October 20th, 2020

Conditional sentence for fatal hit-and-run


By Shurtz, Delon on October 8, 2020.

Delon Shurtz

lethbridge herald

dshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A southern Alberta man who is dying of cancer has been placed under house arrest after being convicted of a fatal hit-and-run collision two years ago.

During a sentencing hearing Wednesday in Lethbridge provincial court, Judge Paul Pharo handed Michael White Quills a three-month conditional sentence, the first month of which he will be under house arrest. For the remaining two months he must obey a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. everyday.

The sentence wasn’t received well by family members of Gage Christian Good Rider, who was struck and killed by White Quills during the early morning hours of Sept. 5, 2018 while Good Rider and a friend were walking along Highway 5 between the city and airport.

Some family members shouted and swore outside the Lethbridge Courthouse following the sentence, and blamed the federal government for the lax sentence given to White Quills.

White Quills was acquitted last July of hit and run knowing it could have resulted in death or bodily harm. However, he was found guilty of the lesser charge of simple hit and run.

Crown Prosecutor Erin Olsen said during sentencing arguments last month she intended to ask for a nine-month conditional sentence, but because White Quills has been diagnosed with cancer and told he only has 12-14 months to live, Olsen felt a three-month conditional sentence, to be served in the community, would be appropriate.

“It’s still a jail sentence, but to be served in the community,” she said.

Calgary lawyer Balfour Der argued White Quills should, on compassionate grounds, receive a $1,000 fine and a 12-month driving prohibition. He also pointed out his client did not have a criminal record, had willingly turned himself over to the police, and had initially offered to plead guilty to the lesser charge to avoid trial. The Crown rejected the plea.

Pharo noted Wednesday several aggravating factors in the case, including White Quill’s attempt to avoid legal liability by not stopping after hitting Good Rider with his parents’ truck as he was leaving Lethbridge. Pharo said even though White Quills believed he had struck a deer, he still should have stopped. White Quills, he pointed out, had been drinking and may have been driving over 100 km/h in a 60 km/h zone.

In mitigation however, Pharo said White Quills is remorseful, he apologized to the victim’s family, co-operated with police and accepted responsibility He was also considered a person of “previous good character.”

None of which consoles the victim’s family.

“This crime has hurt so many lives,” Good Rider’s brother, Nathan Heavy Runner, said while reading his victim impact statement. “Words cannot even begin to describe the impact this has caused on my own family. Not one day has gone by without thinking about my brother and the way he was taken from us.”

As part of his conditional sentence, White Quills must, among other conditions, keep the peace and behave himself, attend court when required, not leave Alberta without permission and abstain from alcohol and drugs. He is also prohibited from driving for 15 months.

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