Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Multiple DUIs net 15-month jail sentence

Judge has strong words for man with long history of driving drunk

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A Lockport man arrested for being drunk at the wheel five times in a year visibly trembled in court Friday while vowing to never again let another drop of liquor pass his lips.

"It's a miracle of God that I'm still alive to speak these words," a distressed Marcus Kleinsasser said. "I promise to deal with the abuses of my past once and for all time."

Beyond the limit

Feb. 28, 2011: Care and control of a motor vehicle while impaired: A witness sees Kleinsasser drive off Lockport Road in his truck and land in the ditch. He tries to help him, but soon after calls RCMP. Kleinsasser gives attending police his keys and tells them he's going to walk home. Police find a bottle of hard liquor wedged between the driver's seat and the floor of his truck. He ultimately gives breath samples of .19 and .18, more than double the legal limit. He's held at a detachment overnight and then released on a promise to appear in court.

 

May 10, 2011: Driving while disqualified: RCMP patrolling around 4 p.m. on Highway 8 in the RM of St. Andrews see a truck travelling at half the 100 km/h speed limit and twice swerving into the oncoming lane. It takes police three tries to pull Kleinsasser over. He's taken to the Gimli detachment where he blows .24 -- three times the legal limit to drive. He's released on a promise to appear. It wasn't disclosed in court why an impaired driving-related charge wasn't laid.

 

June 1, 2011: Care and control of a motor vehicle while impaired: RCMP near Teulon get a report of a motorist driving erratically, going "all over the road" on Highway 17. Police find Kleinsasser behind the wheel at the roadside and have to rouse him from a stupor. RCMP determine he's "grossly intoxicated," and fell while being placed in the RCMP cruiser car. He's taken to the Stonewall detachment where he blows samples of .29 and .26. He's taken to hospital to be checked out. A blood sample analysis confirms his .26 blood-alcohol level.

 

Feb. 12, 2012: Impaired driving: Kleinsasser crashes into a snowbank near the Red Lake, Ont., airport, sending his truck airborne for about 80 feet, extensively damaging it. He walks away from the wreck into a nearby air terminal where his comments suggested he thinks he's at a hotel. Police are called. Kleinsasser tells them he'd been on a "mission" to deliver groceries to a community and was driving home to Lockport. He's charged with impaired driving and breaches of his release conditions. He's again released to appear in court at a later date. This time he refuses to give breath sample.

 

Feb. 19, 2012: Impaired driving: Two off-duty RCMP officers are driving along Provencher Boulevard when they see a Ford Fusion hit the rear of another vehicle. They find Kleinsasser with bloodshot eyes. In his vehicle, the officers find a half-full bottle of vodka as well as another bottle. He is held at the Winnipeg Remand Centre and held for 110 days as he lines up a residential treatment placement.

 

Source: Crown facts read out in court

Judge Brent Stewart, however, was taking the 51-year old's promises with a grain of salt.

Stewart said he wasn't happy with a 15-month jail sentence he was effectively handcuffed by the law to impose due to a plea deal Kleinsasser and his lawyer struck with the Crown.

"It's a really difficult sentence for me," Stewart said. "I'm just not sure I buy what you're saying."

Kleinsasser, a recovering alcoholic, was convicted of four impaired driving-related offences that occurred between February 2011 and 2012.

He previously pleaded guilty to two counts of impaired driving, two of having care and control of a vehicle while impaired and one of driving while disqualified.

In two of the cases, Kleinsasser's blood-alcohol readings were proven to be three times the legal limit or greater.

He has two prior drunk driving convictions from 2005.

Crown attorney Krista Berkis called his repetitive impaired driving "atrocious."

She noted the rarity of seeing someone caught so frequently for doing effectively the exact same thing."

"I don't know that I've ever seen this before," she told Stewart, adding his crimes took place across a wide geographic area.

"He put an entire province at risk," said Berkis.

"He doesn't seem to get it -- doesn't want to get it... if you're an alcoholic, stay home and drink. Don't get behind the wheel," she said.

Kleinsasser, a married father of four, was held in custody after his fifth arrest on Feb. 19, 2012.

He spent nearly four months on remand before being granted bail and being released to a live-in rehabilitation centre in Winnipeg.

He was caught having prescription pills in his room shortly after getting there and was briefly returned to custody until given another chance soon after.

Kleinsasser's situation seemed to stabilize until this April, when a worker at the facility saw him behind the wheel of a vehicle.

He had been forbidden to drive while on bail given the nature of his charges.

Two days later, full and empty beer cans and more pills were found while his room was being cleaned up, Berkis said.

Kleinsasser was returned to custody, where he's remained since.

He had a "terrible, horrific" childhood where underage drinking was the norm, defence lawyer Sarah Inness said.

Unresolved problems from that time combined with depression, anxiety and his battle with the bottle comingle to create serious issues for him, she said.

Kleinsasser relapsed into alcoholism in 2011 when a cousin of his was excommunicated from a Hutterite colony, said Inness.

This mirrored his own experiences as a youth and triggered his behaviour, she said.

Despite slip-ups which are expected for a recovering alcoholic, Kleinsasser's done well in treatment and has sought mental-health help, said Inness.

Stewart said he was very concerned at the recent discovery Kleinsasser had continued to drive, along with the beer cans and pills found in his treatment centre room.

It shows he's willing to "cut corners," the judge said. "That's why I really think the public is at risk when you're released."

After time-served awaiting his day in court was accounted for, Kleinsasser was left with four months left to serve.

Stewart also barred him from driving for eight years and placed him on probation for three.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 19, 2014 A8

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