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'I didn't deserve this. No one deserves this.'
Making her way to the front of the courtroom to deliver her victim impact statement Monday, Morgan Pardy passed inches in front of her ex-boyfriend as he sat in the prisoner's dock, not looking in his direction as her wheelchair glided by.
Manoeuvring the chair into a space next to a microphone, Pardy, 24, began to read from her printed statement. With the microphone set to record but not amplify her voice, Pardy's statement was inaudible to most in the gallery.
Her emotions, however were not. In the 40 or so minutes it took her to read the document, she paused many times, wiping her face with her sleeve or a tissue, then appeared to compose herself and continue.
Near the end, her voice grew louder.
"This is the impact it has had on me. It's the truth I have been wanting to say for the last two and a half years. It's the truth that I wanted to tell the media, it's the truth that I wanted to scream to all the people on social media that had no idea what they were talking about.
"Until you are faced with what I had to go through from start to finish that morning, don't judge me anymore. I'm paying the ultimate price for someone else's issues. I didn't deserve this. No one deserves this."
In the dock, Joshua Steele-Young, 24, listened, at times lowering his head. Convicted in July of dangerous driving causing bodily harm for the March 20, 2017 crash that left Pardy paralyzed and a quadriplegic, Monday's proceeding was his sentencing hearing.
"I'm paying the ultimate price for someone else's issues. I didn't deserve this. No one deserves this." — Morgan Pardy
The court heard during Steele-Young's trial that Pardy had ended a five-month relationship with him days before the car crash, but had agreed to go for a drive with him to talk. The pair began to argue and when Steele-Young grew angry, Pardy undid her seatbelt and demanded he let her out of the car on Pitts Memorial Drive, in the snow. He didn't stop the car, which was travelling 130 km/h in a 100 km/h zone with slippery conditions, and eventually lost control of the vehicle. Witnesses saw it spin off the highway before flipping a number of times, with Pardy thrown from the car high into the air.
In her statement, Pardy addressed those she said had smeared her on social media, referring to her as "Pity Pardy" and judging her actions.
"You all want the question answered why I took my seatbelt off. Well, here it is: I was terrified," Pardy said. "Describing a fear that shot through my body is impossible. Then you ask, why did you go with him in the first place? Because that's what women of domestic situations do. They try to help. They feel guilty. They are made to feel like it's their fault, that they upset him. So with shattered self-esteem I got in the car, to show him that I cared.
"I had a right not to be fearful. I said slow down. I said I didn't want to be there. So when I say this wasn't my fault, I mean it."
Pardy detailed the profound impact her paralysis has had on her life, beginning with the physical pain and tingling, and the loss of her confidence, morale and self-esteem. She candidly described how mundane, everyday tasks are now challenges, including going to the bathroom, menstruating, getting dressed in the morning and coughing. She spoke of her routine of appointments, her multiple medications and her guilt for relying on her mother. She spoke of not being able to babysit her new niece. Pardy explained that she deals with anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder since the crash.
"I"m jealous of every person who gets to slow dance at a party when a slow song comes on. I'm jealous of people that get to try on a nice pair of jeans to look nice and feel good about their appearance. I'm jealous of women that have long hair and can use both hands to put their hair up in a simple ponytail or bun. I'm jealous of people that can feel the grass between their toes and jealous of those that can sit by a beach fire at Middle Cove Beach. I'm jealous of my friends that get to go on dates with their boyfriends and hold hands and embrace each other," she said through tears.
Pardy's mother, Sharon Stamp, also wrote an impact statement, which was read aloud in court by prosecutor Jennifer Lundrigan. In it, Stamp described how she had passed the accident scene on her way to work and said a silent prayer for those involved, not knowing one of them was her daughter.
"How did I not know that my own flesh and blood lay there on the cold snow-covered grass needing help?" Stamp said. "My child, my beautiful, vibrant, vivacious daughter, ceased to exist in her natural birth form, and I, as her mother, didn't know it or feel it."
Stamp also spoke of the toll social media gossip has taken on her, saying people's judgments without information had added to her family's struggles.
Steele-Young also addressed the court Monday. Standing from his seat, he read from a brief printed statement, apologizing to Pardy and her family and acknowledging, "We are here today because of poor choices I made.
"That's something that I'll have to live with for the rest of my life, but I know nothing compares to what Morgan has to live with for the rest of her life," he said, adding he had never intended to harm Pardy.
Steele-Young told the court he had matured since the accident and now makes better decisions, and would handle the situation differently were it presented today. He ended his remarks by saying he hoped Pardy could have a full life, and wishing her the best.
Lundrigan argued for a jail term of between three and three-and-a-half years for Steele-Young, whose lawyer, Randy Piercey, argued for a jail sentence of between four and six months.
Steele-Young is a youthful offender with no prior criminal record, Piercey stressed.
Justice Frances Knickle will deliver her sentence Oct. 4.