By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on September 27, 2023.
A judge has ordered that a woman who pleaded guilty to impaired driving and failure to remain at the scene of an accident, personally attend court for her sentencing hearing.
Shenese Amy-Llynn Prefontaine, who lives in Calgary, was set to be sentenced Tuesday in Lethbridge court of justice. Lethbridge lawyer Cara Lebenzon told court she and the Crown were jointly recommending her client receive a fine, and Justice Timothy Hironaka agreed to hear the case in the absence of the accused. After hearing the serious allegations, however, Hironaka said Prefontaine should be in court for her sentencing.
“I am, regrettably, coming to the conclusion that it’s probably not appropriate for me to complete this sentencing without Miss Prefontaine being physically before the court,” Hironaka said. “I realize that counsel both agreed to it, and the fact there was going to be a joint submission it was appropriate for me to deal with it with the accused not before the court, but I’m already seeing circumstances that I believe would make it totally inappropriate for the court to deal with sentencing without the accused being present.”
Crown Prosecutor Julian Spearchief-Morris told court that about 2 a.m. on June 8, 2022 police responded to a complaint of a drunk driver at a local bar. When officers arrived several men pointed to a damaged vehicle in the parking lot and said it had been struck by another vehicle which had afterward driven through a field before stopping in another parking lot.
Police found the vehicle “caught up” in a chain used to fence off an adjacent lot. The interior light was on but the engine was no longer running, and the female driver was slumped over the steering wheel.
“Police extracted the female from the vehicle and she was identified as Shenese Prefontaine,” Crown Prosecutor Julian Spearchief-Morris told court. “She was exhibiting signs of gross impairment; as a result Miss Prefontaine was handcuffed and placed in the rear of a police vehicle.”
The pub’s bartender told police he had stopped serving drinks to Prefontaine because she was clearly intoxicated after drinking several shots of alcohol. He called her a cab, but she refused to take the cab and resisted efforts by other witnesses to prevent her from driving.
Prefontaine and a passenger got in the vehicle, and Prefontaine reversed over a curb and struck a parked vehicle, prompting her passenger to jump out. Prefontaine then nearly struck the passenger before driving away.
Hironaka acknowledged the fact the accused lives in Calgary and has a newborn baby, making it difficult for her to attend court, but said the allegations warrant her attendance.
“I just didn’t contemplate that the circumstances would be as egregious as they are.”
Hironaka added he could ultimately conclude that the joint submission for a fine proposed by the Crown and defence is not appropriate.
The matter was adjourned until the end of the week, then adjourned again to Oct. 6 to allow Prefontaine more time to arrange to attend court in person.
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