A Canadian judge agreed Wednesday that an Ottawa man involved in a hit-and-run accident evaded authorities because as a “man of color” he feared police “racism.”
Deinsberg St-Hilaire claimed he fell asleep at the wheel in 2015, striking cyclist Andy Nevin and leaving him to die. Last year, St-Hilaire was found not guilty of dangerous driving causing death but did plead guilty to obstruction of justice, the Ottawa Citizen reported.
The Ottawa landscaper’s trial heard extended testimony that St-Hilaire not only refused to turn himself into police but even tried to mask circumstances of the hit-and-run, having the damage to his truck repaired. (RELATED: Trudeau Rallies Supporters To ‘Take Action’ Against ‘Anti-Black’ Racism In Canada)
The judge could have handed the convicted man two years in jail, but Ontario Superior Court Justice Catherine Aitken opted for 100 hours of community service and a one-year curfew of 10 p.m. instead.
“Mr. St-Hilaire’s actions in obstructing a peace officer were the result of his being overwhelmed with fear of how he would be treated in the justice system, a fear arising in part due to experiences earlier in life when he was subjected to bullying and racism in the school context, and due to experiences more recently where he did not feel fairly treated by police officers during traffic stops,” Aitken said. (RELATED: UN Wants Canada To Apologize, Pay Reparations, For Black Slavery)
But the victim’s partner and mother of his two sons was furious with the sentence, as she and other family members had been when the judge found St-Hilaire not guilty of dangerous driving causing death.
“He gets a slap on the wrist. They’re not setting a good example for future cases, that’s for sure,” Nadia Robinson told CBC News. “I don’t agree with the judge. He should have done at least some time. I knew we weren’t going to get a lot, but some time … Andy’s not here to help support my kids.”
The decision, and the judge’s comments on St-Hilaire’s fears of racism from local police, prompted a statement from Ottawa Police Charles Bordeleau, who said: “It’s unfortunate that these comments were made putting into question the professionalism of our members during this difficult investigation.”