Impaired driver asks for leniency

A Whitehorse man could face prison time for a car accident that left two of his friends severely injured.

A Whitehorse man could face prison time for a car accident that left two of his friends severely injured.

Late last year, Michael Schmidt was found guilty of two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm for the December 2009 rollover.

His fate now rests in the hands of Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale, who will take two weeks to decide what kind of punishment to mete out.

The crown is seeking a sentence of 18 to 24 months in jail and for Schmidt’s licence to be suspended for three years.

The defence argued that jail wouldn’t be an appropriate sentence.

“There is nothing to suggest that Mr. Schmidt needs to be separated from the public,” said defence lawyer Gordon Coffin.

Because of the severity of the offence, a conditional sentence, like house arrest, isn’t an option. However, Coffin suggested that it was still within Veale’s purview to shape a probation order in a similar way.

In December 2009, Schmidt and two friends, Jessica Frotten and Michael Sanderson, decided to drive to Haines Junction.

Before they set out, they all shared a pitcher of beer with lunch.

By his own admission, Schmidt was driving over the speed limit when he lost control of his grey Honda Civic.

The car hit the ditch and rolled, ejecting both Frotten and Sanderson.

Schmidt, who was wearing his seatbelt at the time, was not injured. But his two passengers didn’t fare as well.

Sanderson suffered a broken shoulder, leg and ribs, and torn ligaments in his left knee.

Frotten was more seriously injured.

She sustained a torn aorta, broken feet, punctured lungs, several broken ribs and a broken back that left her a paraplegic.

Her family now pays about $6,000 a month for physiotherapy.

When Schmidt was given a breathalyzer a few hours after the crash, he blew under the legal limit of .08.

While it couldn’t be proven that he was legally drunk at the time of the accident, he was found guilty of being impaired.

“I only knew that .08 was the legal limit,” said Schmidt. “I thought being below was safe and legal but I was wrong and ignorant.”

Addressing Frotten’s family, Schmidt said he was “deeply sorry.”

“There’s no words that I can say that will come close to helping you deal with the pain and anger,” he said. “I’m not a bad person, I just made a bad mistake. I’m sorry to everyone who had to bear the consequences.”

According to Schmidt, he’s been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the crash and remains “suicidally depressed.”

“I don’t see a future ahead of me,” he said.

Schmidt asked the court to consider that he is taking care of his disabled father.

“I’m his only support,” he said. “If I’m incarcerated in prison, it will only amplify harm in the community.

“I’d ask everyone here for mercy.”

Veale is scheduled to hand down his sentence March 5.

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

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