PICTOU – The sentencing of a 70-year-old Pictou County man who is looking at jail time for impaired driving dating to 2011 has been delayed again.
John Arthur Gillespie will be sentenced Feb. 14 in Pictou Supreme Court. The new date was set after Justice Glen McDougall told Crown attorney Bill Gorman and defence lawyer Ed Patterson he was not prepared to go ahead with the sentencing Wednesday because of his own busy schedule in addition to taking into consideration the close timing with the Christmas holidays.
"I know how important family is during that time of year," he told Gillespie. "I am not only thinking of you, but of other members of your family. So until at least February 14, you are at liberty to spend time with your family. You know for a fact that you will be incarcerated for some period of time when I sentence you on that date so you have to be prepared to go off with the deputy sheriff."
Wednesday's adjournment is one of many delays in the case since the trial begin in March. The trial was scheduled for two days, but ended up lasting a total of six full days and three half days, all spread over 17 months from the first trial date. The delays were brought on by a series of court rulings, including determining the expertise of a toxicologist as well as a defence charter motion to determine if the accused’s right to counsel had been breached.
McDougall found Gillespie guilty of the indictable charges on Aug. 26 with the sentencing expected to take place Oct. 20, but an adjournment was granted after the defence asked for time to speak to a witness who could provide information for the sentencing, moving it to Oct. 30.
Gillespie testified during the trial that he had three drinks of whiskey earlier in the day on Feb. 7, 2011, and left his house around 5 p.m. to drive a friend home. Neither Gillespie nor the friend had a valid driver’s licence at the time. On the way back to Gillespie’s home the vehicle went off the road into a snowbank on Egypt Road. Gillespie was sitting behind the steering wheel when a passerby looked in the vehicle and offered assistance. Gillespie testified he drank some whiskey to ward off the cold while he sat in the vehicle. He said that he moved from the passenger's seat to the driver’s side of the vehicle after he urinated on the seat because he was unable to get out the passenger side door.
During his sentencing hearing Wednesday, Gillespie testified that he has changed his ways since the incident, sought the help of addiction services and has not touched alcohol or driven a vehicle since he was charged.
"I was afraid if I didn't get help or the tools I needed to help me, I would probably go back at it again," he told the court. "It wasn't an easy decision for me at the time. I am self-employed and used to making my own decisions and I didn't think I needed help. I finally came to the conclusion that I had a problem."
The court was told Gillespie started an addiction services program in June 2011, maintained his sobriety for a year, and finished using the service in May 2012.
Gorman challenged Gillespie's reason for accessing addiction services in June 2011, stating that Gillespie was sentenced to a probation order around the same time for an unrelated charge that required him to take addiction services counselling and abstain from alcohol use.
The Crown also disputed the fact that Gillespie has abstained from driving while prohibited. Gorman said Gillespie has a provincial court date of Nov. 5 to answer to a charge of driving while disqualified, but Gillespie fired back that he was pleading not guilty to that charge.
"I am innocent on that charge until proven guilty," he said.
The Crown is seeking a sentence of 18 to 24 months plus a day in custody for Gillespie while the defence has asked a curative discharge on the care and control of a vehicle charge that will allow Gillespie to continue to seek counselling for his alcohol addiction while on probation.
However, Gillespie is guaranteed jail time on this refusal of a breathalyzer charge since he has four prior impaired driving convictions so Patterson asked for the minimum sentence of 120 days for his client.
"This guy does get it," said Patterson of Gillepie's testimony about seeking help for his addiction. "It took awhile but he does get it."
Gorman disagreed with the statement by saying Gillespie only sought help when he was threatened with jail time.
"The remorse you hear is the remorse of getting caught," he said. "His remorse is, 'Oh my God, I am going to jail and I don't want to do that.'"