The sentencing hearing began Tuesday in Chilliwack for a woman who struck down a beloved community member in a marked crosswalk more than four years ago, and then drove away.
Linnea Labbee, 73, was convicted on April 12, 2021 of failing to stop after an accident causing bodily harm that led to the death of 78-year-old Fourghozaman Firoozian.
That conviction last spring in BC Supreme Court capped off a trial in Chilliwack in which Labbee had no lawyer, and defended herself.
Judge Brenda Brown will render a sentencing decision in the case Friday.
Crown Counsel Joe Saulnier delivered a summary of his written sentencing submission, asking for two years jail time for Labbee, noting that was at the “top of the range” for this offence.
Although a conditional sentence, which is serving a jail time in the community or under house arrest, was legally available, it wouldn’t be “appropriate” in this case, he argued, adding there were no mitigating circumstances, only aggravating ones.
Crown listed Labbee’s many attempts to obstruct justice since the 2016 incident, for which she did not plead guilty, show remorse or accept responsibility for, but instead was found to have created “an elaborate false alibi” included lying, blaming others, forging documents and making serious allegations against individual police officers.
Crown Counsel’s sentencing submission painted the “post incident conduct” of Labbee as “egregious” as she went directly to the nearby Southgate Shopping Centre to conceal her involvement. Labbee “callously ate lunch” while sirens could be heard as first responders arrived on-scene to tend to the victim.
“Crown believes she sat at that restaurant and made her plan,” Saulnier said.
When Labbee was informed that the victim had died, she told a detailed lie about her truck having been stolen, and after two weeks of reflection, she “doubled down” and still did not come clean about what happened, Saulnier said.
After four and half years, over a judicial process that saw 19 adjournments in one year, Crown laid out a distinct pattern of attempts to delay and avoid justice by Labbee, where she used “excuse after excuse.”
“My understanding is that she continues to profess her innocence,” Saulnier said, despite the conviction.
He clarified there was no suggestion of Labbee’s intent, and she wasn’t being sentenced for intending to cause the death, but for leaving the scene of the accident. Labbee did not have a driver’s licence.
“If she had remained at the scene, it would have been unlikely that she would have been charged,” the Crown prosecutor said.
Firoozian’s two sons, Riaz and Faraz Bassari, were present in the courtroom for the sentencing hearing.
The Crown’s submission included three victim impact statements from Firoozian’s sons, and the former wife of one of her sons.
Both sons talked about the candlelight vigil for their mom attended by 100 of her friends and neighbours, and how touching the stories were about their mom’s kindness.
Riaz Bassari choked back tears reading his victim impact statement for the court, and describing how their mom was know to “brighten any room she walked into.”
“The sadness and sorrow of her loss is still with me as I wait for closure and justice,” Bassari wrote about his mother.
“My mother had a zest for life unmatched by many younger people,” he said. She took up painting and kickboxing in her 70s, and took care of her health.
“She avoided anything that might take away from her remaining years, but she could not avoid being run over by a truck that day and left to die on the street.”
His mom was known “to stretch out her limited income, purchasing in bulk and at sales so she would be able to afford to have a group of friends over for dinner and to cook dozens of meals a week, delivered to those serving the homeless in Chilliwack.
”She also volunteered to help those in need, including helping new immigrants learn English and settle in their new home in Chilliwack.”
Labbee was asked by Judge Brown to give her sentencing submission.
“I don’t know what an appropriate sentence would be,” Labbee replied, adding “all I know is I have extreme health issues.”
She asked for sentencing to be “suspended” until her health issues were resolved.
Judge Brenda Brown had advised Labbee previously that if her submissions on sentencing included a claim that she should not go to jail because of the health conditions mentioned during the trial, she would need to see a doctor’s report.
“I will need third party verification,” Judge Brown said, but none was forthcoming at the Aug. 10 hearing.
Labbee said she would be appealing the conviction.
In summarizing, Saulnier stated that the Crown accepts that Labbee has health problems, and that it won’t be easy to serve a jail term, but that she would receive good medical care in prison.
Crown is also asking for a no-contact order as all four of the witnesses said they don’t want contact with the accused, as well as a four-year driving prohibition.
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