A judge has sentenced Marco Muzzo to 10 years in prison for his role in a Vaughan, Ont., crash that killed four members of the same family and seriously injured two others, saying the convicted drunk driver had "decimated an entire generation."
The crash on Sept. 27, 2015, killed three young Neville-Lake children, Daniel, 9, Harrison, 5, Milly, 2, and their grandfather, Gary Neville, 65.
Two other extended family members, the children's grandmother and her mother, were injured in the crash.
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Ontario Superior Court Justice Michelle Fuerst announced the sentence in Newmarket, Ont., court Tuesday morning.
Fuerst gave Muzzo eight months' credit for time spent in custody, so the 29-year-old will only serve nine years and four months of his 10-year sentence. The impaired driving sentence also stipulates that Muzzo will be banned from driving for 12 years after he gets out of prison.
In her sentencing, Fuerst said that a "perfectly ordinary day was rendered catastrophic" because Muzzo decided to drink and drive and, as a result, a "life sentence has been inflicted on the Neville-Lake family."
"In one fell swoop, he decimated an entire generation of the Neville-Lake family, its legacy and its future," said Fuerst.
Defence lawyer Brian Greenspan said Muzzo would begin serving his sentence on Tuesday and will be eligible for parole after serving one-third of it. Greenspan confirmed that means that Muzzo will spend at least three years in prison.
The driving ban will begin the day he is released from custody.
Muzzo pleaded guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death and two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm.
Fuerst said in her decision that the sentence must send a message to others to deter them from committing the same crime and reflect society's "abhorrence of the crime" — an argument that was put forward by the Crown when they asked that Muzzo be sentenced to between 10 and 12 years in prison and that he be prohibited from driving for eight to 12 years.
Crown lawyer Paul Tait had acknowledged that there was no precedent for the judge to draw on when deciding on a sentence, given the number of victims and their ages. But he said Muzzo's actions were the equivalent of "having a loaded gun walking down the street."
Crown prosecutors told CBC News Tuesday they would not speak about the Muzzo sentencing.
The judge said aggravating factors in the case included Muzzo's "choice to drink and drive" and said that his prior speeding convictions reflected an "irresponsible attitude toward the privilege of driving."
But Fuerst added that Muzzo's decision to plead guilty and the number of letters written by Muzzo's family and friends describing him as "humble" and thinking of others led her to believe he "is a person of good character."
At his sentencing hearing on Feb. 24, Muzzo told court that "I'm tortured by the grief I caused."
"The sentence is 10 years and none of my children saw 10 years," Jennifer Neville-Lake, mother of the three children, said outside the courthouse Tuesday.
"When you choose to drink and drive you're hurting other families. You're killing someone else's babies — like all of mine were killed," she said.
Muzzo was driving an SUV that collided with the minivan carrying the Neville-Lake family at Kipling Avenue and Kirby Road, north of Toronto. He had returned from a trip to Miami on a private jet on the day of the crash, picked up his Jeep from the airport parking lot and driven off.
CBC Forum on the Muzzo sentence
"I'm conflicted ... on the one hand you feel terrible for those children and grandfather and their families. On the other hand our system is based on rehabilitation and not punishment. I honestly don't believe that these sentences serve as a deterrent." — a comment from Shawn on the CBC Forum chat on the Muzzo sentence. Read the full discussion here.
The SUV, according to an agreed statement of fact read in court, was travelling at 85 kilometres an hour when Muzzo went through a stop sign and struck the minivan, hitting the driver's side.
His blood-alcohol content at the time of the crash ranged from 0.19 to 0.25 per cent, which is two to three times the legal limit in Ontario.
Police officers who interviewed Muzzo at the scene said he smelled of alcohol, his eyes were glassy, and he tried to use the car to keep his balance. He was also unable to understand instructions from the officers, and urinated on himself.
Traffic and weather conditions were not a factor in the crash.
It was only after he arrived at the police station that Muzzo learned four people had died, the court heard.
Muzzo was released on $1-million bail and strict conditions after pleading guilty.
Greenspan has said that Muzzo has accepted full responsibility for what he did.
At the sentencing hearing, Greenspan submitted 92 letters of support for Muzzo, from friends, family members, neighbours and co-workers.
Greenspan told the court that Muzzo's actions amounted to "a terrible decision made by a very good person."
Marco Muzzo has been sentenced to 10 years for a car crash that killed 4 <a href="https://t.co/miKNlQ8bwA">https://t.co/miKNlQ8bwA</a> <a href="https://t.co/TAsgSKi8Dk">pic.twitter.com/TAsgSKi8Dk</a>—@CBCNews
"It should be clear that the Muzzo family, and in particular Marco Muzzo, are heart-stricken by the grief that's been caused," Greenspan said.
Muzzo's family owns the drywall company Marel Contractors and is worth nearly $1.8 billion, according to Canadian Business magazine.
Muzzo had never been convicted of a criminal offence until he pleaded guilty on Feb. 4, according to the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.