It’s unacceptable how routine it’s become to see a parade of grieving families, ripped up because of a drunk driver, appear on the steps of the London courthouse.
Scott Altiman gets 10 years for London drunk driving crash that killed two people
It happened again Thursday, after Scott Altiman, 33, of Delaware was sentenced to 10 years in prison and banned from driving for 15 years for a London crash that killed two people and injured two others - writes lfpress.com
The tough sentence wouldn’t be altered because of Altiman’s First Nations heritage, the judge decided. Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities would want the same sanction for such a terrible crime, he said, calling it “such a significant loss, such a horrible waste of humanity,”
On Sept. 8, 2016, after lots of drinking and reckless driving through city streets, Altiman killed Cody Andrews, 23, of New Hamburg and Jerry Pitre, 46, of London when he ran a red light and sped through the intersection at Dundas Street and Highbury Avenue at about 187 kilometres an hour.
He had twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood.
The spectacular crash split Cody Andrews’ cousin Eric Allensen’s car in half, killing the two backseat passengers. Allensen, 27, and his girlfriend, Carlie Matthews, 26, were critically injured.
Altiman was so blasted, he was snoring while emergency workers cut him out of his Dodge Charger, which struck two houses after plowing through Allensen’s car.
And so they came to the microphones Thursday to talk about their pain — Pitre’s mother, Andrews’ family and Allensen, who will always have the scars from a horrific crash.
They all spoke of loss and heartbreak.
This tragedy was so preventable.
Ontario Court Justice John Skowronski knew the depth of their sorrow when he dealt Altiman, an Indigenous man with no criminal record, exactly what the Crown wanted — a 10-year prison sentence and a 15-year driving prohibition.
Skowronski isn’t a stranger to hearing about the toll exacted by impaired drivers. Not many judges in the London area are.
It was Skowronski who raised the bar on impaired driving sentences across Ontario seven years ago when he sent Andrew Kummer, a London man who killed two boys and one of his own passengers while drunk, to prison for eight years.
But even that message didn’t seem to faze some drivers who ended up in same terrible position.
Two years ago, a five-year sentence was given to a man who killed Andrea Christidis, a Western University student killed while walking through campus.
A Chinese national was sentenced to seven years last summer for running his car into Gloria Chivers, a London Free Press newspaper carrier.
Four years to the driver who killed Darryl Westgate in Adelaide-Metcalfe.
In Altiman, Skowronki was faced with a man with no criminal record, a history of community service, a full-time job, a family. Also in the background was his First Nations heritage, which afforded him consideration under so-called Gladue principles that take into account circumstances facing Aboriginal people, including generational trauma from residential school abuse.
Altiman, whose childhood was marked by abuse, bullying and poverty, had pulled himself up. But emerging marital problems left him finding comfort in alcohol. That night he had been at a baseball tournament, had a fight with his wife and attended at least two more bars.
Skowronski said the courts have to keep hammering home the message that drinking and driving isn’t tolerated, despite what seems a never-ending array of drivers who find themselves before the courts.
“If by way of sentencing, the courts can influence one more Mr. Altiman to not drink and drive, then the sentence is helpful,” he said.“It’s sad to admit there will likely be more but perhaps with sentencings that reflect society’s disapproval and condemnation, the numbers will decline.”
The long sentence was met with gasps in the packed courtroom.
One person said, “Oh, yes,” when Skowronski announced his decision.
Earlier, Altiman walked into the courthouse with a coat over his head to avoid the media glare.
As he did in earlier proceedings – he pleaded guilty last summer, family victim impact statements were read by last fall – he held an eagle feather as a symbol of his background and to give him strength.
“Whatever the court decides,” Skowronski said before passing sentence, “it cannot alter one facet that two people are dead, two survived significantly injured with many, many more people greatly impacted by the accused’s actions, including his own friends and family.”
Outside the courthouse, Pitre’s mother, Rose Imhoff, made a tearful statement to reporters about the loss of her son. “I wish he would have got more,” she said of Altiman. “He got 10. I just hope he stays, gets his head straight. Damn alcohol, I hate it.”
Allensen said he hoped the long sentence might make people stop and think beofre drinking and driving. “Cars are nasty weapons that a drunk person can use to kill people,” he said.
His girlfriend, Matthews, didn’t want to come to the sentencing. When asked if he found some comfort in the sentence, his reply was simple. “I didn’t get to go to either of those boys’ funerals. I don’t think that’s closure at all. “
Andrews parents, Dave and Shauna, standing alongside their daughter Sara holding a photo of their dead son, read prepared statements articulating the depth of their pain and loss.
“In my view or opinion Scott Altiman’s actions and decision in getting behind the wheel with his blatant disregard for human life, his extreme speed and recklessness while driving while extremely impaired was an act I would consider murder,” Dave Andrews said.
“The laws need to change and the penalties need to be way more severe on impaired drivers and criminal negligence causing death.”
Shauna Andrews said she would devote her life to changing the impaired driving penalties. “There will never be enough justice for what he did to our Cody, there never will be.”
“I don’t want Cody to rememebered as a victim of an impaired driver,” she said. “I want him to be remembered as the beautiful boy that he was. But Scott Altiman changed that forever when he took our boy’s life so preventably and senselessly. “
As Altiman was removed from the courtroom after sentencing, it was Shauna Andrews’ voice he heard last.
“I will never forgive you, Scott,” she said loud enough for him to hear.
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