Driver in PMC fatality gets 22 months in jail
Sean Chase/Daily Observer Retired Chief Warrant Officer Ernie Hall served as Regimental Sergeant-Major for the 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment. He deployed on multiple tours of duty to Cyprus, Bosnia, Croatia, Eritrea, the Persian Gulf War and Afghanistan.
The driver who fatally struck a retired soldier outside the Pembroke Memorial Centre following a Lumber Kings game has received 22 months in jail and a five-year driving prohibition.
Martial Laverdure, 41, learned his fate Wednesday in a Pembroke superior court. He had been convicted of one count of dangerous driving causing death in connection with the Jan. 11, 2015 accident which claimed the life of retired Chief Warrant Officer Ernie Hall.
The sentencing concludes more than two years of waiting for closure for Hall’s family and former comrades. A 39-year veteran who had served tours of duty in Cyprus, Bosnia, Croatia, Eritrea, the Persian Gulf War and Afghanistan, Hall had reached the pinnacle of his career as the Regimental Sergeant-Major of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment before retiring in 2014.
“No matter what this guy gets it’s never going to be enough,” said said retired Master Warrant Officer Ken Miles, a friend of Hall’s since 1976. “Ernie’s not going to be coming home. He was in every conflict around the world and he was killed in a parking lot. It’s hard.”
Assistant Crown attorney Caitlin Downing had been seeking a 30-month prison sentence for Laverdure, while defence counsel Jessica Fuller had asked for nine months in jail. In handing down his decision, Justice Martin James acknowledged that Laverdure, a father of three, did not have a significant criminal record nor did his driving record show any reckless or inappropriate driving.
The justice noted the accused had the support of his family, and was not engaged in racing, distracted driving or was under the influence of alcohol or drugs the night that his SUV hit Hall and two other pedestrians. What was aggravating in this case, Justice James added, was the fact that Laverdure struck three pedestrians and did not apply his brakes until he hit the first victim.
“I accept that you did not intend any harm but your conduct created a situation of great danger for those leaving the PMC,” said Justice James, who noted that the accused chose not to testify at the trial but that he was driving much too fast for the conditions that evening. “We do not know what he saw or what he was thinking that night as he approached the arena.”
James ruled that he would accept victim impact statements from Deanna Brown, who was struck that night, and Ken Brown Jr., whose father, Ken Brown Sr. was the third pedestrian hit. Referring to the statements, Justice James noted that Deanna Brown had to undergo six months of physio therapy as a result of her injuries and that Ken Brown Jr. is still deeply affected. In his statement, Brown Jr. recounted that he believed that when he saw Hall’s body flying through the air on impact that he was actually seeing his father. Justice James also referred to a victim impact statement from Hall’s brother, Pete.
“He misses the companionship of his brother,” remarked Justice James. “He and his wife are now paranoid in parking lots, fearful of being struck by a car.”
With the 22-month sentence, Justice James said he would recommend that Laverdure be permitted to serve it at the St. Lawrence Correctional Facility in Brockville so that his mental health issues can be addressed. In addition, Laverdure will be placed on 12 months probation upon his release. Justice James imposed a 10-year weapons prohibition and a $200 victim surcharge. Later, Pete Hall, who had been accompanied by several members of the Hall family, said they were pleased with the sentencing adding a day doesn’t go by that he doesn’t terribly miss his brother.
““He was such a decorated soldier. We think of him every day,” said Hall. “I am use to calling him every day and now he’s gone. You have all these memories you want to share.”
While he accepted Laverdure’s public apology to the court last week during submissions, Hall said they skeptical as to his motives.
“We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “He was sincere but I thought it was a last minute pitch.”
A native of Lanark, Ontario, Ernie Hall enrolled in the forces in 1975. Following a peacekeeping tour of Cyprus with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, he was assigned to the Canadian Airborne Regiment serving as a section commander and pathfinder detachment second-in-command until 1986. He was subsequently posted to the RCR Battle School and Baden Soellingen in Germany. However, Hall’s numerous foreign deployments included places like Cyprus, Bosnia, Croatia, and Eritrea. He also served in the Persian Gulf War in 1990. Promoted to chief warrant officer in 2005, Hall was appointed the Infantry Corps career manager before returning to Petawawa as the regimental sergeant-major (RSM) of the 3rd Battalion. From 2008 to 2009, he served as the RSM for the 3RCR Battle Group in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He retired in 2014 after serving as the RSM of the Pembroke-based 42nd Field Regiment.
Hall volunteered with the Salvation Army soup kitchen and the Lions Club Blind Anglers International Tournament. A supporter and long-time member of the Canadian Army Veterans motorcycle club, Hall served as a riding unit vice-president in 2009. He was invested as a Member of the Order of Military Merit in 2005 and was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in 2010.