Edmonton

Driver who killed toddler in 2013 granted bail pending his appeal to Supreme Court

Richard Suter is out of jail as he waits for the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of his 26-month sentence for killing toddler Geo Mounsef in 2013.

'The charge is serious and the results were tragic, but that alone does not preclude Mr. Suter's release'

Richard Suter and his wife Gayska Suter outside court after Suter pleaded guilty to refusing to offer a breath sample in the death of a toddler. (CBC)

Richard Suter has been granted bail as he waits for the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of his 26-month sentence for killing toddler Geo Mounsef in 2013.

On Tuesday, Justice Michelle Crighton of the Court of Appeal of Alberta allowed an application that Suter be granted bail pending his appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Crighton ruled that Suter's appeal is not frivolous, that he has proved he will surrender himself into custody in accordance with the terms of his release order, and that his continued detention before the Supreme Court hearing is not necessary to the public interest.

Suter's history suggests there should be little concern he would reoffend if released, Crighton said in a written decision.

"The charge is a serious one and the results were tragic, but that alone does not preclude Mr. Suter's release," the judge said in her decision. "It is also a factor that Mr. Suter's appeal will potentially be moot if he is not released because he will likely be beyond his statutory release date by the time his appeal is heard and decided."

The Supreme Court agreed in January to hear Suter's appeal. The case is scheduled to be heard on Oct. 11.

Suter's statutory release date is Nov. 27.

On May 19, 2013, Suter drove his SUV into the patio at the former Ric's Grill near Rabbit Hill Road and 23rd Avenue in the Terwillegar area.

Two-year-old Geo, who was having dinner with his parents and baby brother, died when the vehicle pinned him against a wall.
Geo Mounsef was two when he died. (Supplied)

While arguing with his spouse, Suter had inadvertently pressed hard on the gas pedal, thinking it was the brake. He drove his SUV into the patio before being pulled from his vehicle by a mob of people who attacked and kicked him.

Suter was originally charged with impaired driving causing death, two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm and a single count of refusal to provide a breath sample.

In June 2015, he pleaded guilty to refusing to provide a breath sample.

In December 2015, he was sentenced to four months in jail and a 30-month driving prohibition. He served his sentence and was released in early 2016.

The sentencing judge, Larry Anderson, ruled that Suter was not impaired at the time of the crash, which he called an "accident" with tragic circumstances. Anderson said he believed Suter did not provide a breath sample because he was given "ill-informed and bad legal advice" by a legal-aid lawyer after he was taken into police custody.

In December 2015, the Crown filed an appeal to the Court of Appeal of Alberta in which it sought a three-year sentence. Suter cross-appealed, seeking a reduced sentence.

In August 2016, Suter's sentence was increased to 26 months; the driving ban remained unchanged. Suter surrendered and began serving the 26-month sentence.

Suter's lawyer, Dino Bottos, then sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, arguing that the sentence should be returned to the original four months. In January, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal.