Johnathan Pratt, the man accused of impaired driving in a crash that killed three people near Beaumont, Alta., in 2011, has been found guilty of three counts of manslaughter and impaired driving causing death.
The families of the victims applauded softly as Judge Paul Belzil read his decision in court in Wetaskiwin. Pratt showed no emotion and stared straight ahead, while his girlfriend bent over in her seat holding her stomach.
Pratt, 30, admitted to being the owner of the pickup truck that smashed into a Grand Am, killing Bradley Arsenault, 18, Thaddeus Lake, 22 and Kole Novak, 18, early on Nov. 26, 2011.
However, his lawyer suggested that someone else was behind the wheel of the truck and Pratt was in the passenger seat. When police arrived at the scene, Pratt was beneath the truck.
Speaking in court Thursday, Justice R.P. Belzil said the suggestion someone else was driving "nothing more than speculation in an evidentiary vacuum," adding, “all persons involved were found and identified."
A collision reconstructionist from the RCMP testified that the pickup had been travelling at 199 km/h just before it struck the car.
- Family of Beaumont crash victim share son’s love of music to heal
- Judge will allow challenged evidence in Jonathan Pratt trial
- Evidence challenged in Beaumont triple-fatal drunk driving crash
A lab report presented as evidence in court says that Pratt’s blood alcohol concentration was estimated between 0.2 and 0.244 at the time of the collision, nearly three times the legal limit.
Outside the courtroom
Outside the courtroom, families of the three victims said they were relieved to have the trial behind them.
"It's nice to get all this behind us and start down a path to something better,” said Kole Novak’s father Zane.
"We're feeling a bit better now."
"It doesn't change the fact we lost and the pain won't stop but ... it was really good," agreed his wife Michelle Novak.
"The judge said absolutely every single thing that we wanted to hear,” said Sheri Arsenault, Bradley Arsenault’s mother.
"For a second there I was happy. And it's one of the first times I've been happy in a long time. For that second."
However, she said she will never understand the senselessness of her son’s death.
“The outrageous speed, the outrageous impairment - the nine not guilty pleas."
"Mr. Pratt killed my son and his two good friends in a manner more horrendous than any other type of weapon," she said.
Pratt says he thinks about crash every day
On exiting the courthouse after being convicted, Pratt still refused to admit that he was driving the truck the night of the crash.
He called the incident "the worst thing that could ever happen" and said that he thinks about it every day. He told CBC News that it "affects every part of my life."
Pratt said he had reached out to the families of the three victims, but would not discuss what he said.
"There's nothing I could ever do that would change anything," he added.
He is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 1.