May 15, 2014 - JOHNATHAN PRATT FOUND GUILTY OF THREE COUNTS OF MANSLAUGHTER IN DRUNK DRIVING DEATH OF THREE BEAUMONT MEN

Sheri Arsenault did not sleep Wednesday night.

On the eve of the verdict in the drunk driving trial for the 2011 deaths of three young Beaumont men -- including her son Brad -- she couldn't help but wonder if the judge would find Johnathan Pratt guilty of manslaughter.

But on Thursday, Sheri heard what she wanted to hear as Judge Paul Belzil read his decision in a Wetaskiwin courtroom, finding Pratt guilty of three counts of manslaughter and impaired driving causing death.

"I was hanging on every word. I felt a big sense of relief, but at the same time just looking at a picture of Brad, it's just such enormous sorrow that we're even there for this reason," said Sheri, who was among more than 75 friends and relatives of Kole Novak, 18, Brad Arsenault, 18, and Thaddeus Lake, 22, that packed the courthouse to hear the verdict.

Pratt stared straight ahead as the verdict was read, said Sheri, seldom changing his expression throughout the trial. His lawyer, Timothy Dunlap, later said outside court that Pratt accepts there's a price to pay.

"He's a very quiet guy, but I have gotten indications ... that he feels unbelievably bad about this. When all of the facts come out at the time of sentencing, I think they are going to realize that he's actually a good person, but made a very bad mistake," said Dunlap. "It's a situation where there are no winners. Mr. Pratt, no matter what happened today, will forever lose for the rest of his life because of that mistake."

Around 2:45 a.m. on Nov. 26, 2011, the car the three men were travelling in was hit from behind by a speeding Dodge Ram on Highway 625 near Beaumont. The force of the impact left the three young men dead at the scene. Two of them were ejected from the car and the other was pulled from the crumpled wreckage.

During the April trial, court heard the truck was travelling at speeds of 199 km/hr before it struck the Grand Am. The posted speed limit was 70 km/hr.

Pratt admitted being the owner of the truck, but Dunlap argued his client -- found injured beneath the truck when police arrived at the scene -- was in the passenger seat and someone else was behind the wheel. The prosecution, however, argued Pratt's DNA was found inside the vehicle and there were no footprints in the snow to indicate another driver had left the scene.

Officers also found Pratt's blood alcohol concentration was nearly three times the legal limit.

Sheri said Pratt tried to approach the grieving family two-and-a-half years after the deadly crash. But she wasn't interested given he had pleaded not guilty to all nine charges.

"That's just too hollow for me. Why didn't he take ownership the minute he sobered up? That's what my son would have done," said Sheri, whose become a spokesperson with Families for Justice, pushing for a five-year minimum sentencing for those convicted of drunk driving causing death.

"Today was a big day for everyone, not just Brad, Kole, Thaddeus and our families. I think it's good news for everyone in our country."

The matter will return to court Aug. 1 for sentencing.

Source: The Beaumont News


 

Last updated on: 2014-05-20 | Link to this post