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Dr. Christy Natsis will appeal drunk driving conviction, seeks bail

By Ryan Paulsen, The Daily Observer

RYAN PAULSEN/DAILY OBSERVER
Dr. Christy Natsis waits outside the Pembroke courthouse in this October, 2015 photo.

RYAN PAULSEN/DAILY OBSERVER Dr. Christy Natsis waits outside the Pembroke courthouse in this October, 2015 photo.

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Pembroke dentist Christy Natsis is seeking to be let out of prison on bail after asking the Ontario Court of Appeal to toss out her conviction for impaired and dangerous driving causing death and to find her not guilty or order a new trial.

Natsis was sentenced two weeks ago to five years in prison, but will be back in court in Toronto on Friday asking to be released after accusing the judge who found her guilty of making several errors in law.

According to her notice of appeal, which was filed Tuesday, Natsis argues that Ontario Court Justice Neil Kozloff shouldn’t have admitted or relied upon the expert evidence of the Ontario Provincial Police officers who investigated the March 31, 2011, crash that killed 50-year-old father of three Bryan Casey.

Casey’s widow, LeeEllen Carroll, said Wednesday the family did not wish to comment.

Natsis was sentenced to an additional 40 days in jail after pleading guilty to breaching her bail conditions by buying two bottles of vodka in November 2011.

If successful on her request for bail, Natsis intends to complete what’s left of her jail sentence for the breach before being released, said one of her lawyers. Offenders are typically given statutory release after serving two-thirds of their sentence, or in Natsis’s case, 26 days.

Natsis alleges that the judge’s decision to rely on the evidence of the prosecution’s principal collision reconstructionist despite his “demonstrated bias” resulted in a “substantial unfairness” to Natsis and could have affected the verdict.

“In light of the trial judge’s strong findings of bias against the Crown’s main accident reconstruction witness, it was unreasonable for him to conclude that he could nonetheless accept the aspects of the evidence bearing on the key question in dispute — the location of the collision on the roadway — and then rely on those aspects of the evidence to find the Appellant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” the notice of appeal alleged.

Natsis also alleged that the judge misapprehended evidence of two other OPP officers who were called to testify as expert witnesses because there work was “substantially based” on Const. Shawn Kelly’s findings.

They further alleged that the trial judge’s reasons for finding Natsis guilty were “legally insufficient” given they “entirely fail to engage” with her defence lawyers’ 100-page attack on the technical and expert evidence of the three officers.

Natsis, who hired top criminal defence lawyers Michael Edelson, Vince Clifford and Solomon Friedman to represent her during the marathon trial that stretched over three years and took 55 days to complete, is represented on the appeal by Toronto lawyers Marie Henein and Matthew Gourlay.

Henein is widely considered one of the top legal minds in the country. She is defending former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi on sexual assault charges and has argued numerous cases in front of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Canada.

In the notice of appeal, Natsis and her lawyers also alleged the judge erred in determining that draft reports from the collision investigators didn’t need to be disclosed to the defence. The judge’s finding that the “wilful” destruction of draft reports into the collision did not preclude the Crown from relying on the final reports as proof of Natsis’s guilt was an error, the notice of appeal alleged.

If successful, Natsis is asking the Court of Appeal to quash her convictions and either acquit her or order a new trial.

The judge found that Natsis crossed the centre line and plowed head on into Casey’s pickup truck on Hwy. 17 near Arnprior. Both drivers had blood-alcohol levels over the legal limit to drive, although breath readings that showed Natsis was 2 1/2 times the legal limit weren’t admitted into evidence because the OPP violated her rights to a lawyer.

Natsis is going before the Court of Appeal on Friday to seek her release pending the hearing of the appeal. It is not uncommon for people who have been convicted and sentenced to prison or jail time to be released on bail pending their appeal.

To qualify for bail, the offender needs to establish that the appeal is not frivolous, will surrender into custody and that continued detention is not necessary in the public interest. People who are released on bail pending appeal are usually put under a variety of conditions, including the requirement to report back to jail one day prior to the appeal being heard.

aseymour@ottawacitizen.com

Twitter.com/andrew_seymour