Judge finds Rodney Arens guilty

  • Jun. 18, 2014 4:08 p.m.

Rodney Arens has been found guilty of impaired driving and dangerous driving after a crash killed a 13-year-old boy on Canada Day in 2010.

Arens, 36, of Red Deer, was found guilty of impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing death, dangerous driving causing bodily harm and breach of recognizance.

He was charged with three charges of refusing to provide a breathalyzer sample. During the trial, the crown issued a stay of proceedings in regards to those three charges. Those charges were dropped.

Sentencing submissions will be presented by the crown and defense tomorrow.

In 2010, police said Anouluck ‘Jeffrey’ Chanminaraj, 13, was riding in a Honda Civic with his then 18-year-old brother Jamie and 20-year-old sister Stephanie, who was driving, at about 11 p.m. on Canada Day when a Dodge Ram pick-up truck crashed into the passenger side of the car.

Their car was turning left through the intersection of Taylor Dr. and Kerry Wood Dr. when it was struck by the pick-up truck. The siblings were on their way to see the Canada Day fireworks.

Jeffrey was pronounced dead at the scene.

Arens’ eight-week trial wrapped up last week with closing arguments.

Justice Kirk Sisson handed down his decision yesterday morning in court. He said the fact that Arens drove recklessly through an area populated with people who were heading to Bower Ponds to watch the Canada Day fireworks was a, “Stunning act of wrongdoing.”

He added there were several indications from witnesses over the course of events that Arens’ judgment was poor. “A normal person would have taken heightened precaution given the activity in the area and Mr. Arens did not,” he said, adding that he is satisfied Arens was traveling at a speed of at least 79 kms/hr at the time of the collision and he is satisfied with testimony from a number of witnesses who stated they heard Arens accelerate right before the collision to beat the yellow light.

“He operated the vehicle in a way that was dangerous to the public,” said Sisson. “I believe Ms. Chanminaraj stopped and took the proper care to make the left turn. It was not the actions of Ms. Chanminaraj that caused the collision. It was the actions of Mr. Arens.”

Sisson added that alcohol was a contributing factor beyond a reasonable doubt in the collision.

“We know Mr. Arens spent the afternoon with friends. We know Mr. Arens had three beer and one shot, although no one kept a close eye on him,” he said. “Consuming alcohol was a significant cause of the collision.”

After Sisson’s decision, Jamie and Stephanie spoke to the media outside the courtroom.

“We miss our brother and our dad really misses him,” said Jamie.

Stephanie said she is glad the trial has ended.

“It’s been so long and I’m so glad it’s come to a close,” said Stephanie. “I don’t even know how I’m feeling right now. I’m glad for the closure for everyone – it’s been a long drawn-out process for everyone.

“It’s time to move on together as a family and put this behind us hopefully.”

Throughout the trial dozens of witnesses were called to testify including civilian witnesses, paramedics and police as well as friends of Arens and waitresses that served him the night of the collision.

Stephanie and Jamie also testified early on in the trial.

Meanwhile, a number of exhibits were entered during proceedings including a nearly 11-minute video that showed Arens shortly after the collision at the former downtown police detachment. In the video Arens could be seen swaying while he was waiting to be processed. It also showed him getting his photo taken before being escorted off camera.

Crown prosecutor Wayne Silliker said the video is significant.

“In the video we see the accused stumble as described by the civilians and police members. The accused has an inability to maintain his balance. He staggers backwards and his head bobs,” said Silliker. “The next day we see the accused after several hours and he walks a similar path to the night before. He is straight as an arrow. He is no longer impaired by alcohol.”

Defense lawyer Donna Derie-Gillespie said there were a number of witnesses who did not smell alcohol on Arens the night of the collision.

“The firemedics attended the cells where Arens was and they did not smell alcohol. These men were hands on assessing Mr. Arens and they were right in this gentlemen’s face,” she said, adding that other witnesses testified during the trial that Arens had watery eyes and was flush in the face that night. “Having a flushed face doesn’t make someone impaired to drive. There is too much doubt on the impaired.”

Derie-Gillespie also said that it is already known that Arens was drinking before the collision, but that doesn’t mean he was impaired.

“We know Mr. Arens was drinking on July 1, 2010. We have witnesses who say he had three beers and one shooter from around 6 – 10 p.m. Mr. Arens was dropped off at his truck at 10:15 p.m. and we do not know what happened from that time until the collision. There has to be proof that he was impaired at the time of driving – not before or after.”

Silliker said that in terms of the dangerous driving charges, there is sufficient evidence to back those charges up.

“What happened was that the accused failed to see the car until the car had almost completed the left hand turn causing the collision, death and bodily harm that brings us here today. Stephanie almost completed the turn. The accused failed to look out. He accelerated to beat the light and failed to see the vehicle.

A reasonable person would have slowed their speed because of the people, children and families (who were there to celebrate Canada Day). They certainly would not accelerate.”

Derie-Gillespie said that Arens was not in the wrong.

“Mr. Arens was following the rules of the road and the other vehicle wasn’t. Stephanie took a chance – one she should have never taken.”

efawcett@reddeerexpress.com

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