Judge balks at sentence for killer driver
A Manitoba judge has refused to endorse a recommendation that a 22-year-old man be given a suspended sentence and probation for killing his best friend in a high-speed vehicle rollover.
Ashten Milne appeared in a Winnipeg courtroom on Wednesday expecting Judge Rob Finlayson to approve a joint recommendation between his lawyer and the Crown that he serve three years of supervised probation after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of a young Pine Falls man.
Nolan Kunz, 21, was killed on the morning of June 15, 2008 after being thrown out of a speeding Chevy Colbalt that careened out of control and rolled into the ditch along Provincial Road 227 not far from Pine Falls.
Just minutes before the incident, Kunz, Milne and another man were at a social at a nearby town, court heard.
However, police found that alcohol was not a major contributing factor in the fatal rollover.
RCMP investigating the incident determined that at the time the car left the road it was travelling between 161-173 km/h.
Milne wasn't charged until nearly a year after the rollover, when police obtained enough evidence to support charges against him.
Police initially were told that Kunz was driving, but in the months after the crash, it became apparent through interviewing witnesses and Milne's friends that he was behind the wheel.
'Frequent liar'"He lied to get himself off the hook," Crown attorney Joyce Dalman told court Wednesday.
She also described Milne as "a frequent liar."
However, problems with the case prompted Dalman and lawyer Sarah Innes to reach a deal where Milne would plead guilty in exchange for a suspended sentence.
Finlayson balked at the deal, saying he was troubled by a pre-sentencing report showing that Milne poses a risk to become reinvolved with the criminal justice system.
Finlayson withheld his verdict for three months so another report can be done into Milne's efforts to get a job, obtain counselling and seek other help for addictions issues.
"Mr. Milne, it's on your shoulders now," he said.
Under the terms of the proposed probationary sentence, Milne would be bound by a nightly curfew, have to perform hours of community service and abstain from drugs and alcohol completely for three years.
He would also have to complete any counselling that his probation officer orders him to take.
A two-year driving prohibition is also being sought.
Victim's mom doesn't want jail timeKunz's mother did not appear in court for the hearing because "she can't bear to be here," Dalman said.
Despite her anguish at losing her son, she doesn't want Milne to go to jail, Dalman added.
"He has to pay for what he did, but jail doesn't do any good," Dalman said the mother told her.
She told the prosecutor that she'd be happy to see Milne be forced to go and speak to high school students about what he did.
Kunz was described in court as a winter sports fanatic who made efforts to rally the interests of youth in the community toward snowboarding.
Milne declined to comment when asked by Finlayson if he had anything to say.
Victim's mom intercedes
A Winnipeg man responsible for killing his friend in a high-speed car crash should not go to jail, says the dead man’s mother.
Ashten Milne was in court Wednesday to be sentenced for a June 15, 2008 crash that killed 21-year-old Nolan Ryan Kunz.
“He has to pay for what he did, but jail doesn’t do any good,” Crown attorney Joyce Dalmyn quoted Tamy Kunz as saying. “What happened wasn’t intentional. It wasn’t what Ashten wanted to happen. It was stupid.”
Milne, 22, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death in exchange for a joint Crown and defence recommendation he be sentenced to three years supervised probation.
Dalmyn said inconsistent statements by a second passenger in the vehicle who claimed at one time Kunz was behind the wheel weakened the Crown’s case against Milne.
Dalmyn said Tammy Kunz believes her son’s killer should remain free in the community where he can speak to students about the dangers of reckless driving.
Judge Rob Finlayson adjourned sentencing for at least three months, saying he needed more evidence to show Milne won’t be a danger to the community.
According to a pre-sentence report, Milne has been assessed as a medium risk to re-offend due to alcohol abuse, a history of anti-social behaviour and other factors. He has refused all offers of counselling and continues to drive even though he doesn’t have a licence.
“Normally, people like you with no record are assessed as a low risk,” Finlayson said. “It’s on your shoulders now. You may be hesitant to reach out for help, but now is the time to do it.”
Court heard Milne, Kunz and a third man had been at a wedding social in Warren and left in Milne’s 2005 Chevy Cobalt sometime before 2 a.m.
Police estimate Milne was driving at least 160 km/h when he lost control of the vehicle and crashed on PTH 227. A picture taken on Kunz’ cellphone showed an odometer reading of 220 km/h.
Paramedics found Kunz in a ditch, 30 metres from where the vehicle came to rest.
The wedding social bride-to-be, a nurse, drove by the scene before paramedics and stopped to administer CPR.
Alcohol was not a factor in the crash, Dalmyn said.
“(Milne) was driving at a ridiculous speed,” she said. “It was a young man showing off, showing how fast his car could go.”