Officer charged in fatal crash will face out-of-province prosecutor


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A Saskatchewan prosecutor is being brought in to handle the case of a former city police officer accused in a fatal hit-and-run.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/03/2019 (1481 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Saskatchewan prosecutor is being brought in to handle the case of a former city police officer accused in a fatal hit-and-run.

Former Winnipeg Police Service officer Justin Holz is set to go to trial next January, and Manitoba’s attorney general requested an out-of-province Crown attorney to prosecute the case. A preliminary inquiry had been set to begin Monday, but instead, Holz’s new defence lawyer, Evan Roitenberg, asked for a 12-day trial to be set in provincial court.

A representative for William Burge, a senior Crown attorney from Saskatchewan, spoke in Winnipeg provincial court Monday, saying Burge is handling the case at the request of the Attorney General of Manitoba.

Holz’s trial is now set to begin Jan. 13, 2020. He left the police force after he was accused in the Oct. 10, 2017 fatal hit-and-run that killed 23-year-old Cody Severight. He has been charged with several offences related to the crash, including impaired driving causing death, failing to stop at the scene of a fatal accident, dangerous driving causing death and driving with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit. The province’s Independent Investigation Unit (IIU) laid additional charges against Holz after the initial Winnipeg Police Service investigation into Severight’s death.

Two other Winnipeg Police Service officers were under investigation after police chief Danny Smyth learned breath samples weren’t taken from Holz until three to four hours after arresting officers formed the opinion Holz was impaired. The IIU decided not to recommend criminal charges against the other officers.

Severight was walking across Main Street near the Sutherland Hotel when he was hit by a car around 8 p.m. Oct. 10, 2017. Holz, an eight-year member of the police service who was reportedly drinking with other police officers at a downtown pub after work that day, was arrested about 30 minutes after the crash.

When a criminal charge is laid against a police officer or anyone with a direct connection to the justice system, Manitoba’s prosecution service should consider bringing in an independent Crown attorney, according to provincial prosecution policies. Of the five Winnipeg city police officers to be charged with impaired-driving-related offences in 2017, Holz’s case is the only one to prompt a request for an out-of-province senior prosecutor. The other cases involved no injuries and far less serious allegations. They were handled by Brandon Crown attorneys. Two officers were acquitted of impaired driving and two pleaded guilty.

Twitter: @thatkatiemay

Katie May

Katie May

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.

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