A 32-year-old Pelly Crossing man has been sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison, with credit for 34 months served, and three years’ probation for manslaughter.
Chief Judge Peter Chisholm handed down the sentence and his reasons in Pelly Crossing on Tuesday.
Tristan Joe had pleaded guilty to manslaughter in relation to the death of 18-year-old Raine Andrew Silas, who died on Nov. 4, 2016.
Joe, originally charged with murder, agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter last March 8.
Chisholm explained that Joe was too intoxicated at the time of the offence to form the specific intent needed for murder.
“His actions led to the death of Mr. Silas, but fault for these actions was short of an intention to kill,” Chisholm said.
The judge went over some of the facts of the case.
Both men, who knew each other, were drinking with several others at a Pelly Crossing residence at 8 p.m. on Nov. 3, 2016.
An argument erupted between the pair, and they were told to go outside. They left the residence and had a brief physical confrontation.
Joe grabbed a piece of lumber and swung it at Silas, striking him near his left temple.
Silas’ aunt intervened and took him to the Pelly Crossing Health Centre. He was bleeding heavily. Joe left the residence afterward.
Silas received stitches on his left cheek, and a lump was observed forming on his left temple. He was reported as intoxicated but conscious and alert.
Silas left the health centre at 8:45 p.m. and was taken to his grandparents’ home. Family monitored him throughout the night, last checking on him at 4 a.m. the next day. He was sleeping.
At 11:30 a.m., the family found him unresponsive and called for help. Medical responders tried to revive Silas but could not. At 12:17 p.m., he was pronounced dead.
Joe provided a statement to the RCMP on Nov. 5, 2016. An autopsy was performed on Silas four days later in Vancouver. The results showed he’d died of a head injury caused by blunt force.
Joe was arrested on Nov. 14, 2016 and brought to Whitehorse, where he gave another statement to police. He said he’d injured Silas but did not remember using a weapon, specifically the piece of lumber.
Joe did not deny that he used it, but clarified he had no memory. He also recorded an apology to Silas’ family.
Moving to sentencing, Chisholm explained the Crown was seeking six to eight years in prison. The Crown argued that Joe sought a weapon and used it in a way that was likely to cause serious injury.
The Crown pointed out that Joe had been on probation during the incident with Silas. His conduct that night was in violation of two conditions: keeping the peace and being outside of his residence while intoxicated.
The defence argued for a 3 1/2-year sentence because of Joe’s guilty plea, display of remorse and his steps toward rehabilitation.
Chisholm next addressed the victim impact statements. He said he could clearly see Silas’ death had had an impact in the community.
“Mr. Silas was a young man whose potential won’t be realized,” he said.
Chisholm pointed out that information in the victim impact statements mentions that a senseless act of violence had divided the community.
There is nothing he could do as a judge to undo the effects of Silas’ death, he noted.
Chisholm next addressed Joe’s circumstances. Joe is a member of the Selkirk First Nation with a history of residential schools in his family.
Joe described his childhood as chaotic, unstable and abusive. His father was absent and his mother suffers from pre-natal alcohol exposure.
Joe said he was bullied in school.
That said, he reports that he had some positive support in his live. He was able to learn traditional life skills.
In Grade 9, Joe described being apprehended and moved to a school in Regina, where he remained until Grade 12.
He felt he had lost some of his culture as a result, causing him to get into drugs and alcohol. He approached his guidance counsellor, expressing a desire to return to the Yukon.
Chisholm mentioned that Joe has had both success and challenges during his time in custody. He has completed some upgrading through Yukon College, but has had conflicts with both inmates and correctional staff.
Joe has met with a psychologist since January 2018. He is reportedly exploring his issues with shame and regret over his actions in an effort to change his life.
Chisholm explained there is a wide range for manslaughter sentencing. He said Joe has a history of violence, citing an assault causing bodily harm conviction in 2013.
He considered it aggravating that a 30-year-old man would agree to fight an 18-year-old. He felt the guilty plea, expression of remorse and steps taken for rehabilitation were mitigating.
The judge said striking someone on the head with a piece of lumber was both dangerous and violent, but explained it was impulsive and opportunistic.
With that, he sentenced Joe to 4 1/2 years in prison with credit for 34 months time already served.
The offender’s three-year probation, which will include several conditions, will begin once he is released.
He must keep the peace, appear before the court, report to a probation supervisor upon release, stay in the Yukon and make reasonable efforts to get a job.
During the probation’s first 12 months, he will have to abide by a curfew and cannot consume alcohol. He will have to be in his residence or on his property between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Joe will be subject to a 10-year weapon prohibition, and must submit a DNA sample for a national database. He must have no contact with anyone who submitted a victim impact statement.
Chisholm imposed a $200 victim fine surcharge payable forthwith.
Joe will also have to complete 100 hours’ community service before his probation ends.