Man jailed for chase, possessing stolen property
A man already facing potentially stiff punishment for attempting to murder two peace officers in 2011 had more time added to his name Friday afternoon
A man already facing potentially stiff punishment for attempting to murder two peace officers in 2011 had more time added to his name Friday afternoon after being convicted on unrelated charges in Yukon Supreme Court.
Christopher Cornell, 32, received a 14-month sentence for four offences: possession of a stolen truck and stolen boat, evading police in a high-speed getaway and “mischief” for damage to the boat.
The charges arose from an incident in September 2011 which saw Cornell careen down the Alaska Highway to avoid arrest.
That happened after a local man spotted him at Goody’s Gas Bar in Porter Creek with the stolen vehicle and boat — which the resident recognized as his friend’s jetboat.
“This would appear to be what we would call a crime spree,” Justice Sheila Martin said in court.
Martin sought “the least invasive type of sentence to achieve the goals stated in the Criminal Code ... especially considering Mr. Cornell’s aboriginal background.”
Martin cited as mitigating factors Cornell’s post-incarceration behaviour following a previous offence as well as his First Nations status.
Cornell worked as a chainsaw operator and labourer for periods during his 20s, proving himself capable of steady employment in spite of his troubled childhood, Martin said.
“His dad was a residential home survivor,” said defence lawyer David Tarnow, who was representing his client pro bono.
“Currently, his dad is on the streets of Whitehorse. He was never there for Mr. Cornell.”
More recently, two of Cornell’s sisters died within a month of each other.
He has a daughter who currently lives with her mother.
A member of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, Cornell meets with elders most weeks at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre for counselling, prayer and ceremonial observances, Tarnow said.
Cornell suffers from symptoms of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), the judge acknowledged.
Martin cited as aggravating factors Cornell’s “lengthy criminal record” and history of dangerous driving dating back to 2003.
The judge found the Crown’s submission of a 20-month sentence too harsh.
She tallied an eight-month sentence for dangerously evading arrest with a consecutive six-month sentence for the stolen vehicles and damage to the boat.
The sentence did not treat each charge as completely separate incidents, leading in part to less prison time imposed.
The judge found Cornell guilty of all four charges several hours before she handed down the sentence Friday afternoon.
Cornell appeared expressionless throughout the reading of both decisions.
He sat in prison reds with glasses and closely cropped hair, a scar visible across the top of his head.
Last Thursday, he listened to witnesses’ recollection of events on Sept. 12, 2011.
Whitehorse resident Allan Porter, 40, recalled how he spotted, to his surprise, his friend’s jetboat and trailer — reported stolen that morning — sitting by the gas pumps at Goody’s.
It also happened to be hitched to a Dodge Ram 2500 SLT pickup truck, likewise recently reported stolen.
Porter approached in his truck, the court heard, and confronted Cornell, who was walking out of the store to join his female companion in the cab.
“You interacted with her for two minutes?” asked Tarnow.
“It was more of a screaming match than an interaction,” Porter said.
He pulled in front of the stolen vehicle and the attached boat and trailer to cut off any escape attempt by the duo.
Cornell swerved around him, swiping the front of his truck with the trailer as he passed.
The two were soon tearing down the Alaska Highway, Porter on the phone with police and Cornell roaring ahead to speeds reaching 160 km/h.
“It looked like some pretty fast, erratic driving to me,” Porter testified.
He pulled over at the North Klondike Highway to stay in cell range and talk with the RCMP.
The boat and trailer were found in a ditch further up the road later that day with more than $4,000 in damage.
The court heard the stolen truck was found Sept. 14 abandoned near the fire hall just past the Carcross Cutoff.
The incident foreshadowed events two weeks later that saw a high-powered rifle fired from a speeding truck on the same road, leading to his arrest.
Last year, the court found that Cornell and then-girlfriend Jessica Johnson, 23, both had a role in a Haines Junction robbery and high-speed chase that climaxed in the shooting of an RCMP officer along the Alaska Highway on Sept. 26, 2011.
In addition to being found guilty of attempted murder and using violence and bear spray to rob the store, Cornell was convicted of shooting at the vehicle carrying RCMP Cpl. Kim MacKellar and conservation officer Shane Oakley, among other offences.
The date for Cornell’s sentencing on those charges remains unknown.
The Yukon Supreme Court sentenced Johnson last month to more than three years in a federal penitentiary for her role in the incident.
By CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS