By Delon Shurtz on July 22, 2021.
A Lethbridge woman who ran over another woman with her car two years ago,Â knowsÂ she’s going to jail, but not for how long.
The Crown recommended during a hearing Tuesday in Lethbridge provincial court that Jessica Lee Gearing receive a sentence between one year and 15 months, while defence suggested a sentence ranging from three to six months.
Gearing had previously pleaded guilty to a charge of impaired driving causing bodily harm in November 2020.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Kristin Ailsby pointed out she will send Gearing to jail, but she reserved her decision on the length of the sentence until Sept. 16 to give her time to consider submissions by the Crown and defence.
Lethbridge lawyer Greg White was prepared to ask for a three-month sentence, which Gearing could serve on weekends. But that was based on earlier information the victim had suffered only minor injuries. However, when the 35-year-old woman read her victim impact statement in court, she said the decision Gearing made to drive while she was drunk resulted in “devastating consequences” that have plagued her ever since the incident in July 2019.
The woman was one of several people who tried to prevent a drunken Gearing from driving home from a bar, but Gearing climbed into her vehicle anyway, put it in reverse, and ran over her victim, dragging her a short distance through the parking lot.
Gearing, who did know she hit someone, drove home but was arrested a couple of hours later.
The victim told court she relives over and over again the “horror of that night,” and is unable to sleep well. And when sleep finally comes, it’s not restful because of her chronic pain.
“Being sleep deprived has become my reality,” she said.
She still has ringing in her ears and gets many headaches. She often has difficulty processing her thoughts clearly, and she occasionally gets excruciating stomach pain.
“Sometimes the pain is so crushing, that I can barely breathe.”
The woman said she can no longer be physically active like she once was, and even running around the block is impossible and causes pain. And while she turns 35 this month, she feels like she is closer to 85 years old.
Although more of an acquaintance of Gearing’s than a friend, the woman said she still had to try to stop Gearing from driving.
“I knew she was very drunk, and I reacted. My fear was that if she drove, she could kill someone. I thought I was potentially saving a life, not changing mine forever.”
Lethbridge lawyer Greg White explained Gearing was having problems with her boyfriend, who was also at the bar that night. She then ran from the bar and did something that was out of character for her. White said a witness believed Gearing may have had a panic attack, and he noted she had previously changed medications.
“It’s not a justification, it’s more of an explanation for why she did what she did,” White said.
White referred to a letter Gearing wrote, in which she explains she was diagnosed with manic depression, which played a role in her conduct that night.
“That doesn’t excuse my actions, and I do feel horrible for what I did,” she said. “It took several attempts at getting my meds right, and since being diagnosed I haven’t had an episode in over a year.”
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