Jack Tobin to be sentenced Aug. 31

The son of former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Brian Tobin will be sentenced on Aug. 31 for his role in the death of his friend at an Ottawa parking garage last Christmas Eve.

The son of former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Brian Tobin will be sentenced on Aug. 31 for his role in the death of his 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 a downtown Ottawa parking garage in the early morning of Dec. 24.

Tobin gave a short, emotional statement Friday in which he spoke about the loss of his friend and the dangers of impaired driving, as members of his family and the Zolpis family looked on in an Ottawa courtroom.

Tobin said his actions, which he called entirely preventable, had caused an "irreplaceable loss," particularly for the Zolpises.

Jack Tobin, who pleaded guilty in May to impaired driving causing death, says he is 'utterly ashamed.' ((CBC))

Tobin looked directly at Zolpis's family as he began his sentencing hearing statement and said "how truly sorry and utterly ashamed I am for the unforgivable mistakes I have made."

As the victim's family wept openly, he said "I take full responsibility for the hurt, the pain and the anguish that I have caused you, your families, my family and friends."

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

Tobin ended by saying that he hopes others get the message that "the consequences of drinking and driving are deadly, they are real, they are enduring — a nightmare from which you never wake up."

Tobin's mother, Jodean, appeared to be fighting back tears as she listened to her son speak, and she gave him a reassuring pat as he sat down.

Tobin made no comment as he left the courthouse with his parents. But his lawyer Norm Boxall said it is hoped that others learn from his client's mistake.

"Mr. Tobin's message and his hope that out of this very dark cloud, as he described it, that perhaps some others will learn and it won't happen to someone else," Boxall said.

Crown seeking 5-year sentence

Boxall has asked for a jail sentence of between 18 to 30 months and a five-year driving ban, while the Crown is seeking a minimum five years in prison and a 10-year-driving ban.

Boxall said Thursday his client was not asking for special treatment because of his high-profile father.

"I'm not asking for special treatment for [Jack] Tobin… but I am asking that he not be treated worse," lawyer Norm Boxall said.

Crown attorney Mark Moors said on Thursday Tobin's "moral blameworthiness is high on the scale" and pointed to Tobin's previous record of a string of driving offences, which include three driving suspensions.
Emma Roberts said outside an Ottawa courtroom on Thursday that the death of her boyfriend, Alex Zolpis, was preventable. (CBC)

On the emotional first day of the sentencing hearing, Zolpis's mother, sister and girlfriend all talked about how they remained haunted by his death. Zolpis's girlfriend, Emma Roberts, who noted the couple planned to marry, said the incident destroyed her.

"It could have been prevented if the law was not broken," she said.

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

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.

Prosecutors said it was unclear from the witness statements how Zolpis ended up outside the vehicle or under it.