The son of former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Brian Tobin has been sentenced to three years in prison and handed a seven-year driving ban for his role in the death of a friend at an Ottawa parking garage last Christmas Eve.

John (Jack) Tobin pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death after his friend Alex Zolpis, 24, was pinned under a truck and died in the downtown Ottawa garage in the early morning of Dec. 24.

According to the agreed statement of facts, Tobin, Zolpis and a group of friends were drinking at a pub in Ottawa's Byward Market before they walked to the multi-level garage and drove the truck to the top level.


Tobins' parents, Brian and Jodean Tobin, say they believe their son can one day honour his friend by living a 'good life' and contributing to his community. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Seven friends were sitting in the pickup, drinking and listening to music, when Tobin began spinning the truck in 180-degree turns, witnesses said. By the time the truck stopped, Zolpis was pinned underneath it, as was another man, who was treated for injuries.

As she delivered the sentence, Judge Lise Maisonneuve said Tobin committed a "gravely irresponsible" act. Zolpis's family and girlfriend held pictures of him and wept as the judge described the events that took his life last Christmas Eve, the CBC's Hannah Thibedeau reported from outside the court.

Crown prosecutor Mark Moors had suggested Maisonneuve hand down a minimum sentence of five years, along with a 10-year driving ban. Moors pointed out that Tobin's previous record included a string of driving offences that resulted in three driving suspensions.

Tobin's lawyer, Norm Boxall, had asked for a jail sentence of between 18 to 30 months and a five-year driving ban.

'We are left to pick up the pieces'


Emma Roberts, girlfriend of Alex Zolpis, holds picture of them together as she talks to reporters outside an Ottawa courthouse on Wednesday, after Jack Tobin was sentenced to three years in prison in connection with Zolpis's death. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Outside the court following the sentence, Zolpis's girlfriend, Emma Roberts, told reporters that she will "never be satisfied" with the amount of prison time Tobin received for recklessly killing her partner while driving drunk.

Roberts noted Tobin will likely only serve one-third of his sentence.

"Jack Tobin gets one year in jail, and Alex gets his life lost," she said. "We are left to pick up the pieces."

The victim's father Ed Zolpis said he hopes the sentence will serve as a reminder of the serious consequences of drinking and driving.  

"Everyone must be careful to avoid putting others at risk from their poor judgment and reckless behaviours," he said.

As he left the court, Brian Tobin told reporters he believes his son can one day honour his friend by making a good contribution to his community and by living a "good life."

"We believe in Jack," Tobin said. "I can tell you that he is a good son and a good brother. He's made a serious mistake and he's going to pay the price of that mistake."

At a sentencing hearing earlier this month, Tobin himself made a tearful apology to Zolpis's family and girlfriend, saying he wished he and not his friend had been "the only victim of my actions that night."

"I take full responsibility for the hurt, the pain and the anguish that I have caused you, your families, my family and friends," he told them.

"I know how senseless this has been and how preventable Alex's death was."

Tobin's lawyer called the case "very tragic" and said his client was prepared for a jail sentence, but no sentence would "bring Alex back."

The Crown said the judge was dealing with an "extremely difficult case" and had to balance several factors.

"Our only hope is that kind of sentence is going to make anyone consider... when you drink and drive, these are real consequences," Moors said.