Brandin Crosier was not guilty of criminal negligence and dangerous driving when he struck skateboarder Adam Pouget on a foggy road in Amherstburg in November 2016, a judge ruled Monday.
There was stunned silence after Ontario Court Justice Sharman Bondy gave her decision. Then the sobs of Pouget’s family and friends filled the Windsor courtroom.
The prosecution failed to prove Crosier’s attempt to pass a vehicle on County Road 18 in the fog on the morning of Nov. 17, 2016, made him guilty of either criminal charge, Bondy said. When Crosier moved over to pass, his 2011 Ford Focus struck Pouget, who was skateboarding in the opposite direction.
Pouget, 30, was on his way to a job site for his employer, Tilbury Concrete.
“This guy died for no other reason than (Crosier) was late for work,” a furious assistant Crown attorney Walter Costa said outside court afterwards. He called the decision the most disappointing in his 30 years as a prosecutor.
“This is a tragedy in so many ways. I disagree with her findings and ultimately the acquittal,” Costa said. “I had to turn around and look at his wife and all I could say is, ‘I’m sorry.’ It’s the first time she’s showed up at the trial because she couldn’t take it.
“The kids, they run away to his grave site (in Amherstburg) all the time.”
Pouget left behind his wife and four children, the youngest arriving after his death.
The victim’s family declined to comment on the verdict, preferring to quickly leave the court building on Chatham Street East.
Crosier, 24, looked both physically shaken and relieved when he appeared outside the courthouse with his lawyer Pat Ducharme.
“I just want to say (I give) my thoughts and prayers to the deceased’s family,” Crosier said. “It’s a tragedy. I really feel bad. It was an accident.”
Ducharme said his client likely faced a four- or five-year prison sentence had he been found guilty.
“I’m glad it’s all finished,” Crosier said. “Yes I would (do things differently). I definitely learned from this accident, this whole experience.
“Be careful and be cautious at all times. Don’t take any risks. Anything can happen at any moment, you just never know. It happened so fast.”
There was no dispute during his trial that fog impaired visibility and Crosier was going 112 kilometres per hour in an 80 km/h zone while passing a vehicle in front of him.
However, Bondy said the decision to pass was a mistake, not a wanton disregard for public safety or a marked departure from what a reasonable driver might do.
Bondy cited a number of cases, several from the Supreme Court of Canada, she used to help form her verdict.
“We’d hoped it would go this way, but Brandin and all his family know this is a tragedy,” Ducharme said. “There was a life that’s been lost.
“We hope the family members come to accept the decision and understand that these are tough legal principles.”
Ducharme said the bar for the charges Crosier faced is high and he felt his client was aided by several recent Supreme Court decisions.
“The judge gave a very thorough rendition of what the elements and the facts were of the case since she came to the conclusion that it fell short of either criminal negligence or dangerous driving,” Ducharme said.
“Certainly she gave the public an opportunity to know why she came to those conclusions.”