Home invasion 'senseless act': judge

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Rosie Mullaley
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Rene Paul Seers tries to hide his face from reporters prior to his sentencing at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John's Friday.Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram

An 11 1/2-year overall jail sentence is too much for a man who took part in a violent home invasion last year, a St. John's judge has ruled.

As a result, Rene Paul Seers will begin his 8 1/2-year prison term now, instead of after he's finished serving his sentence for another crime.

Justice Carl Thompson made the decision Friday in sentencing Seers at Newfoundland Supreme Court.

"The totality of 11 1/2 years is substantially above the normal level," the judge said. "(It's) exceptionally heavy."

Both lawyers in the case had agreed 8 1/2 years in prison would be an appropriate penalty for Seers, but they were at odds on when it would begin.

Crown prosecutor Sheldon Steeves wanted Seers' sentence to begin in 2013 after he finishes serving his current prison term for a 2007 robbery.

But defence lawyer Mark Gruchy wanted the sentence for the home invasion to begin immediately so part of it can be served while Seers is finishing his previous sentence.

In April 2010, Seers was given a three-year jail term for holding up a gas station in June 2007. With credit for time served, that left 27 1/2 months left to serve on the term.

As of now, he's served almost half of that. The sentence is due to expire Sept. 23, 2013.

The judge's decision means Seers' total jail term has been lessened by 1 1/2 years.

The 30-year-old pleaded guilty to one charge of break and enter with the intent to commit an indictable offence and one count of breaching probation.

He's one of the men who forced their way into a Mackenzie Street home in the east end of St. John's in April 2009 and brutally assaulted the homeowners - an elderly man and woman - before making off with $4,000.

Victim impact statements filed to the court by Dave and Georgina Carey tell how their lives have changed forever.

Dave Carey, who was bludgeoned with a hammer during the attack, suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome and is still unable to work.

Georgina, who had a gun pointed at her head and was dragged by her hair across the house, had said she and her husband don't feel safe anymore and may be forced to sell their house.

The couple was again sitting in the back of the courtroom to hear the judge's decision, but chose not to speak to reporters afterwards.

"I have characterized this as a senseless act," Thompson said, "a wanton, unrestrained exercise of grave violence.

"It's unacceptable and inexcusable."

However, the judge pointed out that in this jurisdiction, the upper end of sentences for such offences are in the eight-year range. He said exceptions are made only for the most "egregious crimes" and for offenders with lengthy criminal records which include numerous serious offences.

He said while Seers has a long record, it includes mostly non-violent crimes, such as thefts, break-and-enters and court breaches.

He said the seriousness of Seers' crimes only escalated in recent years after his mother died.

Thompson said while Seers had a difficult childhood and has struggled with addictions, he is emotionally stable, logical and has prospects to improve his life.

As part of Seers' sentence, he must submit a DNA sample and is prohibited from having a firearm for 20 years.

Of the three men convicted of the home invasion, Seers' was the final sentencing.

Last month, Steven Peter Clowe was sentenced to eight years in jail.

Dean Lewis was sentenced to 9 1/2 years in jail. He got 18 months credit for time served in pre-trial custody.

Lewis didn't enter the house, but showed the men where the house was located.

He's appealing his conviction and sentence.

rgillingham@thetelegram.com Twitter: @TelyCourt

 

Geographic location: St. John's, Mackenzie Street

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  • David
    December 04, 2011 - 14:07

    In a modern crucible of "senseless acts", sentences will have to be tough to be a deterrent..right now, they obviously aren't. Newfoundland has an epidemic of petty, selfish, cowardly crimes carried out by a growing number of cowardly, selfish, anti-social misfits. We need to ignore the watered-down, Toronto-centric views on sentencing here....the critical mass of that society has an entirely different outlook and expectation of its citizens. Of course, we do not have the kinds of heinous crimes they do in bigger metrolpolises....but there is a very real risk here that the basic tenets of civilized living are fast being eroded by more and more people acting out on entirely selfish impulses, knowing they will either never be caught or will not be appropriately punished. No, Newfoundland doesn't have a headline-grabbing homicide problem. But the rapidly rising groundswell of "senselss acts" is taking a big toll here, and 'death by a thousand cuts' is slower, more painful, and eventually leads any society to a very similar place --- anarchy.

  • Seriously Though
    December 03, 2011 - 09:08

    "The totality of 11 1/2 years is substantially above the normal level," the judge said. "(It's) exceptionally heavy." - Excuse me, Judge, but isn't 11 1/2 years the combined total of his sentence for two separate crimes - the robbery in 2007 and the home invasion with personal injuries in 2009. Sorry, but this does not make any sense to me - this man is getting a "reduced" sentence because the Judge thinks the totality of 11 1/2 years is above the normal level! Perhaps it may be above the normal level for one or the other, but it fits the bill for a combined sentence. Tell me Judge, was Mr.Seers operating on a "normal level" when he participated in bludgeoning an elderly man with a hammer and holding a gun to the head of the man's wife and manhandling that woman by dragging her by her hair around her home. This report says in the past Mr. Seers has been a non-violent criminal (yet still a criminal) - but we're not dealing with his past record this trial was about the recent home invasion and personal injury to two seniors and Mr. Seers should be expected and required to serve his full sentence for this violent crime. To say that Mr. Seers lost his mother and therefore deserves special treatment just doesn't cut it with me - he should have thought of that when he was terrorizing two seniors who have a family that loves them and I am sure are heartbroken that they could have been endangered in such a callous manner!! Sorry Judge Thompson, you showed a complete lack of judgment on this sentence!

    • J
      December 04, 2011 - 00:27

      Seeing rational, well-articulated comments like yours on this forum, Seriously Though, is a rare treat. Kudos. I'm 90% sure I agree with you on that stance--sentences should not be curtailed just because you're already serving for something else--if anything, that should make sentencing STRICTER. My 10% of doubt on that comes from the fact that everyone is different, and you really never know: there's always the potential that a criminal can be rehabilitated and could really benefit from a bit of a break. I don't know if Seers is one of those or not. But chances are, probably not.

    • Ashley
      December 05, 2011 - 04:21

      I believe you have interpreted this incorrectly. Seers committed two separate crimes, the robbery and the home invasion. The robbery was dealt with in a separate trial, and he was sentenced to 3 years. Separately, he went to trial for the home invasion. The judge is saying that 11 1/2 years is high for the home invasion, so he reduced the home invasion sentence to 8 1/2 years, which he will serve concurrently with the robbery sentence. In total, he will serve 10 years, 8 1/2 years plus the 1 1/2 years he has already served for the robbery. Simply, there is no reduced sentence for the home invasion. Concurrent jail time is a common practice for these types of cases, and jail time will not make sure he does not reoffend.