The drunk driver who struck and killed a 63-year-old cyclist from Alberta in Hunter River last July has been sentenced to six years in prison and has been banned from driving for life.
Clarence Arnold Moase, 49, was given credit of 1.5 days for time already served, so he will serve about five years and five months in total.
He pleaded guilty for impaired driving causing the death of Elizabeth Sovis.
In delivering his decision this afternoon, Supreme Court Justice John Mitchell pointed to Moase’s four previous impaired driving convictions as a serious aggravating factor in the case.
“His being caught by police four times, brought to court four times, sentenced to jail four times and had his license suspended four times did not curb his propensity to drink and drive,” Mitchell said.
He acknowledged Moase’s alcohol addiction problems and the steps he has taken in the past and while in custody to seek help. But he noted Moase did not ever seek help beyond what had been ordered by the courts in his previous convictions.
“Alcoholism is a disease, not a crime. However, Moase, in the exercise of his own free will, knowing his own propensity to drive while under the influence of alcohol, chose to consume alcohol, chose to have it in his vehicle in the middle of the day and chose to drive,” Mitchell said.
“His degree of responsibility and his degree of moral blameworthiness is very high.”
The circumstances of the accident, as laid out in an agreed statement of facts, are nothing short of tragic.
On July 14, 2012, Elizabeth Ann Sovis and her husband of 34 years, Edmund Aunger, were biking along the Rennies Road in Hunter River while on a cycling vacation from Alberta.
Aunger usually always rode behind his wife, but had taken the lead to show her the way to the bed and breakfast they were to stay in that evening.
Sovis never made it to the B&B. She was struck by Moase’s van between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. She died in her husband’s arms by the side of the road.
The RCMP found a half-empty bottle of vodka in Moase’s vehicle. His blood alcohol level was almost three times the legal limit.
In his victim impact statement, Aunger says he partially blames himself for his wife’s death, as he was riding ahead of her at the time of the accident.
Mitchell dismissed this notion.
“He, of course, bears no responsibility,” Mitchell said of Aunger.
In the pre-sentence report, Moase was described as family oriented man, gainfully employed and an active supporter of many community activities.
“He has, however, a dark side,” Mitchell said.
“His wife, who no doubt loves him very much, describes him as a good father ‘when he is sober.’”
Mitchell cited Moase’s cooperation with police and immediate guilty plea as mitigating factors.
But his high level of intoxication, the fact driving conditions were ideal at the time of the collision and Moase’s four previous drunk driving convictions led Mitchell to impose the six-year prison sentence, less 214 days for time served and a lifetime ban from operating a motor vehicle.
More to come, including reaction from Elizabeth Sovis' husband, Edmunc Aunger