''I'm deeply ashamed of my actions'

Rosie
Rosie Gillingham
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Drunk driver says crash was wake-up call for him

Lucas O'Keefe was in provincial court in St. John's Wednesday for his sentencing hearing. Eight months ago, O'Keefe drove drunk and smashed into another vehicle, injuring three people.- Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram

His voice quivered and his hands shook as he began reading a letter he wrote to the people he hurt eight months ago.

"I'm deeply ashamed of my actions and for the pain I caused to you and your family," Lucas O'Keefe said during his sentencing hearing in provincial court in St. John's Wednesday.

"I'm terribly sorry."

Then, he suddenly stopped.

"Averill," he said to his lawyer, Averill Baker, "I can't read that."

Too emotional to continue, he handed the letter back to Baker, who finished reading it.

In it, O'Keefe spoke of the remorse he felt for injuring three people in March of this year, when he drove drunk and rammed his pickup truck into their car.

He wasn't in his right state of mind at the time, he wrote, and realizes now he needs help to overcome his addiction to alcohol.

"The accident was a big wake-up call for me ..." the letter states.

"I will never, ever let anything like that happen again."

The 30-year-old has pleaded guilty to five charges - two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm, refusing the breathalyzer, destroying RNC property (a police car) and failing to stop at the scene of an accident and offer assistance.

The accident happened at around 9:50 p.m. March 13.

O'Keefe was speeding east-bound on Topsail Road, near the Village Shopping Centre, when he rammed his Dodge Dakota into the back of a Chrysler Sebring, sending it in a tailspin over a sidewalk, through a chain-linked fence and back onto the road.

Police estimate O'Keefe was driving at a speed of at least 120 km/hr.

All three passengers in the Sebring - the driver, Joe Taylor; the front-seat passenger, Christine Coady and the back-seat passenger, Greg Coady - were injured in the crash.

While Taylor was sore and bruised, his injuries were not considered serious.

Christine Coady suffered painful soft-tissue damage to her shoulder, arm and face.

Greg Coady's injuries were more serious.

He was unconscious and unresponsive when paramedics arrived at the scene of the accident.

He was hospitalized for a week with head injuries that required 15 stitches.

O'Keefe's truck ended up on the other side of the road at the top of a steep embankment, lodged on a guard rail.

After the accident, he got out of the pickup and ran towards Columbus Drive, but came back when witnesses yelled at him.

Several people heard him say, "I f---ed up so bad this time ... I'm going to jail."

O'Keefe then got back in his truck and tried to put it in reverse, but was unable to move it.

When firefighters arrived minutes later, O'Keefe was sat on the guard rail having a cigarette.

"I can't believe I done this," he said to a firefighter.

With that, O'Keefe tried to run away again, but was chased by the firefighter. He made it past Tip Top store, by the front door of the Village Mall and the bus stop, where the firefighter jumped him.

O'Keefe threatened to kill him and his family if he didn't let him go.

When O'Keefe was put into the police van, he became enraged and tried to kick the partition inside. One of the officers captured his aggressive behaviour on video on his cellphone.

He was brought to RNC headquarters and refused to give a breath sample.

He's been in custody ever since.

While on the stand, O'Keefe fought back tears several times as he spoke of the difficulties he's had overcoming his alcohol problem.

However, he said he's determined to beat it and get back to his life as a welder.

O'Keefe pointed out he's been attending Alcoholics Anonymous and sees a psychologist at Her Majesty's Penitentiary.

Kevin Foley of Turnings was in the courtroom to support O'Keefe and wrote a letter to the court, stating that O'Keefe is sincere in his desire to change his behaviour.

"I'm not glad the accident happened," O'Keefe said, "but I'm glad I'm getting help because of it."

Baker told the court that because O'Keefe has shown such remorse and has taken every opportunity to deal with his problems, he should be sentenced to time served.

However, Crown prosecutor Nick Westera said a three-year jail term is more appropriate.

He pointed out that O'Keefe knew of his drinking problem a long time ago, "But you STILL drank and drove."

In July, O'Keefe was sentenced to 90 days time served for a drunk-driving incident that happened in December 2010.

