Herbert Meister, who was charged in relation to the death of his hunting partner in 2009, has been given a nearly two-year conditional sentence.
Meister, 62, pleaded guilty to unauthorized possession of a firearm and criminal negligence causing death in Red Deer provincial court last week.
He was sentenced to 60 days in jail in which the time can be served on weekends, eight months of house arrest, eight months with a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. and eight months with conditions – the sentence imposed was a joint submission made by the crown prosecutor and defense lawyer.
The hunting incident in which the charges stem from took place on Nov. 29th, 2009.
An Agreed Statement of Facts, which was read into the record during last Thursday’s court proceedings, gave details of events leading up to the death of the victim, who cannot be named due to a publication ban.
It stated the victim, Meister and two others were hunting on a property near Bentley which was owned by one of the men in the group.
At the time, the victim was wearing a blue and white mesh ball cap, blue jeans and a brown camouflage jacket. The victim’s role during the hunting expedition was to ‘push bush’ which means to move wildlife out of a wooded area, the statement indicated.
At 4 p.m. on Nov. 29th, 2009, court heard that Meister discharged his rifle. Meister shot twice thinking he missed what he thought was a deer the first time. The second bullet went into the abdomen of the victim who was reportedly 300m away.
The Agreed Statement of Facts stated Meister yelled, “I shot a guy!”
The hunters rushed to the victim’s side and 9-1-1 was called. Meister performed CPR on the victim but he was pronounced dead at the scene when EMS crews arrived.
Defense lawyer Balfour Der said Meister was not expecting the victim to be in that particular area when he discharged his gun.
“He wasn’t supposed to be there and the clothing worn by the deceased was a camouflage jacket,” he said.
Judge John Holmes said because the hunters were not wearing bright colours in order to be more visible to one another, Meister should have taken even more care.
Two victim impact statements were also read during sentencing submissions. One was from the victim’s wife and the second was from the victim’s sister-in-law.
“Mr. Meister has deprived (my husband) of living his dream – the best part of it,” said the victim’s wife of 34 years. “No one can ever hear him tell a story or a joke. He won’t be able to walk or ride with me and enjoy our land.”
However, she added at the end of her statement that she forgives Meister for what happened.
The victim’s sister-in-law said there is still much pain in the family because of their loss.
“It’s painful to talk about him in the past tense,” she said. “He is very missed. His death has left an enormous void. Mr. Meister, we hope you take full responsibility for your actions – you can’t change the past or our pain and suffering, but you have a chance to do some good things going forward.”
Meister also spoke briefly during last Thursday’s court proceedings saying he was, “Very sorry.”
“I took a husband, a father, a grandfather and a great member of the community,” he said. “If there was anyway to take it back – I would do anything to change it. He was a good man.”
Meanwhile, Holmes called the incident a tragedy.
“The accused ignored the cardinal rule of gun safety – having a clear view before you shoot. It was gross stupidity on his part resulting in the death of his hunting partner,” he said, adding he used to hunt game when he was younger. “You are always taught to know what you are shooting at before pulling the trigger.”
Also imposed on Meister as part of his sentence was a lifetime weapons ban and a DNA order.