Both sides suggest lengthy sentence for Cornell

Christopher Cornell has agreed to a lengthy federal prison sentence for attempting to kill two officers while fleeing police following a robbery in Haines Junction.

Christopher Cornell has agreed to a lengthy federal prison sentence for attempting to kill two officers while fleeing police following a robbery in Haines Junction.

The plea deal of 11 and a half years came as a bit of a surprise Wednesday.

The lawyers were originally scheduled to argue their cases for sentencing that morning in Yukon Supreme Court.

The hearing was delayed 40 minutes and when the lawyers returned they told the judge they’d be making a joint recommendation.

In the end it will be up to Justice Leigh Gower to approve the deal. He’ll make his final decision next Tuesday. At this week’s hearing he said the plan felt “fair and reasonable.”

While both sides are recommending the same length of time in prison, they can’t agree on what exactly should happen to Cornell when he is eventually released.

Lawyers agree he should be designated a long-term offender. In Canada that’s a title given to people who commit serious crimes and are considered a substantial risk to re-offend.

It means Cornell will be under strict supervision for a longer time after he is released.

The Crown is seeking the maximum, 10 years. Cornell’s lawyer is suggesting half that.

Last October a jury convicted the 32-year-old of all eight charges he was facing including the attempted murder of Haines Junction RCMP Cpl. Kim MacKellar and deputy conservation officer Shane Oakley in 2011.

The jury also concluded Cornell was one of the two people who broke into Madley’s General Store, attempting to steal a safe and assaulting the custodian, Frank Parent, with bear spray.

Following the break in, a dark SUV sped away from the store and was pursued by Cpl. MacKellar, with Oakley in the passenger seat.

The chase ended when a bullet from a high-powered rifle came through the front window.

MacKellar was seriously injured. He required multiple surgeries and had metal fragments in his eyes, face, neck, chest and shoulder.

The jury heard that the bullet was travelling at more than 2,000 feet per second through the radar on the vehicle’s dashboard.

Cornell’s then-fiancee Jessica Johnson was originally scheduled to be tried for the same charges alongside Cornell. On the first day of the trial she pleaded guilty to some of the lesser charges, including aggravated assault on a police officer.

At her sentencing she acknowledged that, legally, she was a party to the offences though she did not fire the rifle.

She was sentenced to five years in prison in December last year.

On the stand during trial, Cornell denied having anything to do with what happened.

He says his girlfriend had driven off with a mystery drug dealer identified only as “Ryder.”

Cornell is getting credit of about three and a half years for the time he has already served behind bars.

If the judge agrees with the sentence recommended by the lawyers that would leave him with about eight years left to serve.

When discussing the long-term offender status, Gower questioned why it would not be a good idea to give Cornell the maximum 10 years, since he can always apply to have it reduced later on.

The evidence from the psychiatrist is that the longer the supervision stays in place the more therapeutic value it will have, he said.

If it is a motivator to stay clean, why not make it longer, asked the judge.

Cornell’s lawyer suggested it is important that his client can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The aesthetics and economics of highway strips

One of the many cultural experiences you enjoy while driving from Whitehorse… Continue reading

Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone.
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone. (Submitted)
Yukon kids express gratitude for nature, pets and friends in art campaign

More than 50 children submitted artwork featuring things they are grateful for

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes


Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read