Westera said the courts are giving stiffer sentences for such cases because society's intolerance to drunk driving.

Christine Coady, who was in the courtroom, agrees O'Keefe deserves jailtime.

"I think (a sentence of time served) is ludicrous," she told reporters outside court.

"Drunk drivers can't be getting behind the wheel and just putting everybody's lives (at risk)."

She said she and her brother's lives have changed drastically as a result of the accident.

She can only work a few hours a day at Coleman's deli, while her brother is a totally different person.

"My brother, he'll never be the same again ...," she said.

"One time he could paint and plaster a house within a week. He's not able to do that now. His memory is very, very short-term ... It's not there anymore.

"And his moods - one day, he's in a good mood, the next, he's mad at the whole world. It's hard to approach him, he's so angry and mad."

Coady said she will never forget that night.

"It puts me in tears (to think about it) because I didn't think my brother was alive ...," she said.

"I just thank God we're all alive."

Judge David Orr will render his decision on sentencing Nov. 28.

rgillingham@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Alcoholics Anonymous

Geographic location: St. John's, Topsail Road

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Recent comments

  • nobody
    November 17, 2011 - 23:41

    Almost blew a tire when my wheel hit the sidewalk after I was cut off by another driver this morning. Throughout the day I was cut off 3 other times and had to apply the brakes with both feet. I doubt any of these drivers were drunk but I'm starting to live in fear when I get behind the wheel in St.John's. I've even adjusted my routes when I have my 3 year old daughter. Repeat drunk drivers DON'T make me feel any safer. Soon I'm going to request police escorts if I have my daughter...

  • Jim
    November 17, 2011 - 17:52

    Remember, Matthew Churchill! His killer got six months, this guy killed no one,luckily and thankfully. My heart is with the victims, always the victims. No one wins in a drunk driving case. House arrest with help is the best bet for this guy. Take his license away of course. Jail time helps no one with this desease, He will surely comeout worse than when he goes in!

  • lovingnl
    November 17, 2011 - 16:29

    I'm so happy to see there are so many ppl. on here who has never and will never do anything wrong or make a tragic mistake!,Must be nice to be holier than thou!,Newfoundlanders used to be compassionate oh well i guess those days are gone!

  • TommyL
    November 17, 2011 - 14:41

    For those defending him, I bet you'll change your tune when it's you or a loved one that is the victim of such actions. This man was charged with DUI and served 90 days, that was his chance to make the changes he needed to. He was given a second chance and he failed, miserably. Society wants theses guys punished and time to be served. I'm a very compassionate person, with a huge heart.

  • susan
    November 17, 2011 - 14:22

    Give it a break you heart harded people. People do have sickness and people do this that never meant to do. these people have families as well so you that are posted things that are nice remember it could be you or your family member.. Give the young man a chance and Mr. Judge Orr. Do the right thing and let him prove to everyone that he will get help with this illness and will prove to the world. God Bless you and I wish you luck in your illness treatment.

    • Earth to Susan, Hello....
      November 17, 2011 - 14:44

      You've got to be kidding?? This guy has a 10 page...count them, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 PAGE criminal history. He isn't a first time offender. He's a returnee who probably knows what the nightly dinner specials are at HMP. Society DOES NOT want to see another case of revolving door justice. I dare you to admit that if this guy killed or injured a member of your family that would be as sympathetic as you claim to be. Raymond Yellowknee was given chance after chance after chance after years of drunk driving offences. A few years back he got drunk and killed a woman and her 3 kids. He got 20.5 years to serve his sentence but he took the cowards way out, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2009/08/27/edmonton-prisoner-dead.html

  • margie
    November 17, 2011 - 14:12

    Let me ask you people... By putting him in jail going to slove all his problems??? No it isn't,matter of fact most likely will cause more harm that anything. Do you people know it's a sickness he has?? Do you believe giving someone a second chance?? I do, Give the young man a chance to prove that he will over come this sickness and after 1 year,than lets see how he is doing.. Jail is Not what he needs.

