Edmonton

Richard Suter's fate in judge's hands

People packed an Edmonton courtroom Friday to hear final sentencing arguments for the man who crashed his SUV onto a restaurant patio and killed two-year-old Geo Mounsef.
Geo Mounsef was two when he was struck and killed by an SUV on a restaurant patio in south Edmonton. (Family photo)

It's now up to Judge Larry Anderson to decide if Richard Suter should go to jail, and if so, for how long.  

People packed an Edmonton courtroom Friday to hear final sentencing arguments for the man who crashed his SUV onto a restaurant patio and killed a little boy.

He has pleaded guilty to refusing to provide a breath sample following the crash in May 2013 which killed two-year-old Geo Mounsef.

Suter, 65, faces a minimum penalty of a $1,000 fine, a maximum punishment of life in prison.

The defence is asking for a fine plus probation or, if a period of incarceration is imposed, that it be an intermittent sentence of no more than 90 days.  

The Crown prosecutor said Suter should go to prison.  Neil Wiberg called Suter's evidence at the hearing "self-serving" and lacking in credibility.  He said the evidence shows Suter was impaired at the time of the crash and should get a three-year sentence.

Defence lawyer Dino Bottos told court his client is a victim of a public rush to judgement.

That's because witnesses assumed after Suter crashed into the patio that he must have been drunk, Bottos said.

Suter has admitted he had three drinks spaced over hours leading up to the crash but insists he was not impaired..  

"So the whiff of alcohol is all that was necessary to confirm people's worst suspicions," Bottos said.

"Everyone jumped on the bandwagon, and 17,000 friends of Facebook later, Mr. Suter is the subject of hatred, vitriol and cruelty that he didn't deserve."

Bottos said what happened to the dead boy's family is a "tragedy," but what happened to Suter is a "travesty."

The defence lawyer said Suter should have a fine imposed as a penalty but no jail time.

Outside court, Bottos said he believes his client's life would be "in jeopardy" behind bars.  

Geo Mounsef's mother, Sage Morin, has attended court all week. She thanked the dozens of friends and family who sat with her for support, but described the hearing as "long, very trying, very emotional".  

Morin called the prospect of the judge imposing no jail sentence as "absolutely ridiculous … and an insult to Geo's life". 

She added: "We just now put our faith into the judge's hands and remain faithful in the justice system."

It's perhaps the one thing the two sides can agree on.  

"People prejudge Mr. Suter to this very day and that's why we need this court to set the record straight," Bottos told the judge. "You are the only objective person who's heard it all."

Anderson will hand down his decision on Dec. 17.  



 

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