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Drunk driver who caused fatal crash gets five years in prison

Ethan Filippini pleads guilty after causing a collision that claimed the life of Patrick Roussel

Ethan Filippini, 23, was sentenced to five years in prison on Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to impaired and dangerous driving that killed Patrick Roussel.

Filippini pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death (both for the death of Roussel), as well as impaired driving causing bodily harm and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Court heard that on May 27, 2017, Filippini and Roussel had been drinking at several bars in downtown Sudbury. They drank until about 9:30 p.m. that night before driving to Capreol. Filippini was driving, while Roussel was in the passenger seat.

They were on Municipal Road 84, and evidence showed that, at one point, Filippini lost control of his 2008 Ford Focus while speeding around a curve. He started heading toward the ditch, but when he tried to veer back onto the road, he crossed the centre line and into the path of a GMC pickup truck being driven by Matthew Craggs.

Forensic evidence shows Filippini was speeding in excess of 115 kilometres an hour in a posted 80 km/h zone three second before the crash, and that he had been accelerating around the curve instead of trying to slow down in order to safely negotiate it.

It wasn't until the actual impact with Craggs' pickup that any attempt to stop the Ford Focus was made, court heard.

The crash happened at 10:47 p.m. Blood tests revealed that Filippini had a blood-alcohol concentration of 174 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood when he lost control of his vehicle. Further tests revealed he had cannabis in his system, and police found 6.6 grams of marijuana in the glove compartment of his vehicle following the crash.

Craggs, on the other hand, was slowing down going through the curve, and data shows he attempted to brake in order to avoid the collision.

Mechanical tests on both vehicles revealed no defects in either.

Roussel was thrown into the back seat at impact. An autopsy showed no seatbelt-related injuries, indicating Roussel wasn't wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.

Originally, a pre-trial date had been set for June, 2019, with trial dates set for July 22-16, 2019 and Aug. 19-30, 2019. Both the crown and defence agreed the trial would have taken a minimum of three weeks.

However, in pleading guilty to the four charges, it shows Filippini is taking responsibility for his choices.

“Most offences committed by people are preventable, but these offences are so obviously and startlingly avoidable,” said Superior Court Justice Louise Gauthier

More than 30 years ago, the courts in the province declared that members of the public who travel the roadways should not live in fear that they may meet a driver whose faculties are impaired by alcohol, and now, even more substances, she said.

“Unfortunately, and tragically, the knowledge and message that every individual who chooses to drink and drive is a potential killer of innocent members of the community continues to be unheard and unheeded,” she said. “For that reason, the penalties for such offences are becoming longer.

“This is five years in a penitentiary, not a correctional institution, so let there be no question about its significance. It's five years in a penitentiary for a first-time offender who is young, who has family support, and who is, by all account, a decent human being, notwithstanding the choice he made on May 27, 2017.”

Under today's laws, a five-year sentence is considered on the low end of the sentencing spectrum, Gauthier said, but a joint submission by both the Crown and the defence asked to consider Filippini's young age, his lack of a record, his deep and sincere remorse that he demonstrated in front of the families of his victims.

“The five-year sentence proposed by both the Crown and defence is appropriate, and it meets the criteria I am required to meet. I'm satisfied it addresses the seriousness of the events. It won't bring back Patrick Roussel, it won't heal Matthew Craggs, but it's the best we can do.

Roussel's mother, Lynn Gauthier, wasn't so lenient. She was hoping Filippini would at get a minimum of seven years in prison.

Lynn Gauthier was a guest speaker at Action Sudbury's launch of its red ribbon campaign on Dec. 1. She delivered an emotional speech about how the loss of her son has affected her and her entire family. Click here to read that story.

She said the proceedings made her feel like her son is just another statistic.

“I don't feel like I got justice from this,” she said.

The family has already celebrated one Christmas without Roussel, and they aren't looking forward to their second.

“It's almost getting to the point where we want to cancel Christmas,” said Marcel Gauthier, Roussel's stepfather. “There's an empty chair there. The life of the party is gone.”

Craggs has been unable to work since the crash. He said he is suffering physically, mentally and financially as a result. He's much angrier and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, among other issues.

“We just bought a house, and I haven't been able to do most of the things around there that I wanted to do,” Craggs said. “I had to sell my motorcycle, because I can't sit on it for more than 15 mintues.”

He was also hoping for a harsher penalty.

“Today's sentence was not fair,” he said. “I don't think our sentencing is nearly hard enough on drunk drivers. Far too many people lose their lives in this country because of it.”

Filippini is also ordered to have no contact with Lynn Gauthier, Marcel Gauthier, Matthew Craggs and their immediate families. He must provide a DNA sample, and is prohibited from driving for 13 years.