Mar 24, 2015 - DRUNK DRIVER WHO KILLED MOTORCYCLIST APPEALS SIX-YEAR SENTENCE [Tony Harrison]


The lawyer representing a Calgary man who killed a motorcyclist while driving drunk appeared in front of the Alberta Court of Appeal on Tuesday, arguing for a reduction of his client’s six year prison sentence.

Lawyer Alain Hepner argued the judge who handed the six-year term to Kelly James York erred by placing too much emphasis on two prior impaired-related convictions from several years earlier.

While acknowledging courts across the country have gradually been increasing the penalties for impaired driving cases resulting in death, Hepner said the particulars of York’s case didn’t justify a six-year term.

“I still respectfully submit … that a sentence in the four- to five-year range is an appropriate sentence,” Hepner told the three-judge appeal panel.

“In this case, with this accused, I find it difficult to see how the judge arrived at a six-year term.”

York had a blood-alcohol level of .24 — three times the legal limit — when he struck Tony Harrison, 45, who was riding a Victory motorcycle east in the 8200 block of 17th Avenue S.E. at 2 a.m. on July 15, 2012.

York, driving a Chevrolet Venture minivan, was westbound and had crossed the centre line into the eastbound lanes. Court heard Harrison likely couldn’t see York was on the wrong side of the road until just before the crash.

York, 44, pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death. It was his third drunk driving offence (but his first involving death or injury) following prior convictions in 1993 and 2000. York was also convicted twice, in the 1990s, of driving while disqualified.

Hepner argued there were several mitigating factors in York’s favour, including a “timely” guilty plea and remorse demonstrated by his client’s decision to quit drinking following the offence. Provincial court Judge Paul Mason placed too much weight on the “dated” impaired driving convictions when measured against the mitigating factors, said Hepner.

The legal test for altering the original sentence is if it was demonstrably unfit or the judge made an error in law. In this case, neither circumstance applies, Crown prosecutor Josh Hawkes said.

Hawkes argued there is a strong connection between York’s conduct in the prior cases and the fateful decision to drive drunk the night he killed Harrison. York didn’t learn his lesson — and the judge was right to consider that, Hawkes said.

“We don’t doubt or gainsay the genuineness of the remorse,” he said.

“Tragically, that may have come too late and at a terrible price for the family of the deceased and for the community.”

The appeal judges reserved their decision, which will be released at a later date.

Source: Calgary Herald


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Last updated on: 2015-04-06 | Link to this post