A former Whitehorse taxi driver has been ordered to pay a $1,500 fine for a hit-and-run outside the former Salvation Army building that left the victim with a broken leg.
Binerjeet Chauhan, 25, pleaded guilty to one count each of careless driving and leaving the scene of an accident — violations of the territorial Motor Vehicles Act — before Yukon Supreme Court Justice Edith Campbell the morning of April 1.
The charges stemmed from an incident that took place in the early morning of Feb. 8, 2018, outside 405 Alexander St. in Whitehorse (at the time, the building was known as the Salvation Army’s Centre of Hope; the Yukon government has since taken over the building and operations).
According to an agreed statement of facts read out to the court by Crown attorney Noel Sinclair, Chauhan, then a driver for Premier Cabs, was dispatched to the building around 2 a.m.
Chauhan was met by the victim, Vincent Charlie, who came out of the building and sat in the front passenger seat.
It was “obvious” that Charlie was intoxicated, Sinclair said, and he had difficulty explaining to Chauhan where he wanted to go, initially saying he wanted to go across the street before telling Chauhan to take him to Riverdale.
The men got into a dispute over whether Charlie had money to pay for the ride, and after swearing at Chauhan, Charlie got out of the cab, slamming the door loudly.
Chauhan then got out of the cab to confront Charlie, Sinclair said, and Charlie approached the driver, yelling, “What do you want?!” before taking a swing at him.
Chauhan got back into his cab and called dispatch, telling them to call police.
Meanwhile, Charlie began walking away, heading down Alexander Street towards Fifth Avenue. Chauhan followed him in his taxi when “inexplicably” and “quite suddenly,” Charlie turned and ran at the driver’s side of the vehicle.
Chauhan turned the cab towards Charlie, Sinclair said, and Charlie ran into the moving cab “front and centre.”
Sinclair said it was “obvious” from reviewing video taken from the taxi as well as from Big Bear Donair that Chauhan had tried to brake, but did so “somewhat belatedly” and Charlie “goes down.”
Chauhan yelled, “You’re crazy, what are you doing?” as Charlie got up before driving away, parking a short distance later to tell dispatch that he was clear of the trip. When dispatch asked if another cab should be sent, Chauhan said no, and that “a man will just attack you if you go there.”
Chauhan was recognized by police while picking up another ride at Whitehorse General Hospital shortly after and was cooperative with the investigation, Sinclair said.
Charlie was taken to hospital via ambulance with a broken leg.
Sinclair and Chauhan’s lawyer, Rishi Gill, entered a joint submission for sentencing, requesting that Chauhan receive the maximum fines for both offences — $1,000 for careless driving, and $500 for leaving the scene — as well as a six-month probation period.
While it was “alarming to see the cab strike a pedestrian” and Chauhan could have made better choices — not exiting his taxi, for example, or telling dispatch about hitting Charlie with his vehicle — Sinclair said there were also “significant” mitigating factors in the case, including the fact that Charlie had attempted to assault Chauhan before the crash.
Charlie also filed an “unusually compassionate” victim impact statement to the court, Sinclair said, in which he says he’s working on his “own issues” and that he forgives Chauhan and wishes him well.
Gill told the court that Chauhan accepts responsibility and has already faced repercussions for his actions — after being charged, he was forbidden from driving a taxi, leaving him without a job until he was later given permission to leave the territory (he’s since relocated to British Columbia).
It’s also clear that Chauhan, who had a clean criminal and driving record, was “shocked” by Charlie running at the taxi, Gill said, and that he reacted in almost an “instinctual” manner.
“What we have at the end of the day is a situation that could be avoided, but it is what it is,” Gill said.
Chauhan also spoke.
“I am very sorry for what happened. I could have acted more sensibly,” he told the court, apologizing to Charlie.
Campbell accepted the joint sentencing submission.
Chauhan will have three months to pay the fine, and his probation will be transferred to British Columbia authorities.
The Crown stayed the other charges against Chauhan, including one of aggravated assault.
Charlie filed a lawsuit against Chauhan and Premier Cabs over the crash last year. That lawsuit is still active.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org