  • David
    November 17, 2011 - 13:07

    How thick in the skull do people have to be before they "get it"? This guy promising that "I will never, ever let anything like that happen again"....ding ding ding, Sherlock! The bell rings for you now, does it? The only way this isn't going to happen again is if you and all your mindless, selfish ilk are locked up for good. You deserve nothing more, and society deserves nothing less.

  • High School Classmate
    November 17, 2011 - 12:50

    I had the comedic pleasure in reading some comments / thoughts written by some of the accused friends online last night in a vain attempt to defend the accused. One read, "He would give you the shirt off his back if he were sober". Funny, I'm sure if you would apply the same logic to lets say a murderer it would probably read.... That guy wouldn't kill you... if he didn't have a weapon to use against you. Can we call the guiness book of world records on this??? This has got to be the dumbest thing anyone has ever said in the history of mankind. Congratulations you just proved the accused is a danger to others when he is NOT sober.

    • flexxa
      November 17, 2011 - 13:37

      ...let him serve his time and when he gets out he can prove how remorseful he is by never doing this again. Enough of the "bleeding hearts" going around and destroying innocent lives only to say I got a problem and I'm sorry just before the hand of the Law is about to come down.

  • Blaine
    November 17, 2011 - 12:23

    I am glad that he is sincere in his apology and acknowledgement of his illness. Getting help should of been on his mind his first time getting caught impaired. A wake up call to everyone who drinks & drives, you deserve jail time for your decision to get into a vechicle and put the communitiy at risk. Maybe after time in jail you can reflect on your actions and get the help to become a more productive member of society. Enough Said

  • Pathetic
    November 17, 2011 - 11:25

    He feels ashamed? Like really! He could have killed those poor people all because he decided to drink and drive! He should be jailed for life with no chance of parole ever!! It seems like these days everyone gets off scott free but it's time to change that. I would be ashamed to call him my family...there are no words for what he has done and what he could have done. Imagine if he had of killed those innocent people or what if the roles were reversed and he was the one who got hit by a drunk driver...I'm sure he'd have words to say! People are stupid...in this day and age to drink and drive! Get a life!!

  • flexxa
    November 17, 2011 - 11:25

    Ok - let him serve his sentence and then he can prove his remorse by not doing anything like this again. The "bleeding" heart seems more of an attempt to get off without any more jail time rather than paying for his crime. How many more lives have to be affected by these jokers making promises they won't keep?

  • Randall Stevens
    November 17, 2011 - 09:58

    Apologizing for your actions is not a "get out of jail free card". If that were the case, everybody would do it and there would be no need for prisons. If Mr. O'Keefe is truly sorry for his actions, GOOD! He's supposed to be, but that doesn't mean the courts should go easy on him. Thankfully nobody was killed.

  • Darren
    November 17, 2011 - 09:49

    Good, I hope you feel like dirt for the rest of your life, as will your victims. I hope the judge throws the book, the desk and the chair at you. As for your lawyer... well her track record speaks for itself.

  • grant
    November 17, 2011 - 08:39

    Just reading a story in a local paper about Mathew Churchill who was killed by a drunk Robert Parsons in 2005. Mr Parsons never stopped and went home and called a lawyer who advised him to go to a hotel and get sober and report it the next day. The Judge gave him six months. Has the justice system changed since then? We will find out Nov. 28.

  • lovingnl.
    November 17, 2011 - 07:41

    My best to all the victims!,Must have been a terrible time in your lives!,God speed to you!,Now putting alcoholics in jail seems non productive to me!,House arrest with full time help to get over the serious problem seems the best course for him and others to stop their crazy actions!,I am 100% against drunk drivers and losing their license for good and getting help may stop these ppl. from potentially killing ppl.!,Whats stopping an alcoholics from driving when they get out!,Doesn't make sense to me!

  • Mt. Pearl
    November 17, 2011 - 06:47

    I sure hope the prosecution gets what they are asking for in this case. I know who this guy is and I know for a FACT this guy will do it again. The next time the people he hurts might not be as lucky as the 3 in this case. For the sake of public safety lock this guy up for as long as possible!!!!!!