Ottawa

'No end in sight': Driver appealing convictions in crash that killed 2 teens

The young driver in a 2017 crash that killed two teenage girls and badly injured another is appealing his criminal convictions in the case, his lawyers announced after his sentencing Wednesday.

Chris Galletta was sentenced Wednesday to 2 years in prison and decade-long driving ban

Michaela Martel, left, and Maddie Clement, right, both 17, were killed in a crash on Fernbank Road on June 18, 2017. (Facebook)

The young driver in a 2017 crash that killed two teenage girls and badly injured another is appealing his criminal convictions in the case, his lawyers announced after his sentencing Wednesday.

Chris Galletta, now 20, was found guilty in January of criminal negligence causing the deaths of Michaela Martel and Maddie Clement, and of criminal negligence causing bodily harm in the case of the third passenger, Sommer Foley, who survived.

On Wednesday, Justice Jacqueline Loignon sentenced Galletta to two years less one day and banned him from driving for 10 years.

Afterward, Galletta's lawyers announced they're appealing the convictions.

The families of the girls involved in the crash stood in stunned silence in the courtroom.

"We're arguing that he was not morally blameworthy at all," Mark Ertel, Galletta's lawyer, later told reporters outside the courthouse.

Flight from the quarry

The four teens had spent the evening of Sunday, June 18, 2017, at a quarry in Stittsville that serves as a local teen hangout.

Galletta had agreed to drive when another male threatened him and smashed the car window. Galletta hit the gas and took off at 183 km/h, passing two other cars, as the girls in the passenger seats pleaded with him to slow down and assured him he wasn't being followed.

Galletta then lost control of the vehicle and rammed into trees along Fernbank Road.

Martel and Clement were killed instantly, and Foley's neck was broken in three places.

A firefighter walks toward the scene of the crash. (Stephane Beaudoin/CBC)

The defence asked for a relatively lenient sentence of 15 months, arguing Galletta was in fight or flight mode and wasn't processing what the girls were telling him.

But Loignon told court Galletta did have to take some responsibility, since he took the keys and ignored the pleas of the passengers in his care.

Galletta, who suffered a brain injury from the crash and is in counselling, was visibly shaking as the judge announced the sentence Wednesday. His lawyers said the judge should never have found him guilty.

Michelle Morrison's daughter Madison was killed in the 2017 crash. Madison's grandfather Bruce Pierson says the court process has been very difficult for the family. 0:42

"He was not acting as a rational actor, and we can't expect people to behave as rational actors when they're paralyzed by fear," Ertel said after the sentencing.

Galletta was released on bail Wednesday afternoon after an Ontario Court of Appeal hearing. He is still restricted from operating a vehicle while he waits for his appeal to be heard. 

'No end in sight'

Clement's family members embraced each other after the sentencing.

"He took my baby's life ... and I don't think two years is long enough by any means," said Clement's mother, Michelle Morrison.

Michelle Morrison, Maddie Clement's mother, wept outside the courthouse Wednesday after Chris Galletta's lawyers announced they're appealing his convictions. (CBC)

Galletta's decision to appeal his conviction caught the family off guard, said Clement's grandfather, Bruce Pierson.

"We're almost two years down the road … dealing with the loss of a daughter and a granddaughter, and no end in sight," Pierson said.

Clement had a daughter, now three years old, and the family is focused on raising her, they said.