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Jail time for drug-impaired driver who hit pedestrians at Harrison Festival

An RCMP officer tapes off the scene where an SUV hit three pedestrians before jumping the curb among huge crowds at the 2013 Harrison Festival of the Arts. The driver, Clinton Michaloski, was impaired by cocaine, marijuana and anti-depressants. His sentencing hearing was March 10, 2017 in Chilliwack Provincial Court. - Paul J. Henderson/FILE
An RCMP officer tapes off the scene where an SUV hit three pedestrians before jumping the curb among huge crowds at the 2013 Harrison Festival of the Arts. The driver, Clinton Michaloski, was impaired by cocaine, marijuana and anti-depressants. His sentencing hearing was March 10, 2017 in Chilliwack Provincial Court.
— image credit: Paul J. Henderson/FILE

A man who drove into a crowd of pedestrians while high on drugs at the 2013 Harrison Festival of the Arts is likely off to jail in May.

At the sentencing hearing for Clinton Lee Michaloski on Friday, the court heard that eight different drugs were found in his blood, including cocaine, fentanyl and THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

After the then 27-year-old crashed into three members of one family, seriously injuring two of them, he was found with drug paraphernalia, oxycontin pills and 19 grams of marijuana.

It was just after 1 p.m. on July 7, 2013 when Dannie and Christine Schultz were walking near the intersection of Esplanade Avenue and Hot Springs Road with their sons, Clayton and Dylan.

There were an estimated 300 to 400 people in the area, because of the popular music and arts festival.

At that same time, Michaloski was driving a white Toyota FJ Cruiser north on Hot Springs Road, erratically and dangerously, according to a witness who followed him.

At 1:15 p.m., Michaloski crashed into Dannie, Christine and 13-year-old Clayton Schultz at the busy T-junction. Sixteen-year-old Dylan managed to jump out of the way.

“Christine was seen flying through the air landing 15 to 20 feet from where she was struck,” Crown counsel Grant Lindsey told Judge Wendy Young at the March 10 sentencing hearing.

The 37-year-old’s head and knee were injured. Her pelvis was broken in four places.

Dannie suffered a compound fracture to his right ankle for which he has had three surgeries and will need one more. Clayton suffered a sprained ankle and scrapes when he was knocked to the ground.

Michaloski was immediately approached by witnesses after the incident, to whom it was clear that he was impaired by something.

When police arrived, he was mumbling, slurring his words and his eyes were red and glassy.

“He had a hard time spelling his own name when he was asked to,” Lindsey said.

The RCMP officer who arrested him said Michaloski was in and out of consciousness.

“By the time she got around to ask if he wanted a lawyer, he fell asleep again,” Lindsey said.

Michaloski was so out of it, “he had to be told several times that he hit some pedestrians,” the court heard.

Crown asked Young to sentence Michaloski to 15 months in jail followed by probation and a five-year driving ban. This was later reduced to a three-year driving ban, as that is the most allowed under the law for a first offence.

Defence lawyer Michael Bolton asked for a 12-month sentence and requested a lighter driving ban to better integrate Michaloski back into society and his career as an electrician.

The night before the incident, Michaloski went to a known drug dealer in Harrison Hot Springs with his mother where he purchased cocaine. His mother was a passenger in his vehicle the day of the crash and was at the scene after, but it was unclear if she was in the vehicle when it happened.

Bolton told the court that this was the beginning of the fentanyl crisis, and the dangerous drug was cut into the cocaine he bought.

“It’s an extremely dangerous and serious drug,” Bolton said of the fentanyl. “He has no recollection of the accident or even that he was driving. . . . he did not intend to be impaired to the degree that he was.”

Young took issue with Bolton’s argument, saying she was presented with no medical evidence or expert testimony that fentanyl mixed with cocaine creates longer-term effects that could have affected his behaviour the next day.

“You are saying the fentanyl knocks this out of the park?” Young asked.

Bolton did not pursue the argument, particularly because fentanyl or no fentanyl, defence conceded that Michaloski was found impaired by cocaine and THC, which were intentionally ingested. He was also found with two different anti-depressants in his system.

On that point, Lindsey added that even if there was no need for specific deterrence in this case because Michaloski is not driving, is abstaining from drugs and is remorseful, there is a need for general deterrence.

“The moral blameworthiness is high because he chooses to ingest drugs and then drives,” Lindsey said.

As a mitigating factor, Lindsey pointed to his lack of a criminal record before the crash, but added that Michaloski did continue to drive under the influence after the date.

On Aug. 16, 2013, just one month later, he was found passed out behind the wheel in Burnaby, and he was convicted of care or control of vehicle while impaired.

Bolton argued that this incident was likely an attempted suicide, as his life spiralled out of control.

He added that given that he is being sued by ICBC, the financial harm tacked on to the criminal penalty will be great.

“He’ll be paying for the rest of his mortal life for this,” Bolton said.

Michaloski himself addressed the court, apologizing and saying he lives with the shame of it every single day.

Dannie and Christine were in the court at the beginning of the hearing, but not when Michaloski spoke.

“I wish these people were still here because I wanted to make a formal apology,” he said.

Judge Young said she would return with a written decision on May 8 at 9:30 a.m.

paul.henderson@theprogress.com

@PeeJayAitch

 

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