June 22nd, 2024

Accused in impaired driving case hopes to withdraw guilty plea

By Delon Shurtz on September 17, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A Lethbridge woman who pleaded guilty in November to one count of impaired driving, and acknowledged driving over another woman, hopes a judge will allow her to withdraw her guilty plea.

Jessica Lee Gearing, 33, was scheduled to have a sentencing hearing Thursday in Lethbridge provincial court, but instead the judge was told she wants to strike her guilty plea.

Lethbridge lawyer Greg White also asked to be removed as Gearing’s counsel, which is necessary, he pointed out, should he be required to be a witness if the matter ultimately goes to trial.

Lethbridge lawyer Ingrid Hess told court she now represents Gearing, and needs time to review the case before taking a next step.

“I need to get up to speed on this matter,” she told Judge Kristin Ailsby.

Crown Prosecutor Michael Fox reminded the judge that Gearing had already pleaded guilty, and the facts of the case had already been accepted by the court. However, he didn’t oppose the defence’s intention to have the guilty plea struck.

Following her guilty plea in November, court was told Gearing had been in a bar the previous July and was preparing to drive away when a friend tried to stop her from leaving. Gearing, however, started her car, drove over her friend, then drove away. Crown prosecutor Bruce Ainscough said the friend was taken to hospital with minor injuries and “significant” road rash, and Gearing, who was intoxicated at the time, was arrested a couple of hours later at her residence.

“She didn’t seem to be aware she ran over anybody,” Ainscough added.

At a sentencing hearing in July, the victim said 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.”

In a letter which was read in court, Gearing 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 wrote. “It took several attempts at getting my meds right, and since being diagnosed I haven’t had an episode in over a year.”

During the July hearing the Crown recommended Gearing receive a jail sentence between one year and 15 months, while defence suggested a sentence ranging from three to six months.

The matter is scheduled to return to court in November, but only to set a date for the judge to hear defence’s application to strike the guilty plea.

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