Caleb Anderson was sentenced to 18 months in prison in Revelstoke court last Monday, Nov. 18, after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing death.
The sentencing came more than two years after Olindo ‘Frankie’ Brunetti was killed in a car crash late on the night of Sept. 29, 2011, the end result of a day of drinking and joyriding.
The circumstances that led to his death were read out in court by Crown prosecutor Bill Hilderman.
He told the court the day began at the Grizzly Sports Bar, where Anderson, his best friend Brunetti and Tyler Kion were having some drinks in the afternoon.
They were joined by more people and they eventually all went to Anderson’s Airport Way home for a bonfire.
They continued drinking until around 10:45 p.m., when Anderson, Brunetti and Kion decided to go for a drive.
Kion offered to drive, but Anderson said he was good to go, despite having been drinking for much of the day.
They all got into Anderson’s Ford F-150 and headed south down Airport Way. They swerved all over the road but reached the end of the pavement safely. They proceeded to drive up and down logging roads, doing donuts and skidding along the dirt roads. They drove back down Airport Way to head home, turning off the road one more time. Brunetti was seated on the window sill of the passenger seat while Kion and Anderson were wearing their seat belts inside.
They got stuck in a soft patch of dirt at the side of the road. Kion tried to get out, but he couldn’t get his seat belt off before Anderson managed to get the truck going again.
He went flying back onto Airport Way, lost control and crashed into the ditch on the other side of the road. The truck flipped over on its side, killing Brunetti, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
An RCMP investigation found Anderson had been drinking and breath samples taken later at the police detachment measured more than double the legal limit.
He was charged with impaired driving causing death, but in June he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death.
The Crown and defense put forward a joint submission for an 18-month prison sentence but they differed on the length of the subsequent driving prohibition and nature of probation. The Crown asked for a three-year driving prohibition, while defense lawyer Grant Hardwick asked for a one-year driving prohibition, with terms of probation that would only allow Anderson to drive for work purposes.
Hardwick told the court that Anderson was now managing the family logging business, and preventing him from driving for an extended period would hurt the family business.
He said Anderson had stopped drinking since the tragedy and the incident was a “watershed event in his life.”
“What led to this offence is not all that remarkable in terms of social activities that go on in small centres,” he said. “It began with drinks in a sports bar. It escalated to drinks around the bonfire at the Anderson family acreage.”
Some friends went to get more drinks, others went for a drive. “It went tragically wrong,” Hardwick said, adding that if Brunetti hadn’t been sitting on the window sill, he may have survived.
Anderson and Kion were wearing seatbelts.
Hardwick pointed to two letters of reference from staff at Downie Timber. Most significantly, he highlighted a letter from Rhonda Brunetti – Frankie’s mother – who asked for a lenient sentence so as to not further compound the impact of the tragedy.
In his sentencing, Justice S. Dev Dley went over the aggravating and mitigating factors. He noted the distance and amount of time they were out driving, and the fact Anderson had been drinking.
“Mr. Anderson drove while he was a clear danger to his passenger,” said Dley. “It would have been apparent that having a passenger seated on the window sill and driving in the fashion that he did had the potential for the kind of tragedy that resulted.”
He also noted the mitigating factors – that Anderson accepted complete responsibility and showed genuine remorse for what happened. He also stopped drinking. He called the pre-sentence report “exceptionally positive.”
He also read from Rhonda Brunetti’s letter where she said her son and Anderson were close friends for a long time, and that Anderson was still welcome to Brunetti family gatherings.
“It’s our opinion that the seriousness of the tragic events on Sept. 29, 2011, are not lost on Caleb. He lost his best friend that day. Although our loss was very great that day, I know with all my heart that Frankie would want us to stand by and support Caleb through this difficult time,” she wrote. “A lengthy trial could only bring more pain and heartache for all involved. Caleb’s life, as ours, has been forever changed and the innocence of our life is now lost. I worry that a lengthy sentence will only have a negative impact on who Caleb was meant to be and what he will become. It will only add tragedy to our loss.”
With all that in mind, Justice Dley handed Anderson an 18-month prison sentence, followed by two years of probation, the terms of which include abstaining from alcohol. He also imposed a three-year driving prohibition.
Anderson was then led away by the sheriff as his friends and family wiped away tears. He gave his girlfriend a kiss and then left the courthouse.