Last Cornwall youth in sofa chair stunt video sentenced

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – The last of three youths involved in a video stunt one year ago on a city street in Cornwall’s west end has been sentenced.

Police had arrested and charged each of them in February 2018 with dangerous driving after a movie was uploaded to YouTube showing a Jeep pulling a sofa chair on wheels near Saunders Drive and Second Street West. The stunt happened five months before the charges were filed (September 2017).

The movie, which had been professionally produced, was shown in court Thursday (Aug. 23). Many in the courtroom tried to hide their smiles from the judge as the video showed one of the wheels on the sofa fail causing sparks to fly from behind the chair and it was dragged behind the truck.

Due to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, we can’t tell you the names of the youths or any evidence that may identify them.

The 18-year-old received a sentence under the Provincial Offences Act (POA) of 8 months probation, meaning he won’t have a criminal record. The sentence doesn’t have any community service but there is a 60 day driver’s licence suspension. There is also a $750 fine plus a victim fine surcharge.

The teen’s lawyer, Neha Chugh, argued somewhat successfully that her client should receive a lesser sentence because he had abetted in the act but was not an active planning participant.

“Mr. (name) is smiling, is participating, puts on the helmet. He gets on the back of the car. But he wasn’t planning it, he wasn’t deliberating it, he wasn’t screwing in the wheels. He showed up for a night of fun with some friends. And when he left that night, he thought it fun because that’s how the police had left it in his mind, that’s how his friends had left it in his mind,” Chugh said.

The police did stop by during the filming in September (their appearance made it into the video) and the boys were questioned about their sofa wheels, but the police laid no charges.

She also submitted that the other teens were going through plea deals based on multiple driving infractions from other stunts unlike her client’s single charge.

Crown attorney Raffael Beaulieu argued that the teen knew exactly what he was doing was dangerous because he was wearing a helmet and engaged in “this reckless conduct.” Beaulieu argued that the 18-year-old was a “willing participant” like everyone else in the video.

The other youths, who had been directly involved in the production and planning, received 8 months POA probation, 50 hours of community service and 90 day driver’s licence suspensions, court heard.

Judge Franco Giamberardino called the entire case a “troubling file.” He said the teen was not behind the wheel but was clearly part of a “breathtakingly dangerous act.”

Giamberardino described the act as “reminiscent” of shows like the MTV reality stunt show Jackass.

“One of the objects of that programming was to get the audience to laugh and to be shocked at how outrageous these stunts were and, can you really believe anybody would do this? Well, they did it.”

But, in this video, the judge said you could “easily envisage an ending that resulted in some kind of tragedy, either injury or death.”

Giamberardino said it was not lost on him that these types of videos are “fueled by youth and the feeling of invincibility. I probably went through some of that myself and know my kids have at different points in time. I get that. But that invincibility can be smashed by a rock in the middle of the road, a vehicle coming down the other way and how would the person feel that had the misfortune of striking a young person in the middle of the road on a couch?”

Speaking directly to the teenager, Giamberardino said he believed the youth had recognized his error and had a “good plan for the future.” The youth, who is already working in his future career field, is going to post-secondary school this fall.