Emma Czornobaj to be sentenced on Dec. 18, 2014.
MONTREAL — A Superior Court judge is expected to decide later this year whether Emma Czornobaj should serve time behind bars for causing a fatal collision when she stopped her car on a highway in an attempt to rescue a group of ducklings.
The 26-year-old woman’s defence lawyer, Marc Labelle, told Justice Eliane Perreault that the case before her is “unique and not just rare” and that judge will likely never see one like it again in her career.
The decision you have to render involves 28 seconds in the life of Emma Czornobaj,” Mr. Labelle said while acknowledging what his client did “was stupid” but involved no ill will whatsoever.
The collision occurred the evening of June 27, 2010, on the westbound section of Highway 30 in Candiac, a suburb of Montreal. Ms. Czornobaj was driving a Honda Civic and was heading home after having taken care of a pet for her boss at the time. She stopped in the left-hand line of the highway, got out and tried to rescue about seven ducklings that were on a very narrow left-hand shoulder.
Andre Roy, 50, was riding a motorcycle, with his 16-year-old daughter Jessie on the back, when he struck the back of Ms. Czornobaj’s car. Both died as a result of the collision. A Sûreté du Québec expert who examined the scene of the collision estimated Mr. Roy’s motorcycle was travelling between 113 and 129 kilometres per hour when he hit the brakes. The expert also estimated the Harley Davidson was still moving at a speed of at least 106 kilometres per hour when it struck the car.
On June 20, a jury found Ms. Czornobaj guilty of two counts each of criminal negligence causing death, which carries a maximum life sentence, and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death. The latter conviction involves a maximum sentence of 14 years. Mr. Roy’s speed was a question at least one juror struggled with before the verdict was rendered.
Prosecutor Annie Claude Chasse asked that Ms. Czornobaj receive a 9-month prison term and be required to carry out 240 hours of community service. Mr. Labelle said he agrees with the amount of community service but asked that his client serve no jail time.
Jessie’s mother, Pauline Volikakis, testified before the sentence recommendations were made. She said the most difficult moment in her life was when she went to a funeral home and “chose two urns for the people I loved the most.”
“She created a huge void,” Ms. Volikakis said, adding she has never received an apology from Ms. Czornobaj.
Ms. Czornobaj’s mother, Mary Hogan, said her daughter has been destroyed by what happened in 2010. Ms. Czornobaj made the dean’s list and was likely headed for a promising career. Now her daughter cleans houses because no one will hire her. “It changed who she was, at her very core.”
Judge Perreault is expected to make her decision on the sentence on December 18, 2014.