Saskatoon

'He's very fortunate': Man who killed Adam St. Denis-Katz in fight won't serve more time behind bars

The judge, citing the wishes of the victim's sister, sentenced Blair French to time served and a three-year probation.

Judge, citing wishes of victim's sister, sentences Blair French to time served and 3-year probation

Blair French arrives at Saskatoon's Court of Queen's Bench courthouse for his sentencing Thursday. (CBC)

A man who pleaded guilty to killing a 24-year-old during a fight at a Saskatoon apartment building will spend no further time behind bars in what lawyers agree is a "remarkable" sentence.

Blair Christopher French was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty in January to manslaughter in the killing of Adam St. Denis-Katz on March 30, 2016. 

During the fight, French punched St. Denis-Katz five times and after a scuffle ended up throwing him to the ground, according to the agreed statement of facts. 

French ended up taking St. Denis-Katz back into the apartment. 

Inside, he mumbled but was "generally responsive," the agreed statement reads. 

He was left there until the next day when someone in the apartment noticed he was unconscious.

St. Denis-Katz died of blunt force trauma to the head.

'He's very fortunate' 

On Thursday, French was sentenced to time served and three years of probation. He already served nearly 21 months in remand and will not serve more time in jail.

During the sentencing in Saskatoon's Court of Queen's Bench, Justice Alison Rothery's voice broke briefly as she recounted how St. Denis-Katz's sister had wanted French to "again become a contributing member of society."

Rothery said she hoped her sentence was in line with that wish.

St. Denis-Katz's family declined to speak to media after the sentencing.

French's attorney, Chris Lavier, called the sentence 'remarkable,' given that most manslaughter convictions in Saskatchewan result in sentences of four to 12 years.

French's defence attorney, Chris Lavier, said the typical sentence for a manslaughter conviction in Saskatchewan is four to 12 years. 

He said his client was "very fortunate."

"Both parties have very strong family supports and it seemed like there was a great deal of compassion from the deceased's family towards Mr. French and his family," he said. 

Crown lawyer Christy Pannell agreed with Lavier's characterization of the sentence.

"This is certainly an outlier," she said, referring to both the sentence and the circumstances of the case.

Victim was 'caring and protective'

St. Denis-Katz's family gave emotional victim impact statements during the sentencing hearing. 

"Soon after he died I was overwhelmed by the realization I won't get to see him growing into a man," his mother, Verna St. Denis, told the court. 

St. Denis-Katz was a father and was about to graduate with a social work degree. He was also politically active and artistic, the court heard. 

"The last time his family saw him was at a family dinner the Sunday before he died. I hugged him that night but I wish I could hug him one more time and say 'I love you son, to the moon and back,'" St. Denis told the court. 

Adam St. Denis-Katz died after a fight in March 2016. (Facebook)

His sister, Hannah St. Denis-Katz, said during her victim impact statement that her brother was caring and protective. 

She told the court she was devastated that her brother didn't see her graduate from medical school. 

She says her brother would have liked to see French be a productive member of society after his sentence.

"He was truly the most caring person. He was everyone's friend and the most forgiving person," she said. "He would care about how this sentencing went for Mr. French."

Defence describes French as 'gentle giant'

The Crown was asking for a seven-year sentence. 

French's defence, meanwhile, asked for a 20-month sentence, followed by 36 months probation, with the entire sentence to be served in the community. 

Lavier said French was a longtime employee of a security company and that there was no premeditation when he killed St. Denis-Katz.

Lavier said that his client did not start the fight that night and was "calm" throughout most of the evening. 

He said the fight was consensual. 

"I would describe him as a gentle giant," Lavier told the court. 

French did apologize in court to St. Denis-Katz's family. 

"I'm sorry this little boy has to grow up without a dad. I'm sorry," French said as he fought back tears in court.