Outstanding warrants delay DUI sentencing
The prominent Kamloops author and former TV personality who has pleaded guilty to multiple drunk-driving charges in Kamloops provincial court is a wanted man in Ontario — and his sentencing here is being delayed because of it.
During a brief hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at the Kamloops Law Courts, provincial court Judge Stella Frame was presented with new evidence to consider while deciding on a sentence for Richard Wagamese.
Last week, Wagamese — who is known legally as Richard Gilkinson — appeared in front of Frame as lawyers made sentencing submissions.
Crown prosecutor Chris Balison said he was looking for a jail sentence in the range of 11 months, while defence lawyer Michelle Stanford asked for a sentence to be served in the community.
After the hearing last week, the Crown received information from police that Wagamese, 55, has three outstanding warrants for his arrest in Ontario.
On Tuesday, Balison brought copies of the warrant documents to court and asked Frame to consider them in deciding whether Wagamese should serve his sentence behind bars or in the community.
“I would make the submission it is relevant to the court whether a sentence be served conditionally or in custody,” Balison said.
Two of the warrants are for breach of probation — failing to appear in court — in 2002, while the third is for a charge of credit-card fraud in 1993. The files are from Peterborough and Toronto.
“The crime of dishonesty and breach of probation should reflect a custodial sentence,” Balison said.
“They certainly speak to his [Wagamese’s] attitudes toward the court.”
Stanford, meanwhile, argued it was too late to introduce new evidence to be considered for sentencing.
“My concern is that sentencing submissions are already complete,” she said, adding Wagamese told her he was unaware of the warrants for his arrest in Ontario.
The judge sided with the Crown.
“I am obligated to consider all of the appropriate evidence that is put to me on a sentencing,” Frame said.
“I can’t simply ignore evidence because it comes to me late in the day.”
Stanford said Wagamese wants to have the Ontario files waived to Kamloops so he can plead guilty to them here, but court heard that will likely take some time.
Balison said the wait for a waiver from Ontario can be anywhere from six months to 14 months.
Wagamese was slated to be sentenced this week, but the new evidence means sentencing will have to be adjourned.
In May, Wagamese pleaded guilty to three separate impaired-driving charges, all of which took place during a two-week span in March of 2010.
Two of the offences took place in Kamloops, while the third was in Calgary.
Court has heard Wagamese’s blood-alcohol levels were between 0.223 and 0.321 — well above the legal limit of 0.08.
Last week, Balison described Wagamese as being “on a binge” at the time of the offences.
Stanford said Wagamese has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from abuse suffered as a child at the hands of residential-school survivors and was in a “dissociative state” at the time.
Earlier this year, Stanford indicated she hoped to proceed with aboriginal circle sentencing following the guilty pleas, but that request has since been abandoned.
Wagamese is the former host of the CFJC-TV7 series One Native Life and is considered one of Canada’s foremost native authors and journalists, with a career spanning 30 years.
He has published several books, including the award-winning novels Keeper ‘n Me, Dream Wheels and Ragged Company.
In 2010, he was recognized with an honourary doctorate from Thompson Rivers University.
In November 2010, Wagamese wrote a letter to the editor of Kamloops This Week, questioning reporting on his case and stating his name is “Googled more than 500 times a day.”
Frame adjourned the matters until Monday, Oct. 17, in order to give Stanford a chance to see about having the Ontario waivers expedited.