By Delon Shurtz on December 11, 2020.
A Lethbridge Crown prosecutor and Calgary defence lawyer are miles apart when it comes to sentencing a 26-year-old man for several criminal offences.
During a sentencing hearing Tuesday in Lethbridge provincial court for Anthony Douglas Johnston, Crown prosecutor Bruce Ainscough recommended a sentence of 25 months in a federal prison, and a five-year driving prohibition.
Calgary lawyer Robin McIntyre is seeking a 13-month jail sentence, which would equate to the amount of time Johnston has already spent in remand, effectively concluding his sentence. She also recommended placing Johnston on probation for 18 months.
Johnston pleaded guilty in September to charges of possession of stolen property over $5,000, possession of stolen property under $5,000, flight from a peace officer, driving while prohibited, and possession of a weapon while prohibited from doing so.
According to an agreed statement of facts, a woman called police about 8 a.m. March 20 to report her Ford Explorer had been stolen. The woman called police again a few hours later and she was tracking her vehicle using GPS technology.
A police officer saw the vehicle and followed it into a Dairy Queen drive-through on Mayor Magrath Drive South, where he and an officer in a second unmarked police vehicle used their vehicles to trap the stolen truck.
Johnston, who saw one of the approaching vehicles and thought he was going to be struck, attempted to avoid the collision and drive away. The officer activated his emergency lights and siren, closed the distance, and caused the bumpers of both vehicles to collide. The Explorer spun out and hit an adjacent motel building, causing $75,000-$100,000 in damage.
Although the Explorer was stuck, Johnston put it in reverse, and for about 30 seconds attempted to flee. Officers approached both sides of the vehicle with their guns drawn, and Johnston and two passengers were arrested.
Inside the Explorer police found a canister of bear spray, and inside Johnston’s backpack they found a key for a Hyundai Elantra that had been stolen in March, and in which police found items belonging to Johnston.
Ainscough, in arguing for the penitentiary term, pointed out Johnston’s lengthy criminal record, including three convictions for fleeing from police, 20 convictions for possessing stolen property, 16 convictions for theft, two convictions for dangerous driving, and 22 convictions for failing to comply with court orders.
Ainscough also said Johnston had been released from jail on other charges only days before committing the offences for which he is being sentenced.
McIntyre told court although her client attempted to flee from police, he simply panicked at first and attempted to avoid a collision when he saw an unmarked police vehicle driving toward him.
McIntyre explained Johnston has had a difficult life so far, and she referred to an assessment that describes Johnston’s experiences in multiple foster homes, his addiction to alcohol and drugs, and his penchant for violence. Johnston’s mother, who stabbed herself in front of him when he was eight years old, was also an addict. Johnston’s girlfriend died of an overdose, and his father attempted to commit suicide.
Johnston may also suffer from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, although he has never been diagnosed, McIntyre added.
Johnston told court he never before tried to understand his criminal behaviour, but he has come to understand that his addictions are a disease, and although he knows he has hurt people, he realizes he was also a victim. He said he wants to continue receiving help, and hopes to become a role model for others with similar struggles.
“I want help and I’m not ashamed to ask for it, anymore,” Johnston concluded.
The matter is scheduled to return to court in January when Judge Kristen Ailsby is expected to give her decision on sentencing.
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