Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Repeat drunk driver asks for help, not jail

Man was on bail for one DUI when he did it again

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Scott Fitzgerald can't seem to stop drinking -- or getting behind the wheel while drunk.

But the Winnipeg man plans to argue he needs help, not punishment, when he is sentenced for a pair of impaired driving incidents that left two people injured and put countless others at risk.

Fitzgerald, 38, was given the go-ahead Wednesday to argue for a rare "curative discharge" at his upcoming sentencing hearing. That type of sentence would allow him to avoid convictions if he successfully completes treatment during probation.

The Crown had taken the position such a sanction wasn't available for this type of crime. Provincial court Judge Janice leMaistre disagreed, while cautioning that doesn't mean it's the sentence she will impose.

No date for sentencing has been set. Fitzgerald is expected to call evidence, including from a doctor, about his addiction and need for intensive rehabilitation and treatment.

The Crown is expected to argue for jail on the grounds Fitzgerald continues to be a menace to society.

Fitzgerald previously pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing bodily harm for an August 2011 crash on Bishop Grandin Boulevard that injured two people.

He was already out on bail and awaiting sentencing for that offence when, in September, he crashed into a median on Kenaston Boulevard and Carpathia Street around 8 a.m. on a Saturday. Fortunately, the only damage was to his own vehicle and there were no injuries.

Fitzgerald was on strict court orders to abstain from alcohol and had a suspended licence at the time, court was told.

He pleaded guilty on Wednesday to those additional charges of impaired driving and driving disqualified.

Fitzgerald claims he spent the night drinking with friends -- violating his court orders -- before agreeing to drive them home the following morning. His blood-alcohol reading was .23, nearly triple the legal limit.

Fitzgerald had recently tried to get bail on the new charges following his arrest earlier this fall. But provincial court Judge Ray Wyant refused, citing the need to protect the public from him.

"I would shake in my boots every morning when I woke up to read the newspaper to wonder whether or not you were the guy who killed somebody," Wyant said at the time.

"You need help. I am absolutely of the abiding moral conviction that if I were to release you at this time, you have no ability to control your drinking and you will pose a significant risk."

Fitzgerald has previous convictions for driving over .08 from 2001 and refusing to provide a breath sample from 1994.

He remains in custody pending his sentencing hearing.

-- with files from James Turner

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 7, 2013 A8

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