Man convicted in dangerous driving case

A driver who ran over two people on a dirt road near Whitehorse was convicted of dangerous driving causing bodily harm last week.

A driver who ran over two people on a dirt road near Whitehorse was convicted of dangerous driving causing bodily harm last week.

Yukon Supreme Court Justice Leigh Gower rendered the oral decision on Oct. 14.

He also convicted Paul Maria Maximillian Kloepfer of failing to stop his vehicle with intent to escape civil or criminal liability and an additional count of dangerous driving.

The charges stem from an incident in August 2014 when a mother, her two sons and a neighbour were walking down Mosquito Road, about six kilometres south of the Carcross cutoff.

Because one of the victims was under 18 at the time of the trial, Gower ordered a publication ban on his name.

As a result, only the neighbour, Herbert Arnold, can be identified.

The group was walking around a bend on Mosquito Road when they heard the sound of engine.

All four people in the group testified Kloepfer accelerated when he saw them, striking Arnold and one of the teenagers with his car. Kloepefer didn’t stop, they told police.

But at trial Kloepfer gave a very different version of the events.

He testified that the victims, who lived near Kloepfer, didn’t like him and made up the charges to get him out of the neighbourhood.

Someone in the group put boulders on the road, forcing him off the road, he said, then the group spread out across the road to block his path.

He slowed down, he said, and when he passed them, Arnold hit his car with his walking stick.

Gower said such a conspiracy was unlikely.

“This theory suggests that after the accused encountered the four Crown witnesses… all four must have immediately conspired to create the illusion of a hit-and-run accident scene,” he said.

Based on the timing of each party’s calls to the police — Kloepfer also called the RCMP to report an act of mischief — the judge said it simply was not possible for the four victims to make up the scenario and get their stories straight.

Testimony from the four victims also doesn’t support the idea they hated Kloepfer to the extent they would plot against him, Gower said.

The defence’s case centred around inconsistencies between the four Crown witnesses.

But that’s to be expected when several people witness the same event, Gower said.

Gower said he found the other witnesses to be credible, apart from Arnold, who was argumentative at times, and because of a language barrier offered confusing testimony.

The defence also claimed Arnold and one of the teenagers faked their injuries or duped the doctors who examined them.

Gower rejected that theory outright.

The judge found that Kloepfer veered left to avoid the mother, who was on the right side of the road and as a result collided with one of the teenagers. He then sideswiped Arnold in the back, causing Arnold to lose his stick. The stick rebounded on the car and hit Arnold in the elbow.

While Kloepfer was originally charged with using his vehicle as a weapon, Gower found there was no evidence he hit the victims intentionally.

Instead, Kloepfer’s careless driving resulted in the collisions, Gower ruled.

In 2008 Kloepfer was sentenced to five years probation by an Alaskan court after he became belligerent towards Alaska park rangers during an encounter in Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park.

The rangers pepper sprayed him, and he later tried to escape from his handcuffs.

A sentencing date hasn’t been set yet.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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