A judge says it's surprising no one died when a man used his truck to ram an SUV with children and pregnant women off the road at high speed last year in eastern New Brunswick.
Michael Gordon Augustine, 60, of Elsipogtog First Nation was sentenced to five years in prison Wednesday. He had pleaded guilty to four charges, which included uttering death threats, dangerous driving causing harm, and assault with a weapon.
"Mr. Augustine, in what appears to have been a fit of uncontrolled anger, deliberately drove his truck into a vehicle containing seven passengers," Judge Ronald LeBlanc said.
Two of the passengers were pregnant, and there were also four children in the SUV.
"The fact that no one died, or was seriously injured, is entirely fortuitous," LeBlanc said. "It is pure luck."
A photo entered as an exhibit shows the area where Augustine rammed the SUV off the road last summer. (Moncton provincial court exhibit)
The SUV flew 83 metres off the road, rolling multiple times, and landed on its roof. A child who had been wearing a seatbelt was ejected and couldn't initially be found in the crash aftermath.
A publication ban on the children's names means some of those in the SUV cannot be named.
The incident began with Augustine driving his truck with his step-daughter, Alcina Denny, on Route 116 in Upper Rexton.
An argument — what it was about was not described in court — ensued and Augustine began hitting Denny and threatening to kill her.
A photo of the scene entered as an exhibit shows where the truck, to the middle left, and the SUV ended up. (Moncton provincial court exhibit)
Denny fled the truck and flagged down a passing Chevrolet Traverse SUV with a man, woman and four children inside. Augustine rammed the SUV just after Denny got in.
After the crash, Augustine approached the SUV armed with a chainsaw. The male SUV driver pounced on Augustine, beating him to subdue him. Augustine later claimed he was going to use it to help the family.
An agreed statement of facts read to the judge previously said the male Traverse driver was reluctant to stop, but a female passenger said they couldn't drive by without offering assistance to the woman.
The woman described in her victim impact statement that the decision almost cost them their entire family and that she felt guilty as a mother.
It's something the judge addressed in his decision.
"She is not responsible for that," LeBlanc said. "Mr. Augustine is responsible for that."
Augustine was driving a GMC Sierra truck, which also crashed near the SUV. (Moncton provincial court exhibit)
The judge said the children were left terrified, scared Augustine would send people to their home to hurt them and worried about the day he is released.
Crown prosecutors had sought eight years in prison, while Augustine's lawyer sought four to five years.
LeBlanc said there were various aggravating and mitigating factors in the case. One factor was his previous six convictions for violence.
"He obviously has not learned by his past appearances in the courts," LeBlanc said.
The judge said Augustine pleaded guilty to four charges instead of going on trial on 37 charges, avoiding what could have been a difficult trial.
Augustine also expressed remorse, which the judge said appeared to be sincere.
The judge also considered Augustine's Indigenousl background, referring to a Gladue report that outlines his community's history and how it has been affected by colonialism.
"Unquestionably, the systemic and background factors affecting aboriginal peoples in Canada are reflected in Mr. Augustine's upbringing," LeBlanc said.
"Lower educational attainment, lower income, higher unemployment, higher rates of substance abuse, higher rates of suicide, higher rates of sexual assault, all must've had an impact on Michael Augustine … and likely contributed to his criminal conduct."
Credit for time served
However, LeBlanc said the importance of those systemic factors are "tempered" by the degree of violence in the case.
After considering all of the factors, LeBlanc ruled a five-year sentence would be appropriate.
That time will be reduced to three years and two months when credited for time already spent in custody.
Augustine was also ordered to have no contact with the victims.