News / Canada

Supreme Court agrees to hear appeal in case of deadly patio crash in Edmonton

At trial, court was told that two-year-old Geo Mounsef was having dinner with his parents and baby brother when Suter's vehicle pinned him against a wall.

Two-year-old Geo Mounsef is shown in a handout photo, released on Wednesday December 19, 2012. The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the appeal of a man who crashed his SUV onto an Edmonton restaurant patio, killing a toddler.Richard Suter was initially sentenced to a four-month jail term and a five-year driving suspension after pleading guilty to failing to provide a breath sample in a death, but the Alberta Court of Appeal raised the jail term to 26 months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

Two-year-old Geo Mounsef is shown in a handout photo, released on Wednesday December 19, 2012. The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the appeal of a man who crashed his SUV onto an Edmonton restaurant patio, killing a toddler.Richard Suter was initially sentenced to a four-month jail term and a five-year driving suspension after pleading guilty to failing to provide a breath sample in a death, but the Alberta Court of Appeal raised the jail term to 26 months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the appeal of an Edmonton man who crashed his SUV onto a restaurant patio, killing a toddler.

Richard Suter was initially sentenced to four months in jail along with a 30-month driving suspension after he pleaded guilty to failing to provide a breath sample in a death. But the Alberta Court of Appeal raised the sentence to 26 months.

Court heard the retired businessman, who was 62, had been arguing with his wife while parking his vehicle in front of a Ric's Grill in southwest Edmonton in May 2013, and mistakenly hit the gas instead of the brake.

Two-year-old Geo Mounsef was having dinner with his parents and baby brother when the SUV pinned him against a wall.

Suter testified at his sentencing hearing that he had three drinks over four hours before the crash, but wasn't drunk. The sentencing judge agreed that Suter wasn't impaired and was given bad legal advice to refuse a breathalyzer test.

Failing to provide a breath sample, when it involves a death, carries a maximum life sentence. But the lawyer who gave Suter advice testified he was unaware of the relatively new offence and believed police were simply charging him with failing to provide a breath sample.

After the crash, Suter was pulled from his SUV and beaten. Months later, while awaiting trial, he was abducted from his home by three masked men and had a thumb cut off.

In its decision, the Appeal Court said it took the vigilante violence into consideration but that Suter was a mature man with life experience who made a choice not to provide a breath sample to officers after the deadly accident.

Suter's trial lawyer, Dino Bottos, is arguing that the Appeal Court erred on several grounds, including that it found Suter shouldn't get a lower sentence because he relied on faulty legal advice.

"That lawyer told him not to provide a breath sample and Mr. Suter followed that advice in good faith," said Bottos.

"The Court of Appeal in overturning his sentence found, without any evidence to base it on, that Mr. Suter chose to refuse to provide a sample only because he was doing so strategically or malevolently."

The Supreme Court, as usual, did not give reasons for deciding to hear the appeal.

Bottos said it's rare for the high court to hear sentence appeals and he's asking it to restore Suter's original sentence of four months.

He said Suter has yet to decide if he will apply for bail pending the ruling.

— By Chris Purdy in Edmonton

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said Suter's driving suspension was for five years.

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