Defence seeks between 5 and 6 years for driver in triple fatal 2020 crash
Lawyers for the man who drove his sportscar into a south Edmonton Starbucks, killing all three of his passengers, are seeking a prison term of between five and seven years.
Oscar Benjumea, 27, pleaded guilty in May to three counts of dangerous driving causing death in the July 3, 2020 crash, as well as to a fourth count of failing to stop at an accident involving death.
His sentencing hearing continued on Wednesday after beginning in October and resuming again on Monday.
Benjumea’s lawyer, Dino Bottos, argued for a sentence of four years for each of the three deaths to be served concurrently.
Bottos also proposed a sentence of one to two years for failing to stop, resulting in a total sentence of between five and six years.
"Court must be careful not to impose a sentence that might make some members of the public feel that their desire for vengeance has been satisfied,” Bottos said, noting no sentence would lessen the anguish of the victims’ families.
"We understand that some members of the public would like you to lock Mr. Benjumea up and throw away the key ... however that is not how we sentence offenders in Canada."
Bottos said Benjumea has “excellent” prospects of rehabilitation and reintegration into society, citing his lack of prior jail time and remorse at his actions shown through a guilty plea.
"He is not a hardened criminal," Bottos said. "But his choices will haunt him the rest of his life."
He also argued Benjumea should receive enhanced credit at a two-to-one ratio for more than 400 days already spent in custody due to isolation and limited time allowed outside his cell due to COVID-19 protocols.
Bottos said Benjumea lacked the financial means to pursue release and has been in custody since his arrest.
On Monday, Crown prosecutors argued for 12-year sentences for each death to be served concurrently, along with one year for failing to stop, resulting in a potential 13-year sentence.
“As the driver, Mr. Benjumea ought to have exercised a duty of care towards his passengers,” Crown prosecutor Kate Andress said Monday.
“Instead, he drove in a patently dangerous manner which put the lives of everyone around him at risk, and unfortunately, but predictably, killed all of his passengers when he caused a catastrophic collision.”
The sentencing hearing will continue on Thursday in Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench when Benjumea is expected to address the court.
Justice Peter Michalyshyn said he expects to deliver his sentence on Jan. 14.
'SO FAST MY VEHICLE SHOOK'
According to an agreed statement of facts, Benjumea was driving his 2018 Audi R S5 at a speed of up to 193 km/h in an area with a posted speed limit of 60 km/h after leaving a Whyte Avenue bar with the three others after 2 a.m.
A witness told investigators the Audi was travelling "so fast my vehicle shook when he drove by us" as he drove south on Calgary Trail.
Benjumea lost control of the vehicle, hitting a curb and sending the vehicle airborne before it slid across a grassy area and slammed into the Starbucks near 55 Avenue.
His passengers were all killed in the crash: 21-year-old Georgia Donovan, 20-year-old Emma Macarthur, and 32-year-old Faisal Yousef.
The impact sheared off the passenger side of the vehicle as well as the roof and parts of the hood, leaving the engine exposed.
A 911 call played in court from a witness who pulled Benjumea from the wreckage described an injured, disoriented and suicidal Benjumea wandering around the crash site.
Court also saw surveillance video showing the Audi crash into the Starbucks before Benjumea fled the area by making his way through parking lots of several businesses along Calgary Trail.
He was arrested 10 hours later at his home in southwest Edmonton and taken to hospital with cuts, a fractured arm, and broken fingers.
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