UPDATE: Sater sentenced to 7.5 years for Coquitlam crash that killed Cruz and Reaveley
Cory Sater, the drunk driver convicted of killing two people in a hit-and-run collision in Coquitlam three years ago, has been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.
The 40-year-old was sentenced in New Westminster Supreme Court Thursday morning to a term the judge acknowledge was long but merited given the circumstances of the case.
"It's a lengthy sentence," said Justice James Williams after reading his reasons for the decision. "It's important that when you return to the community that you find ways to deal with your problems."
Sater began to cry when the judge addressed him and sobbed as a sheriff placed handcuffs around his wrists and led him out of the courtroom.
In January, the longtime Coquitlam resident was found guilty on six charges: two counts each of impaired driving and dangerous driving causing death and one count each of dangerous driving and impaired driving causing bodily harm; earlier in the trial, he pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident.
The judge found that Sater was intoxicated when he struck and killed Lorraine Cruz and Charlene Reaveley on Feb. 19, 2011. A third victim, Paulo Calimbahin, Cruz's boyfriend, lost a leg in the collision.
Cruz and Calimbahin had been involved in a minor traffic accident at Lougheed Highway and Pitt River Road when Reaveley, her husband Dan and friends Giacomo and Kimberly deBenedictis, stopped to assist. Reaveley, a mother of four, was comforting Cruz on the side of the road when the two were struck and killed by a white Jeep that Sater was driving.
"Mr. Sater was oblivious to their presence," Williams said. "[He] continued to drive south on the Lougheed Highway."
Williams gave Sater three and a half years for leaving the scene of an accident and six years for the other charges for a total of nine and a half years. But because of a legal principle known as totality, which is used when consecutive sentences are ordered, the total was brought down to seven and a half years.
Crown had been seeking an eight- to nine-year total term while the defence called for a three-and-a-half year sentence. The maximum sentence for leaving the scene and impaired driving causing death is life in prison.
Williams noted that at the time of the crash, Sater was not licensed to drive and was prohibited from consuming alcohol because of a 2010 assault conviction. The judge also noted that Sater was twice given 24-hour roadside suspensions for being under the influence while operating a vehicle.
Outside the courtroom, Dan Reaveley, Charlene's husband, called the sentence a "step in the right direction." The prison term, he said, will serve as an important deterrent to people that consume alcohol before getting behind the wheel.
"It's a really good sentence considering in B.C. the sentences are quite low," he said. "It definitely sets a precedent for people that are going out drinking and driving."
Mary Ogilvie, Charlene Reaveley's mother, told reporters that while the sentence will not bring her daughter back, it was "good enough."
"It's more than anybody else got," she said.
Marlie Bennett, Cruz's mother, concurred with Ogilvie, saying that while the length of the prison term is appropriate, the pain of losing her daughter is something she will have to deal with for the rest of her life.
"As a mother, it's never going to be enough," she said. "I lost her forever."
Crown prosecutor Chris McPherson said the lengthy prison term is not merely for punishment but to rehabilitate the offender. He added that he was pleased with Williams' decision and noted that the sentence the judge handed down was close to what prosecutors had sought.
"It's a very significant sentence for offences of this kind," he said. "It is clearly a reflection of the court's view of the seriousness of the offences."
Sater's lawyer, Rishi Gill, said Thursday's decision was a conclusion to an difficult case for all of the people involved. He said it is too soon to say whether the defence will appeal the sentence.
"This matter was never going to be easy for anybody and it wasn't," he said. "There are a lot of people who are glad it is finished."