A Pelican Lake woman has been sentenced to 26 months in federal prison for her role in a fatal hit-and-run in 2010 outside Stavros Lounge.
© Herald file photo
Shielded by supporters, Danielle Chamakese (covering face with white paper) leaves the Court of Queen’s Bench in September after being found guilty of failure to remain at the scene of an accident and dangerous driving causing death. Chamakese was sentenced on Tuesday to 26 months in federal prison.
Danielle Nadine Chamakese, 22, received her sentence on Tuesday at the Court of Queen’s Bench. She was found guilty last September of leaving the scene of an accident and dangerous driving causing death.
Explaining his decision, Judge R.S. Smith said Chamakese’s driving constituted a clear departure from the standards of care that a reasonable person would observe in the same circumstances.
Chamakese, he said, knew that she had hit someone but could not face that reality and fled the scene.
Reflecting on the “tragic” events that claimed the life of 21-year-old Prince Albert resident Daniel Carter, Smith said he was well aware of the impact the incident had had on the victim’s family.
“I say to Daniel Carter’s family and his friends that the law will be served today,” Smith’s official sentencing judgement read.
“What I cannot do, what no judge can do, and what the law cannot do is fill the void in your lives by reasons of Daniel’s loss.”
In passing his sentence, the judge considered both Chamakese’s individual circumstances and the offences she committed.
While noting some mitigating factors -- Chamakese was 19 at the time of the incident, now has a 10 or 11-month-old baby and lives with the child’s father -- Smith also pointed to various aggravating factors.
These included the conviction of leaving the scene of an accident to escape criminal responsibility and the fact that Chamakese did not have a valid driver’s licence at the time, as well as her escape to Pelican Lake First Nation hoping things would blow over.
Smith noted that Chamakese has not driven since the date of the accident and that a pre-sentence report listed her as a “low risk” to re-offend.
With the Crown asking for a 30-month sentence and defense counsel Greg Chovin believing 24 months to be sufficient, Smith’s final decision skewed slightly closer to Chovin’s recommendation.
In addition to 26 months in a federal penitentiary for her conviction of dangerous driving causing death, Smith also sentenced Chamakese to nine months for leaving the scene of an accident. Both sentences will be served concurrently.
Chamakese will be required to provide DNA samples, and upon the completion of her sentence will be prohibited from driving for one year.
In his judgment, Smith also proposed to federal penitentiary officials that Chamakese should be considered for entry into the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge in Maple Creek.
“I respectfully submit to the officials that Ms. Chamakese would benefit from that program and may well prove an asset for other prisoners in the program,” he wrote.
As required by the recently passed Increasing Offenders’ Accountability for Victims Act, Smith also assessed Chamakese a victim surcharge fine of $200, the same to be paid within 90 days after her release from prison.
For the family of Daniel Carter, the final sentence provoked mixed emotions.
“If she actually was serving 26 months somewhere -- because that seems to go in line with what is given -- that might seem reasonable,” Daniel’s mother Karen Anthony-Burns said.
“But I honestly don’t know that she’s going to serve that … I’ve looked up the information on the healing lodge. I don’t know, it just doesn’t sound quite like that much of a penalty or deterrent.”
We’re going to carry this loss for the rest of our lives. Karen Anthony-Burns
While Chamakese has expressed remorse for her actions, Anthony-Burns retained doubts as to the sincerity of those feelings.
“Is she remorseful that she got caught or is she truly remorseful about the incident?” she asked. “It was a strange sense. It was like a little bit of both.”
“It’s not that we’re hard-hearted or anything,” she added. “Honestly, it just didn’t feel like it was tugging at your heartstrings.”
At the beginning of the trial, she and her husband Robert Burns hoped that they might feel slightly better when the process was over.
But after more than three long, emotionally draining years in court, the family’s profound sense of loss remains.
“At the end of the day, we’ve been three and a half years in and it just never ends,” Anthony-Burns said. “You still feel angry about the whole situation and everything that happened.
“We’re going to carry this loss for the rest of our lives.”
In the face of such a deeply personal tragedy, she expressed her resolve to continue her efforts at making the Prince Albert area a better place -- and her hope that the woman responsible for her loss might follow suit.
“I’m going to continue to move forward within my community and make sure my community is a good place to be,” she said. “And I hope that whatever comes of this, that (Chamakese) does something that’s really positive that maybe helps someone else.
“That would be a good thing -- if she could use her experience to influence others in a positive way.”