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.
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