was released on a $1-million bail in February after pleading guilty.

Among his sureties was his mother, Dawn, who put up $500,000.

The online reaction to the bail decision was fast and furious, and had both Justice Michelle Fuerst and Muzzo’s lawyer, Brian Greenspan, defending the move, saying anyone in his situation could have applied for release.

“This is not only routine, this would have happened with virtually anyone who has roots in the community regardless of status, regardless of wealth, regardless of any other issue,” Greenspan told reporters at the time.

Still, Brown said the ability to put up so much money definitely helped.

“It’s a proven fact that in our justice system, when it comes to bail, it is more easily obtained for somebody who has the financial resources,” said Brown.

Then there is the fact that Muzzo was able to hire Greenspan — a high-priced and well-known defence lawyer who is able to dedicate more time to the case.

“I don’t want people to think that everybody needs to go out and hire Brian Greenspan or (Jian Ghomeshi lawyer) Marie Henein in order to get a competent defence attorney,” said Prutschi.

“There are thankfully hundreds of good lawyers out there, and I don’t begrudge Mr. Muzzo the opportunity to obtain a lawyer he thinks is the very best, but I don’t think that tilts the scales in any way here.”

Case law suggests that the sentencing range for impaired driving causing death, even where there have been multiple fatalities, is between five and eight years.

Roman Luskin (2012)

The 23-year-old Toronto man was sentenced to eight years in prison for a 2009 impaired driving crash near Finch Ave. and Tobermory Dr. that killed three people, including a mother and her daughter. Luskin had pleaded guilty to two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm and three counts of criminal negligence causing death.

Sabastian Prosa (2015)

Prosa, who had pleaded not guilty, received five years in prison for a drunk driving crash on Highway 427 that killed a man and his daughter when he was 19 years old. The Toronto judge noted that Prosa had no previous criminal record and was unlikely to reoffend. The defence requested a sentence of three years, but the judge found that the Court of Appeal has begun to uphold stiffer sentences for impaired driving causing death.

Johnathan Pratt (2014)
The Alberta man was sentenced to eight years in prison and slapped with a lifetime driving ban for a 2011 crash that killed two 18-year-old boys and a 22-year-old man. Pratt was found to have had nearly three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood and was driving nearly 200 kilometres per hour in his pickup truck in the early hours of the morning when he hit the men’s car.

Source: The Toronto Star


Last updated on: 2016-04-03 | Link to this post