(THUNDER BAY, ON) – Today in a Judge’s court, a 35-year-old Michael Clara was scheduled to plead guilty to several charges regarding drinking and driving, as well as striking an officer in the face. His Honour, Dino DiGiuseppe was presiding over the matter. The courtroom was also staffed by a court clerk, a court reporter, Crown Attorney Franceline Auclair, defence lawyer McCartney, two Thunder Bay Police Service Special Constables, multiple citizens in the body of the court, myself included.
The proceeding begins with Clara pleading guilty to the charges surrounding him driving a vehicle while his license was suspended, drinking and driving, and striking a police officer in an attempt to resist arrest.
Crown attorney Franceline Auclair reads in the facts of the case, which Clara will admit to at the end of the reading. Those facts are as follows.
On April 7th, 2018 around 9:55 pm a concerned citizen was leaving the Silvercity parking lot and exited onto May Street headed northbound in the curb lane. At this time there was a grey minivan presumably driven by Clara had sped past them, at approximately 70km/h in the centre lane. The minivan driven by Clara was speeding and would continuously brake when it got close to other vehicles rear-end. Clara then merged the minivan into the curb lane in front of the witness, who observed the minivan bounce off the curb near Value Village. The minivan Clara was driving then continued to bounce off the curb numerous times up Memorial Avenue and into Algoma street, where it turned right onto Cornwall Ave and then right on Johnson Avenue where it stopped in front of a residence.
The male driver then exited the car and had a set of keys hanging out of his pocket which is presumed to be that of the minivan. This same male was staggering around and was believed to be impaired by the witness. That is when the witness made a 911 call to report the suspected drunk driver to the police.
The Witness believes the drunken driver may have noticed that he was being noticed and at this point, Clara jumped back into the driver’s seat of the minivan and headed northbound on Johnson Avenue. The minivan failed to stop at the stop sign when it turned onto Bay Street and cut off numerous vehicles during the large left-hand turn. Clara then came to a stop at the Luthern Community Care Centre, where he was witnessed staggering across the street and made his way into the Royalton bar.
Thunder Bay Police Service attended the Royalton and identified Clara as the male who matched the description provided by the witness. Clara was identified by an Ontario Health card, and it was discovered that he was under a license suspension and should not have been driving. Clara was showing signs of intoxication according to the police.
When police attempted to arrest Clara, he began tensing up and clenching his fists, that was when Clara struck a Thunder Bay Police Service officer in the right side of his face by Clara. Eventually, police managed to restrain Clara, placing him into police custody and transported him down to Hotel Balmoral.
Clara’s two breath samples read as 197mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood and 178mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood.
Defence counsel begins by stating that Clara has a grade 10 education and is originally from Steinbach. He has been in a common law relationship for the past 8 years. His spouse is incredibly supportive and has full-time employment at the Matawa Education Centre as a consult worker.
Clara has 2 children of his own who are 5 and 7, plus 2 foster children and Clara’s spouse’s nephew living in his home.
An apology letter is submitted to the courts from Clara regarding his behaviour during these incidents, and he plans to give it to his probation officer to forward to the officer that he admits he struck in the face. Defence and the Crown have come to a joint submission. A joint submission means that the facts are admitted and the sentencing recommendations are jointly submitted to the Judge from both sides.
A conditional sentence order is requested by both parties, as Clara is claiming that he is deeply needed at home to support and take care of his spouse and the numerous children that live there. Defence is asking for a total amount of $2500 in fines and a 6-month house arrest to be followed by 6 months of probation.
Conditions of the house arrest are as follows:
- No possession or consumption of alcohol
- Not to attend any bars
- Alcohol focused counselling
- To be followed by 6 months probation
- 1-year driving prohibition
- 2-years no weapons
- Submit his DNA to the DNA databank
18 Months is requested to pay the victim fine surcharge of $450
Justice Dino DiGiuseppe begins laying out his decision by asking Clara if there is anything he would like to say, noting that Clara is under no obligation to speak. Clara makes a simple apology to His Honour.
His Honour begins to speak and notes that Clara’s criminal record is unrelated and somewhat dated. He further states that there were no injuries that were sustained from this incident with some element of luck no doubt. The Justice also takes into account that Clara has drafted an apology letter to the officer that he struck in the face. It is also noticed that Clara has significant responsibilities as a father and spouse.
The Judge states that he cannot ignore the level of intoxication that Clara had obtained which lead to him striking a police officer while in the execution of his duty. He reminds Clara how there must have been some element of luck for no one to have gotten hurt from driving drunk that day. Justice DiGiuseppe tells Clara that a jail sentence must be imposed, but he will accept the joint submission which calls for his jail sentence to be served in the community. Clara will serve his jail sentence in his own home. He will only be allowed to leave his home for medical emergencies regarding himself or his immediate family, employment purposes, or with the written permission of his probation officer.
His Honour tells Clara very clearly, that if he breaches his house arrest, and it is proven in court, he will likely spend the remainder of his sentence in jail.
Clara’s case is closed, he will serve 6 months at home on house arrest, except for work. That will be followed by 6 months probation.