Guilty plea a 'slap in our face,' says Brandon Thomas’ family
Ryan Jordan Gibson's plea means Crown and defence will seek 2-year sentence in Cochrane drunk-driving death
The family of Brandon Thomas, a Cochrane teenager killed in a 2012 drunk-driving crash, says the guilty plea and resulting sentence being requested by the Crown and defence counsel is "a slap in our face."
Ryan Jordan Gibson, who was 22-years-old at the time of the Alberta crash, pleaded guilty to two charges related to drunk driving at his preliminary heading Monday. Four other charges against himwill be dropped and both Crown and defence lawyers on the case are seeking a sentence of two years plus one day, to be served in a federal prison.
"This is a slap in our face," said Kim Thomas, mother of the 17-year-old victim. "That is no value to Brandon's life, to his laughter, his love, his passion and his joy for living."
Kayle Thomas, Brandon's sister, was by her mom's side Monday.
"Brandon was my best friend and always will be," she said.
"He did everything for me, we hung out with the same group of friends and did everything together."
The decision to accept Gibson's guilty plea lies in the certainty it offers compared to the risk of going to trial.
"There's certainty in the conviction, said Ron Simenik, Crown prosecutor on the case. "Undoubtedly, that played a large role in my decision to resolve the case. You never know what's going to happen at a trial."
Gibson pleaded guilty to driving over .08 causing death and driving over .08 causing bodily harm. The four other charges against him are expected to be dropped.
Defence lawyer Alain Hepner said his client is "extremely remorseful."
"He wanted to do this, he felt he wanted to, he should and I just needed to go through the process to make sure I was giving him the right advice," said Hepner.
2 other vehicles hit
According to an agreed statement of facts, Gibson had been visiting friends in Cochrane the night of the crash.
Around 6 p.m. MT on Dec. 6, 2012, he was driving home to Calgary and passed two semi-trailers.
Gibson stayed in the oncoming lane for a period of time and sideswiped two cars.
One car ended up in a ditch and the passengers sustained no injuries. However, the other car rolled several times before landing in a ditch and resulted in some injuries.
Gibson then collided head-on with Brandon Thomas's Subaru, and Thomas died at the scene.
No history of run-ins with law
Gibson remained on the scene and court documents say he showed signs of impairment and appeared concerned. He did co-operate with RCMP and was arrested.
Based on several breath tests at the RCMP detachment, it's estimated Gibson's blood alcohol level was between 0.17 and 0.18 at the time of the crash.
The legal limit in Alberta starts at 0.05. For drivers with graduated licences, it's 0.00.
MADD Canada's Denise Dubyk said the family needs to see justice in the case.
Dozens of teens sporting black hoodies were also at the Calgary's Court Centre on Monday in memory of Thomas.
"These young people get it," said Dubyk.
"They know there was a wrong done and they are doing the best they can to bring as much justice to this family as they can and they will spread the message far and wide."
Dubyk, who says she has also been victimized by drinking and driving, said consequences need to be felt.
"What we see here today is the ruins, the consequences, what is left after someone has chosen to drink and drive and kill someone."
Gibson had no history of being in trouble with the law, and the Crown and defence counsels will be making a joint submission asking that he receive a sentence of two years plus one day to be served in federal custody.
He will remain on bail until he is scheduled to be sentenced April 16.