Jonathan Pratt has been sentenced to eight years in prison for causing the deaths of local men Bradley Arsenault, Kole Novak and Thaddeus Lake in 2011.
Pratt was found guilty in May of three counts of manslaughter and three counts of impaired driving causing death.
A collision reconstructionist said Pratt’s Dodge Ram was travelling nearly 200 kilometres per hour in the Nov. 26, 2011 collision. His blood alcohol content was also found to be at least 200 milligrams per cent at the time of the collision, which is nearly three times the legal limit.
Justice Paul Belzil handed down the sentence on Aug. 28 and said Pratt was solely responsible for the three deaths as a result of an unlawful act and criminal negligence.
“For these serious offences, the purpose and principles of sentencing must reflect society’s denunciation of what can only be described as outrageous conduct by a driver on a public highway resulting in the death of three innocent young men,” Benzil said.
In addition to the eight-year sentence, Belzil also handed down a life-time ban from operating a motor vehicle for Pratt, with the stipulation that he can apply to drive under the Ignition Interlock Program five years after his release.
The sentence falls between the 10 years the Crown had asked for and the 4-7 years defence has asked for, along with 2-3 years probation.
Defence lawyer said Pratt had a challenging upbringing, with multiple generations of alcohol abuse in his family as well as physical abuse.
He said that since Pratt is a fairly young man, at 31, he would have a greater chance at rehabilitation. He also emphasized that Pratt had a clean criminal record and had made efforts to pursue Police Studies at MacEwan University.
Crown prosecutor Ryan Pollard said that vehicular manslaughter charges are rare, but warranted in this instance because of the accused’s “wanton and reckless” actions.
He compared the accused’s actions to randomly shooting a firearm toward the path of others.
Kole’s father Zane Novak said he’s glad the trial is over, but the closure is “minimal”.
“I was kind of hoping it would be 10 (years) – set a little bit more of a precedent,” he said. “I think the thing I will always be resentful of is the fact the sentences are served concurrently rather than consecutively.”
He was referring to the fact that Pratt technically received three separate five-year sentences for the three manslaughters, but they are to be served concurrently.
During his victim-impact statement, Novak described how Kole always said he loved him when saying goodbye and was a positive force in their family.
Novak and Kole shared so much in common, one Christmas they purchased each other the identical book as a present.
“Kole was about loving the reality of the day … Kole had so much to give this world,” Novak said. “You took it. You could have taken a cab.”
Bradley’s mother Sheri Arsenault had a 10-page impact statement, as well as a video about Bradley, which was not screened. At one point she looked directly at Pratt and said there were only four words that could describe his impact on her.
“You ruined my life,” she said slowly.
She also said every aspect of her life has been affected by her loss and she hopes he realizes it was his conscious decision that ended Bradley’s life.
“This was your choice,” she said. “Don’t ever fool yourself by calling this an accident.”
Pratt briefly addressed the court before Belzil handed down his sentence. He said the incident was “very unfortunate” and that it’s something he’ll live with for the rest of his life.
“None of this has been easy for me,” he said. “There’s not one day that goes by where I don’t think of the families.”
He went on to say that he didn’t mean for the trial to drag on for 1,006 days. But those words are hollow to Arsenault — she wonders why he didn’t just plead guilty.
“He did not say I’m sorry once,” she said. “I don’t believe the man is remorseful.”
She also found it odd that Pratt said no one has asked him to talk before, since he never gave a police statement.
Arsenault said the trial’s conclusion does not make her happy, but she’s pleased with the eight-year sentence and life-time driving ban and hopes it sends a strong message to the public.
“I’m very, very glad that the justice end of this is over,” she said. “That’s been very hard on all the families.”
Arsenault has been pushing the federal government to instate a mandatory-minimum sentence for impaired driving causing death with advocacy group Families for Justice. She plans to continue doing so.