Licence suspension, fine for motorist who killed South Glengarry cyclist

The United Counties building and Provincial Offences Act courthouse at 22 Pitt Street in Cornwall. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – A Cornwall judge says Denis Piette’s “momentary distraction” of some sort for eight seconds was ultimately resulted in the death of a South Glengarry cyclist in 2014.

Judge Jean Legault recounted the technical data from the crash data retrieval system (CDR) on Piette’s 2002 Chevrolet Cavalier as he sentenced the man Tuesday in a city courtroom.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to a charge of careless driving.

Piette has had his driver’s licence suspended for a year and will have to pay a $1,500 fine.

The 42-year-old will also be on 18 months probation after his sentence and will have to complete 100 hours of community service.

Cyclist Francisco Teruel, 62, was killed Sept. 25, 2014 when he was hit from behind on County Road 25 on a clear, sunny day.

Court heard Piette was travelling approximately 84 kilometers an hour at the time of the collision and made no attempt to avoid the cyclist or apply the brakes in the seconds before the crash.

“This would suggest that the defendant made no evasive maneuver to avoid the cyclist or attempted to brake prior to striking them,” Judge Legault said.

The judge said Piette should have had “ample distance” to see and react to the cyclist.

“This leads the court to only one possible conclusion. Mr. Piette must have had a momentary distraction just prior to the collision and, as such, did not operate this vehicle with due care and attention,” Legault ruled.

The judge said Piette’s early guilty plea, a positive court-ordered review of the defendant (pre-sentence report), a good work history, family support and taking a defensive driving course before today’s sentence, worked in his favour.

But Piette’s “lack of respect” for driving when he was younger (roughly 17 years ago) also weighed against him.

Piette was leaning forward with his eyes looking down on the defendant’s table for most of the sentencing and showed no emotion as the verdict was read.

Judge Legault also offered sympathies to the family of the victim. “I would like to, at this point, offer sympathies to the families and can only imagine what they might feel like after a horrible and terrible incident such as this.”

Teruel’s family was not in the courtroom today but had submitted four victim impact statements recounting the loss of “a loving father and spouse…an inspiration to others. A man who would do anything and a teacher to others.”

The judge’s verdict was more-or-less right in the middle of what the Crown and defence had been seeking. Legault said the submissions from both sides were within reason in this case.

Legault felt the driving suspension would be the “most punitive” of the sentence as Piette relies on driving for work and community service would be “beneficial” as it would be “something to remind him of this incident.”

While he has 30 days to pay the fine, defence lawyer William Webber indicated his client would likely pay the fine today.

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